Research Paper: Leaders in American Policing: Police

Pages: 10 (3123 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Leadership  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Therefore, it encourages participation by officers in the decision-making process through promoting discussions for every individual to know what to do and then enabled to carry out these activities without close supervision. Unlike this multi-faceted leadership approach, the traditional police leadership is basically protective of their power and quite cynical about the independence of officers.

Despite of adopting a multi-faceted approach, American police leadership is still similar to a military leadership style. This is primarily because many police agencies continue to promote and strengthen their centralized culture by using hierarchy and rank. As a result, the policing system continues to generate quasi-militaristic police officers who are not only disciplined but follow orders within a system of governance. This leadership style constantly reminds officers of their position as subordinates though they have a unique place and play certain roles within the organization.

As evident in its evolution, police leadership is progressively shifting from a centralized style into a model that embraces involvement, teamwork, and shared leadership (Wuestewald & Steinheider, 2006). The shift has contributed to the emergence of scenarios where police agencies are continually allowing increased supervision from bottom-up and minimal direct control. Therefore, the contemporary police administration and leadership structure is increasingly concerned with empowering the hearts and minds of police officers. This participatory leadership has not only been brought by the concept of community policing but also been a by-product of the fact that command and control have lessened morale and productivity.

Leadership Structure in American Policing:

American police has a leadership structure with three levels of leaders i.e. senior leadership, middle managers, and first-line supervisors. The senior leadership is mandated with the task of developing and sharing the vision, mapping the journey, establishing strategic objectives, and collaborating and delegating tasks to accomplish the established objectives. In contrast, middle managers are responsible for coordinating and planning, building teams, mentoring and coaching, and empowering and rewarding. The first-line supervisors have the tasks of leading the way or providing leadership by example, supervising and training teams, and evaluating performance (Baker, 2010, p.41).

The senior leadership level of policing is headed by the Chief of Police whose main responsibility is strategic planning and forecasting the future. While middle managers and first-line supervisors have an important role in this process, the Chief of Police primarily defines the vision of the police department and how to achieve these objectives. As a senior leader, the Chief of Police plays a crucial role in determining the priorities for middle managers and first-line supervisors or sergeants.

Since policing has adopted a participatory or shared leadership, senior leaders like the Chief of Police work together with the middle managers and supervisors to determine the destination of the department. The collaborative efforts of these leaders are based on the fact that strategy is the major factor that contributes to effective management and includes approaches that improve the performance of police officers. During these collaborative initiatives, these leaders develop and establish operational procedures that stipulate the techniques to accomplish the objectives of the police department. While they operate in different levels, senior leaders, middle managers, and supervisors play crucial roles in policing.

As part of developing vision and strategy, the senior leaders in policing balance the efforts between organizational goals and indirect leadership that develops into direct action. The top most command officer offer motivation through ensuring a positive command environment is established and promoting a sense of unity in the entire police agency.

For an individual to be a successful Chief of Police, he/she needs to understand how to use power appropriately in influencing the community, city manager, and local government. The need for effective use of power is attributed to the fact that this individual carries out many roles relating to junior officers, the community, political leaders, government officials, and other professionals in the law enforcement field. Furthermore, the role of the Chief of Police differs from lower level managers, particularly with regards to developing and sharing vision.

In the current structure of American policing, the top executive is required to envision the entire community and operate effectively in an environment characterized with internal and external politics. The success of the Chief of Police is mainly dependent on his/her ability to remain mission-oriented and act as a positive public relations representative to other police agencies. This implies that this leader must have visibility and frequent public appearances in order to be effective (Baker, 2010, p.53).

The other levels in the leadership structure in American policing focus on the internal organization of the police department and agencies including its politics. Senior and middle managers in the police leadership are regarded as planners who not only program tasks but also assign these tasks and provide recommendations to the chief executive. These recommendations play a crucial role in developing the vision of the police department and organizational objectives since they are included in the planning process. The Chief of Police makes decisions based on these recommendations in order to have wide impacts in the entire police department.

