Toward a Profession of Police Leadership

New Perspectives in Policing

June 10, 2015
Authors: Edward A. Flynn and Victoria Herrington

Policing has always been complicated, but changes in the operating environment are making it ever more complex. Complex challenges do not have straightforward fixes, and applying tried and tested policing solutions can be ineffective. Innovation, experimentation, and adaptation are required, and the police organization often needs to learn new ways of operating to address complex concerns. This means that while police departments certainly need effective formal leaders, they also need a culture of learning that allows shared leadership to thrive.

  • “No profession is more dependent on the quality of its leadership than policing. But unless careful thought is given to its development, dispersal, context, and practical application, individual leadership skill training will not translate into organizational success.” – Edward  Flynn, Chief of Police, Milwaukee Police Department

Today a new report - ‘Toward a Profession of Police Leadership’ – is released from the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety (2008-2014) at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). Written by criminal justice experts Edward A. Flynn and Victoria Herrington, this report explores current approaches to developing police leadership and critiques the emphasis on training individual leaders. Drawing on national and international examples, the authors suggest ways in which leadership throughout the organization might be better developed and encourage police departments to think about more than formal leaders when considering leadership.

‘Toward a Profession of Police Leadership’ (pdf) is published as part of the New Perspectives in Policing series from the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety under the auspices of Harvard Kennedy School's Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Edward A. Flynn is Chief of Police, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and former Secretary of Public Safety, Massachusetts; during his career Chief Flynn has also lead the Springfield, Massachusetts and Arlington, Virginia Police Departments. Dr. Victoria Herrington is Director of Research and Learning, Australian Institute of Police Management (AIPM); Dr. Herrington has worked extensively during the last 20 years as an applied policing scholar throughout the United Kingdom and Australia.



Findings and conclusions in these publications are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice