A Three-Pronged Approach to Improving Leadership Within Law Enforcement




Fetters, Clay

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Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT)



Poor leadership in law enforcement is all too common. The results of this poor leadership can be seen in negative media coverage, high turnover rates, absenteeism, poor job satisfaction, and civil litigation. These issues can be attributed in many ways to ineffective leadership in the organizations. The breakdown in leadership development can be attributed to several factors. Many agencies do not provide leadership training until an officer is promoted which does not work because leadership is a skill that needs to be learned and developed throughout an officer’s career. Most agencies also promote officers based on a series of tests that provide little insight as to whether the officer will be a good leader as opposed to a good test taker. Another issue with leadership in law enforcement is there is little accountability for poor or ineffective leaders after they have been promoted. The author’s research has shown that each of these weaknesses in leadership development can be addressed with a three-pronged approach to developing leadership within law enforcement agencies. The first step in the process is to implement leadership training from top to bottom in the agency so everyone knows what right looks like. The next step is to create progressive promotion processes that target officers with proven leadership skills, not the most liked. Finally, anonymous surveys conducted by subordinates, peers, and supervisors should be used to inform and identify ineffective leaders. These simple, but aggressive changes can create a culture and climate of effective leadership that will permeate throughout law enforcement organizations.


Leadership, police-personnel management