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Today's Leadership Requirements

Should we compare the leaders of law enforcement of today to those of yesteryear? This would be akin to compare their respective communications technologies. In the 1950s, they were breaking into radio transmissions and today our officers have mobile data terminals. Yesterday's leaders were similar - they had to be only versed in a few topical matters; today they must be functioning chief executive officer. Where will we find men and women for the future? Better yet, how will we develop them? These are the questions to ponder.

Leadership selection

In the past leaders was selected by seniority; stay here long enough and we'd make you something. I have always found this to be a flawed system. On one side it does have some good points, you have institutional knowledge; the who knows who and who does what sort of thing. The biggest problem here is that the non-achiever is rewarded for what they do best - nothing! To me, if you sit in a garage for twenty years, do your turn into a master mechanic after a period of time? No; nor do your turn into a Buick either. One must invest in the sweat equity of learning to become something. That young apprentice mechanic had to learn the craft by scraping his knuckles and turning wrenches. Law enforcement is no different; you have got to learn it from the ground up.

Career Planning

Your law enforcement career starts from day one and should have a plan from that day. I know many of you are saying that when you graduated from the academy you had no intentions of being a chief or captain; all you wanted was to be a cop. So, this is totally unfair for me to tell you that you should plan your entire career at such a tender moment in your younger days. I do not want to hear about your wasted youth now, for as you read this you will remind yourself of classes or wasted opportunities that you let slip past you. Seize opportunities now!

Who is your mentor? May be in your department or not, but who is the person that you want to follow? Get their sage advice on training and posturing yourself for the future. They may have attended schools or academies that prepared them for their positions in life. Call them, take time to sit down and ask them to give you guidance on your career. They will surprise you and should be honored. What upsets me the most is that when we were in high school, college and in the military we had career counselors. You could go to these men and women and they gave you their heart and soul on how to get to the college you wanted or get the promotion you needed. Then you get a real career and we have no career counselors. What gives here? Therefore, we the real leaders have to take on this self-appointed responsibility to help prepare the leaders of tomorrow. Call me, if you dare?

If you are a mid-career officer reading this chapter, pause momentarily and review your training files. I would suggest to you immediately that you maintain your own training files. Make a copy of every course you have ever attended and file it away. Start your own training resume, update it, keep it current and on file. You can not trust your state or department to keep your files accurate for one. They may not honor all of your training conferences that you have attended. Key note speakers: make note of their names and topic matter to reference in case you need to recall the focus of the conference. If you are in the National Guard or Reserve some of their training may be applicable as well; put it down. Training is a valuable asset to your life experience. Remember, you are to market yourself soon.

Why a resume? If you have to apply for a position in your department or your district attorney asks for your credentials, they are ready at a click of a button. Many departments are now requesting resumes from their officers when advertising for promotions. As a chief, I do.

Seek balance in your training for long term career goals. No department seeks a chief or a commander that is too focused in one topic. The leaders of tomorrow must be balanced and well versed in all law enforcement topics. You must seek a variety of topics in your training.

Do not sit and wait for the department to send you on their dime. You are investing in your future. I can recall attending training on my days off, taking comp time and even paying for my own tuition to attend. If it is important to you, go. This may send a message to your commander: that you are willing to invest your own equity into yourself. Maybe next time if the decision is between you and the marginal performer, you will be their selection.