Changes in American Police Leadership:

Since the leadership structure of American policing has experienced tremendous changes in the past few years, there have been corresponding changes in the face of police leadership in the country. This has contributed to belief that future leadership in policing will be defined by inspired teamwork since past leadership was mainly centered on solitary heroic figure. The shift towards participatory or shared leadership in American policing is a by-product of trends that reflect a wide movement that has been developing for some time in other aspects of human enterprise (Wuestewald & Steinheider, 2006).

As a concept derived from a spectrum of democratic practices in workplace management, shared leadership incorporates several categories based on the kind and level of employee inclusion in the decision-making process. The three major aspects of shared leadership that contribute to the changes in the face of American policing leadership include suggestion involvement, job involvement, and high involvement.

Suggestion involvement refers to the situations where police officers have numerous opportunities to provide information and recommendations though they lack the power to make decisions. In contrast, job involvement can be described as systems that give officers a degree of independence over the immediate daily working conditions. High involvement is regarded as the most advanced and risky form of shared leadership since it not only consist of suggestion and job involvement but also incorporates significant management function.

In addition to changes in leadership structure, police leaders are increasingly faced with the need to confront various challenges in the ever changing world. One of the major changes or challenges of American police leadership is the need for police leaders to become proficient in responding to challenges or difficulties. Police leaders are required to balance reliability and inevitability with adaptation and change. These leaders continually strive to standardize operations while acknowledging the fluid context in which police organizations function. In addition, they understand that there are factors and forces that police agencies are required to adapt and evolve in order to remain effective in the ever-changing world. These forces not only contribute to organizational change but they also result in the development of new models for carrying policing activities.

Changes in the American police leadership have partly been brought by the growing irrelevance of the conventional organizational models. Generally, the organization and structure of police agencies is associated with the manner in which police leaders manage (Batts, Smoot & Scrivner, 2012). Currently, police organizations face increased limitations because of their dependence on a paramilitary model, which does not effectively adapt to the external demands for accountability and change.

While police agencies have registered significant gains in preventing and fighting crime, they are still characterized with the tendency to comply with outdated and ineffective management practices. For instance, the evaluation of the overall effectiveness of the police department is still based on processes that are no longer relevant to the existing expectations of and for police officers. Technological advancements that have revolutionized communication processes have necessitated the adaptation of new management models and practices.

In conclusion, leadership in American policing has continued to experience tremendous challenges that have contributed to its evolution. Currently, American policing has a leadership structure with three level sie. senior leadership, middle managers, and front-line supervisors. These levels of leadership work collaboratively through the participatory leadership approach to achieve organizational objectives and empower police officers.


Baker, T.E. (2010). Effective police leadership: moving beyond management (3rd ed.). New

York, NY: Looseleaf Law Publications, Inc.

Batts, A.W., Smoot, S.N. & Scrivner, E. (2012, July). Police Leadership Challenges in a Changing World. Retrieved from National Institute of Justice website:

Conyers, R.L. (n.d.). A Review of Leadership Theories and Possible Changes to Police

Leadership. Retrieved from Valencia College website:

Griffin, N.C. (1998, November). The Five-I's of Police Professionalism: A Model for Front-line

Leadership. Retrieved June 27, 2013, from

Mastrofski, S.D. (2007, May). Police Organization and Management Issues for… [END OF PREVIEW]

American Exceptionalism Essay

Police and Chronic Mentally Ill Individuals Term Paper

Police Ethics Misconduct and Corruption Term Paper

Virtual County Police Department the Intention Case Study

Diversity in a Police Force Police Departments Research Proposal

View 1,000+ other related papers  >>

Cite This Research Paper:

APA Format

Leaders in American Policing: Police.  (2012, December 8).  Retrieved September 16, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Leaders in American Policing: Police."  8 December 2012.  Web.  16 September 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Leaders in American Policing: Police."  December 8, 2012.  Accessed September 16, 2019.