Suggestions for New Chiefs of Police


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  1. VISION. Establish a bold and breathtaking vision for your department. Be willing to pass it around and work to make it everyone’s bold vision.
  2. DEFINE. Who you are and what you stand for. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Do your best to stay out of political squabbles.
  3. SERVE. Remember, a chief of police not only leads the police, but also serves the community (he or she is their chief, too). Therefore, a chief protects the Constitutional rights of everyone.
  4. MODEL. Bethe kind of police officer you want others to be – well-trained, educated, controlled in the use of force, honest, and respectful.
  5. LISTEN. Listen, and then listen generously and continuously to those inside and outside the police department. Never stop.
  6. SURVEY. Know what the current level of trust, support and confidence is within the community with regard to your department. If it’s in need of repair – get it fixed! Also survey those who directly receive police services or action – those who report crimes, are witnesses, victims of crime, including those who are arrested.
  7. WANDER AROUND. Be visible within the police department and in the community. Ask questions. Work closely with all whom you lead. Be seen working at night.
  8. RECRUIT, SELECT, AND TRAIN. These three functions are vitally important. Know what’s going on with them and make sure they support your vision and model of policing. If they don’t, immediately change them.
  9. FORM A “KITCHEN CABINET. Regularly meet with selected community members who will personally commit to helping you do a better job.
  10. BE AVAILABLE AND COMMUNICATE. Cast your vision. Be open and honest. Use both news and social media and the Internet to communicate.


POSTSCRIPT: Communication — Let me add “community educator” — a chief must share at every opportunity insights about the role of the police (not just that of Crimefighter or Warrior, but also that of Guardian ). The chief must let the community know that there are limitations on available resources and the effectiveness of arrest and punishment in solving community-identified problems. The chief needs to teach about the exercise of discretion and the need to take risks. The chief must also acknowledge that policing is totally dependent upon the trust and support of the community – without it, the peace and safety of the community is threatened. The notion that police are independent, all-powerful actors needs to be constantly challenged. Even the most thoughtful community members mostly operate on police stereotypes from the media. It is, therefore, the job of the chief to increase everyone’s knowledge regarding the nature, function, and challenge of policing a free society.