6 traits today's cops need in their chief

Today's modern officers need a chief with these 6 traits in order to prosper and thrive

Pulse of Policing 2015: The State of Law Enforcement is an ongoing research venture aimed at examining the current state of policing in America from the individual, organizational, and industrial perspectives. Below is an article in a series of pieces which will address the challenges facing police leaders during times of diminishing budgetary support and increasing public scrutiny. Learn more about Pulse of Policing

By Police1 Staff

What makes a great police leader?  What attributes do cops look for in a police chief that help keep an agency strong in these difficult times? Why are these characteristics important?

New Hartford Police Chief Michael Inserra speaks during a news conference on Oct. 16, 2015.
New Hartford Police Chief Michael Inserra speaks during a news conference on Oct. 16, 2015. (AP Image)

The environment cops operate in today is unlike any other time in history. As use of force incidents are broadcast and scrutinized nationally, agencies have relied on their chiefs to lead them out of the storm. We asked our Facebook fans what characteristics they look for in a leader and found six common qualities. Here they are:

1. Experienced
Most commenters expressed appreciation for a cop’s cop: someone who has been there, done that, and seen it all. They want someone with experience who knows what officers go through on a daily basis. Leaders who don’t sit behind a desk all day were highly regarded by commenters. 

“I look for a leader that is actually ‘boots on the ground’. Be out in the field with the troops. Understand what we are going through on the front lines,” Mike Weinsheimer wrote.

2. Supportive
In light of national media coverage of officer-involved shootings, most officers are looking for someone who supports them during their career - particularly when they are under the magnifying glass.

Marcus Rummel wrote that a good leader needs to trust his or her team.

“Seems like anytime something happens it's assumed that the officer messed up,” Rummel commented.

But support goes beyond just trusting your cops — it also means being involved.

“A chief should know each and every officer and have an open door policy for those officers in any need of assistance,” David Parchim said.

3. Honest
Another common characteristic officers want in a chief is honesty. Integrity and humility were two common components  listed by many of our commenters on the topic of what makes an honest police leader.

“A chief should be able to admit their mistakes and work to resolve them,” Matthew Ellis wrote.

Joshua Stone defined an honest chief as a “person who totally respects the profession, the badge, and their oath.”

4. Forward-thinking & Open-minded
As the world advances from a  technological, , political, and legal standpoint, a chief needs to be able to evolve with the environment. Stagnant chiefs stuck in the past and old ways of doing things can hinder growth in a department, most commenters said. 

Chiefs need “the ability to relate to both the younger and new generation coming in, the middle ground (10-15 year officers) and the salty veterans,”  Matt BigMlittleorgan wrote.

5. Transparent 
Another important characteristic cops want in their chief is being transparent and inclusive in major departmental decisions. While the chief may have the final authority, officers don’t want to feel blindsided.
“Clearly articulate expectations, guidelines, and parameters. Those that fail at leadership surround themselves with sycophants, and conduct business in the shadows,”  Eric Anderson said.

6. Inspiring 
An attribute of any great leader is the ability to inspire. Chiefs need to bring out the best in their officers and the community they serve.

Eric Mercier said “a true leader inspires his/her people to achieve.”

Chiefs who go beyond their day-to-day work and try to connect with people inside the department and outside of it are well-received.

David Parchim wrote chiefs need to “be out in the community communicating with business owners, citizens and schools.”

Great leaders can be hard to come by — and in today’s difficult environment, cops need strong leadership more than ever. See anything missing from the list that you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments below.

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