Officer, What Have You Read?

I am often asked the following question:

“Do you know of any advice that has been written for first-time or prospective police chiefs?”

Needless to say, but every aspiring police chief and those new to the position must be well-read in the field of policing and criminal justice and be committed to continuing a broading of their education. It isn’t enough to attend seminars put on by the “cop shop;” instead, wise chiefs will be aware of what is current in business, economics, psychology, sociology and law as well as the most up-to-date research in those areas and in the field of executive leadership.

A quality police chief is a person today who is well-educated, smart, and who rates highly in Emotional Intelligence. A quality police chief grows in wisdom and strength and assures those he or she is privileged to lead also grow in wisdom and strength.

Michael Scott, with whom I worked during my Madison days and who is now a Clinical Professor at the School of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, Director, Center for Problem-Oriented Policing and ASU Liaison to Phoenix Police Department offers some suggestions.


“In the 1980s, Gary Hayes commissioned me to write Managing for Success: A Police Chief’s Survival GuideI wrote it on the basis of advice provided by about two dozen experienced and respected police chiefs. It was published by PERF in 1985 and has been reprinted at least once.

Prof. Michael A. Scott

“That publication was preceded by David Couper’s How to Rate Your Local Police (also put out by PERF) which, while written for non-police readers, I always felt was equally helpful to new police chiefs.

“I later co-authored a shorter PERF monograph (with Chief Jim Carvino, Ken Conlon and Terry Eisenberg) The Third Envelope: Advice for Police Chiefs Who Get Fired. [Ed. Note: I cannot find a link to this but here’s the “Three Envelope Story.”] 

“Another is A Police Chief’s Owner’s Manual put out by California POST. PERF put out one of its “Critical Issues in Policing” series monographs titled Defining Moments for Police ChiefsThis series is mainly quoting member chiefs who attend a forum to discuss that topic.

“Another PERF book is Command Performance: Career Guide for Police Executives (Second Edition, 2015) by Charlotte Lansinger, mostly advice for those applying to become chiefs.”


Ed. Note: I would also suggest that new or prospective police chiefs be cognizant of the following books on leadership:

  1. Leader Effectiveness Training – Thomas Gordon (2001).
  2. Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness – Larry Spears, Ed., and Robert Greenleaf (2012)
  3. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t – Jim Collins (2001).
  4. Turn the Ship Around – David Marquet (2012).
  5. HBR’s (Harvard Business Review) 10 Must-Reads on Leadership (2011).
  6. Leadership 101 – John Maxwell (2010).
  7. The Team Handbook, 3rd Edition – Peter Scholtes, Joiner, and Steibel (2003).
  8. Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works — Jay Newton-Small (2016).
  9. Police and Society, 7thed. – Novak, et al. (2017).
  10. Dare to Lead, Brene Brown, 2018.

Remember, it’s not enough to KNOW leadership, it’s about BEING and PRACTICING it!

You can start today being an informal leader before you get the stripes or the bars! This way you can talk about what you’ve already accomplished when you have your oral interview!

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