Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.
Author: Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.

Police leadership is always a balancing act. Here are some extremes chiefs faced in 2018 and questions they will need to prepare to answer in 2019.

De-policing – Effective intervention

With more use of force options and greater demand for accountability, police officers are under unprecedented pressure to make exactly the right decision at exactly the right time. Every trainer and veteran officer knows that hesitation can be deadly, but the myth that officers must use the least amount of force possible is the expectation of the public.

The temptation for officers and their supervisors is to lay low, avoid unnecessary contacts and not generate any complaints. The reality of the police mission is to prevent crime and apprehend criminals.

How will leaders encourage quality policing in this environment while maintaining morale in 2019?

Technology – Human interaction

Recruiting and training officers who can effectively utilize all of the digital assets available to patrol officers may seem easy in an era where officers beginning their careers have never been apart from the supercomputers in their pocket. But not everyone understands the capacity of drones, low light devices, how to collect digital evidence, how to dig for information across multiple platforms to solve or predict crime, or the impact of social media on their careers. Trainers are also finding that the generation of “eyes down and ears plugged” may have a lot to learn about actual face-to-face conversations involving empathy and listening skills.

How will leaders ensure officers use technology to connect with and not alienate citizens in 2019?

Mental fitness – Emotional weakness

Making sure that officers are aware of the dangerous effect of unmanaged stress and trauma on their health, performance and interpersonal relationships is becoming an integral part of overall officer fitness. How does this square with the survivor mindset? Which is more helpful – acknowledging our human limitations or living with a courage that suppresses them?

How will leaders nurture both the physical and emotional wellness of officers in 2019?

Accountability – Loyalty

Team cohesiveness remains essential in law enforcement operations. Deep bonds form, as they must. Although the “blue wall of silence” is exaggerated in the media and commentary, friendship is often a place where secrets can grow. Patterns of delinquency can arise when partners mistake enabling for loyalty.

How will leaders intervene with coaching, correction, or penalty while maintaining unit cohesiveness in 2019?

Leaders on the fulcrum

There may have been a time when the laws were black and white, the policy manual thin and common sense was all a cop really needed, but that era is long past. Today’s police leaders are the fulcrum – the tipping point – in managing the increasing rate of change and complexity in the policing profession.

How will leaders balance the competing demands of the public, political leaders and the officers on the line in 2019?

Other trending leadership topics in 2018:

Why we need cops to protect and serve, not stand and wait How do we solve the police recruitment crisis? Policing in the era of the new vigilantes With great power comes great responsibility: Ethics in AI What bodycam research reveals about police officers How police agencies can effectively communicate with Generation Z

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