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5 tips for successful police leadership in 2015

Do not lose sight of the fact that law enforcement is — and has always been — one of the most prestigious professions

The beginning of a new year provides a good opportunity to reflect upon the prior year and identify key strategic goals for the coming year. This process, as we know it, is commonly referred to as “making new year’s resolutions.”

Most often, resolutions are of a personal nature: lose weight, go to the gym more often, save money and spend more time with the family. But what about leadership resolutions?

According to a 2014 study by the University of Scranton published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, about 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but only eight percent actually keep them. The translation here is that statically, even the most well-intended resolution-makers do not follow through. But law enforcement leaders are not easily deterred from anything at anytime. Here are five suggested leadership resolutions (in no particular ranking order) for law enforcement in 2015.

1. Mentoring
Mentoring has been the buzzword in leadership circles for the past decade or so. Every good police leader understands the concept, but few actually implement it. Now is a good time to embrace mentoring with your agency.

Do you have a formal mentoring program in place? If so, what methods are used to track and assess its viability? If you don’t feel you have the time to delve into this, delegate the task to someone within the ranks. This serves not only to keep the ball rolling, but it is developmental in and of itself.

2. Balance
It is an undisputed fact that law enforcement officers have difficulty with balancing work and family. Police leaders, especially chief executives, tend to be immersed in the trials and tribulations of the workplace and are unable to strike a good balance between personal and professional lives.

Take a minute to ask yourself if you are comfortable with your work-life balance and make adjustments where necessary. To this end, provide your staff with guidance for maintaining a good balance as well. Be attuned to signs of overwork and offer suggestions wherever possible.

3. Connectivity
The current tumultuous environment requires police leaders to spend the bulk of their time focusing upon external political and community-related issues. Despite these demands, it is essential that the leader remain connected to the rank in file. Keeping the community and politicians content can be a fulltime job in itself.

It is a difficult charge, but leaders must keep the connectivity within the organization simultaneously to insure that the personnel within the organization are given the time and attention they deserve. Something as simple as celebrating a birthday or life event with the staff can go a long way to stay connected. Simply put, keep the home fires burning.

4. Personal Growth
The beginning of a new year is a good time for introspection about personal development. Are you the person who says they are going to continue with education each year yet fails to follow through?

If you are satisfied with your educational goals, is there a special course that you can take to enhance your leadership skills? There is no better time than the present. Kicking that can down the road doesn’t help attaining the goal. If you are struggling with this resolution, reach out to a mentor that you trust and get some encouragement.

5. Staff Development
Among the greatest rewards of leadership is the satisfaction gained from developing your staff to be the successful. This can be accomplished through a combination of individual discussions and group activities. Bringing in a guest speaker or putting together some type of group developmental activity takes little effort and pays great dividends in the bank of human capital.

To this end, a good police leader is always encouraging professional growth and development. It is human nature that people will strive to surpass the levels of expectation. Set the bar high but within reason and your staff will aim to please. Most importantly, take the time to identify people’s strengths and areas for improvement with them on a personal basis and guide them to excel.

There is no argument that policing today is perhaps more challenging than it has been in decades. Every decision that an officer makes is publicized and criticized in ways never seen before. But despite all this negativity, the show must go on. Do not lose sight of the fact that law enforcement is — and has always been — one of the most prestigious professions. Strong leadership is critical to the continued success of the police profession.

The New Year provides a demarcation point between the past and the future. Great leaders reject adversity and view the New Year as an opportunity to be better than before.

Paul Cappitelli is an honorably retired law enforcement professional with over 45 years of experience. From 2007-2012, Paul served as Executive Director for the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). Prior to his POST appointment, he retired at the rank of Captain from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in California, following 29 years of service. Paul is a past and present member of several professional groups and associations. He holds an undergraduate degree in business management and a master’s degree in public administration. He is currently a public safety consultant and police/corrections practices expert. Visit Contact Paul Cappitelli.