Change is at your doorstep: How will you respond?

The world is changing rapidly, and law enforcement must evolve to acquire the skills and tools required to meet new challenges


This article originally appeared in the May 2021 Police1 Leadership Briefing. To read the full briefing, visit Embrace change | Mental crisis & perception | 30x30 pledge, and add the Leadership Briefing to your subscriptions.

My good friend Paul Butler recently spoke about the storm that the law enforcement profession is experiencing and how, if you are a leader who is hunkered down in a foxhole waiting for the storm to pass, you will quickly find yourself lost when you emerge because the landscape will have drastically changed.

Often, a lull in chaos simply indicates the eye of the storm is upon you. Waiting to react until the dust settles or a clear path emerges, will leave you with no voice in the outcome and powerless to change the road forward.

The eye of a hurricane is an opportunity: a chance to shore up your resources and prepare what’s still coming. Change is an unavoidable part of life. The world is changing rapidly, and law enforcement must evolve – quickly and strategically – to acquire new skills and develop the tools to meet these challenges.

Police leaders must be resilient and embrace change, choosing to be a part of the solution that shepherds this profession into the future.
Police leaders must be resilient and embrace change, choosing to be a part of the solution that shepherds this profession into the future. (Getty Images)

Engage the moment

Unless you take the reins as part of this transformation, you will find yourself no longer effective. This is the time for leaders to stand up, speak up and face the storm head-on. We must be resilient and embrace change, choosing to be a part of the solution that shepherds this profession into the future.

If we want or expect change externally, then we must initiate the process with honest, introspective reflection. For too long, our profession has been siloed from growth while other organizations flourish around us. Just look at how successful institutions and organizations embrace innovative skills, methods of training and leadership mentalities. There’s a lot that law enforcement, and public safety more broadly, can learn from the success of others.

We have been provided a singular opportunity to explore modern, creative business practices and develop more progressive approaches that rapidly incorporate the skills, qualities and dynamic culture we wish to see in our profession. I truly believe this is a time of great opportunity for engaged and innovative law enforcement leadership.

Working with culturally competent partners will help us develop Strategic Innovation Plans for cultural evolution, customized for modern law enforcement challenges, to create the intentional change we wish to establish. We must: 

  • Leverage emerging technology;
  • Embrace evidence-based policing;
  • Incorporate advanced people skills training;
  • Employ social-emotional intelligence in our hiring and promotional processes;
  • Develop cohesive culture centered on officer wellness;
  • Establish a rapid prototyping methodology to analyze and assess new programs.

Embrace your role

As Jim Collins mentions in "Good to Great," we must start with the “who.” Using social intelligence to avoid the traditional pitfall of the “conscious kind” in our hiring and promotional processes will assist us to recognize employees’ strengths and weaknesses and aid us in strategic talent placement throughout our organizations. The result: More effective leadership teams and a more cohesive, resilient culture.

Like it or not, change is here. How you respond will define you as a leader and will shape the future of our profession and the resilience of our communities.

NEXT: 10 ways police officers can turn ideas into action

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