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Leaders and Managers: Both Have a Place in Modern Law Enforcement | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

Leaders and Managers: Both Have a Place in Modern Law Enforcement

As a law enforcement professional and writer, I spend a lot of time doing research, which these days generally means viewing countless blogs, social media discussion and websites. After doing this for a short time, it became obvious there are several recurring themes which not only repeat themselves regularly, but also result in the most heated (and opinionated) discussion. Near the top of this list is the topic of leaders v. managers.  While almost every commenter has an opinion concerning which is best, few have discussed whether or not there is a place for BOTH.

The majority of law enforcement officers are Type A personalities. This means they are looking for leaders, because most great leaders are Type A personalities themselves. The have similar viewpoints and methods of resolving conflict breeds compatibility and trust. These are the commenters who often express displeasure over bosses who focus “too much” on details, reports and statistics or spend “too much time” reviewing options and potential outcomes. Type A officers will often feel that these bosses lack the leadership needed to run a department – and they would be correct to a degree.

These detail oriented supervisors, those who spend their time focused on statistics rather than the end product, are probably Type C personalities and often find themselves at odds with their fellow Type A co-workers. But, while they may not be the best leaders, they make excellent managers. Whether you want to admit it or not, modern law enforcement needs BOTH leaders and managers – they are just needed in different roles with different responsibilities.

police-chiefLeaders are generally more successful on the front lines, both as the officers doing day to day patrol or manning SWAT teams and the officers who lead them. These are the guys and gals who are expected to get dirty and get the heavy lifting done on a day to day basis. They thrive in ever changing environments, facing the unknown that each new shift brings. But just like the infantry cannot survive in isolation, nor can a modern police department operate without thinkers as well as doers.

The manager is often looked down upon in professions heavily dominated by Type A members. But the Type C manager is the accountant, lab supervisor, budget specialist and even tenacious detective, unwilling to let a case go without all the angles being explored. These are the guys who will make the airtight case for new equipment, ensure that cases are expertly prepared for court or that every dollar is spent wisely. Without them, many leaders would find themselves the victim of their own dislike for details and paperwork. They are the oil which greases the high speed wheels.

While I may not welcome a manager as my new Chief, it is probably good to have one as a Deputy Chief or at least on the Chief’s staff. Likewise, managers make excellent chooses when it comes to technical or specialized positions – especially those which require frequent reviews of mass amounts of data (i.e. managing high tech and high volume camera programs).

So, you see whether you want to admit it or not there is a place for both leaders and managers in modern law enforcement.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.



Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

1 thought on “Leaders and Managers: Both Have a Place in Modern Law Enforcement

  1. I always enjoy reading your articles. On this article I have always seen another dimension to supervision and command that runs across both leadership and management and is a balance for both. In law enforcement in particular, the concepts of systems maintenance and systems innovation cross the lines of both leadership and management. Law enforcement leaders and managers need to have both qualities. Law enforcement has been strong on system maintenance for much of its history … rules and regulations, structure and discipline. Systems maintenance has sometimes been at odds with systems innovation.

    A skilled law enforcement manager who is a system innovator can be a balanced leader for a department. A commander who is a leader and functions in a systems maintenance role benefits a department on a day to day basis. The strongest leader also recognizes the need for innovation.

    The best Chief that I ever worked for was both. He expected the best of each officer, supervisor, commander and himself. He put on a uniform without any collar brass and rode a shift every Friday. The was no double standard. He did this for over twenty years. He recognized the need for change and planning to both manage and lead. He was an every day futurist. If something needed to be done and it didn’t violate rules or cost the department funds he encouraged personnel to do whatever needed to be done.

    I recognize that in a medium sized department a chief can do this. A manager’s job includes preparing the way for others and for change. We lead people and manage functions … budgeting, purchasing, training, schedules and regulations!

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