By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.
Leadership in law enforcement, especially at the street level, is extremely important at a time when there is evidence of de-policing in certain neighborhoods and communities across the country, contributing to rising crime levels in those areas. There is a strong temptation for many officers, in light of a barrage of negative media attention and other demoralizing influences, to engage in less pro-active policing.
Even more concerning is the temptation on the part of supervisors to concede that forces outside of their control—such as negative media coverage, political leadership and agency administrators—render them powerless to motivate their people to actively engage on patrol rather than simply answering calls for service.
But the available research suggests that front-line leaders have the ability to take the lead in a given precinct, district or department to overcome this temptation to “kill time” in between calls for service. This research indicates that the actions of front-line law enforcement leaders can have a substantial influence on officer morale and officer work productivity. The idea underlying this influence is a simple but vital one: leading by example.