3 key components for developing future leaders

If you effectively develop your personnel, they will be a living and breathing resume of your leadership abilities


Personnel development involves a mindset wherein the current administration not only cares about the present leadership, but also about the future. By developing your personnel, you are building not only effective police leadership for your current leaders, but building the agency’s future leadership as well.

As a leader, you should be of the mindset that long after you leave an agency, the future leadership is just as strong — or stronger — as when you came on. I have developed three key components to effective personnel development, all of which are very simple to accomplish. They are: Implementation, Maintenance, and Consistency.

Let me preface these by saying, you don’t have to be a Chief of Police to develop personnel — a shift lieutenant or sergeant has just as opportunity to accomplish this.

Win-Win Implementation
Development of your personnel can only take place if you understand that your officers are a direct reflection of your leadership. You also have to care about your officers, not just supervise them. There are hidden benefits from development; for example, by helping an average or even below average officer develop themselves, you may find a diamond in the rough who was just waiting for a chance to shine. That’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Let’s discuss our first component, implementation. So how do we implement? Very simply, you talk to your personnel. The conversations should be on a one-to-one basis, and ensure you set aside a block of uninterrupted time for the meeting. It is very important that they understand that you do care, and that you are willing to give your time to assist them. The purpose of the meeting is to find out what they are interested in, and where they see themselves in the future.

Discuss with them their strengths and weaknesses, and assist them in mapping out a plan to help them get to where they want to be. For example, if they want to be a detective, discuss what educational requirements and investigative experience they may need. Discuss their current abilities, and how they could improve themselves.

You should document the meeting, and forward requests for schools on their behalf that can help the employee attain their goals. As with anything else you do in law enforcement, documentation is needed. Documentation is utilized to keep you and the employee on track, and to not let things lapse.

Keep the Ball Rolling
This brings us to our second component, Maintaining (and/or Tweaking). It is not enough to start the ball rolling — you have to continually asses your employee’s development. Let’s say that you talked to an employee who wants to be a detective. You submitted an Interview and Interrogation school on their behalf and they successfully completed it; you now have to refer to their career map and recommend the next step for them.

This may be another investigative course, or assigning them a current investigation to gain experience. Remember, mapping out a career path is not enough — you actually have to travel that path with them. You may find that after a school, the employee decides that is not the direction they want to go.

That’s OK. Begin the process again.

Find out what changed. It may be they want to be involved in larger cases but don’t want to deal with the pain of the victims, especially children. This conversation may direct the path towards evidence technician. This affords them the ability to be involved in larger cases by collection and analysis of evidence. Development sometimes involves “tweaking,” but leaders understand and welcome that challenge and your employee will thank you for it.

Consistency Means Being Fair
Nothing breeds discontent more than watching an officer attending school after school — or who are afforded coveted opportunities while most are not even considered — just because they are friends with or liked by the administration. The message being sent here is that “the chosen few” are the only ones worth being developed.

Every employee should be afforded the same development opportunities. Personal agendas or small town politics have no place in law enforcement. We officers are human, and we all like some employees more than others, but that does not change the fact that as a leader, you have a duty to develop all of your personnel consistently.

Remember, if you effectively develop your personnel, they will be a living and breathing resume of your true leadership abilities.

About the author

Lieutenant Anthony Powalie is a 16-year veteran with the Painesville Police Department in Ohio. During his career, Powalie has been assigned to the county’s Bomb Squad and SWAT Team. Powalie has also been a Field Training Officer and Field Training Supervisor, and supervised his department’s street crimes unit. Powalie is currently the team commander and trainer of a Multi-Jurisdictional Entry Team. Prior to joining Painesville PD, Powalie worked for two other local police agencies and was a Corrections Officer for seven years prior to becoming a Police Officer. Powalie is married to a very supportive woman and has four children. Powalie is a certified instructor through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission and instruct in several tactical areas.

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