Finding the new era of law enforcement can be extremely difficult. Recruiting officers is one thing, but retaining officers within the department is a whole other story. As a new demographic begins to replace the existing workforce, the environment they will step into is not the same one their predecessors faced. Technological advances and societal tensions have resulted in the adoption of new principles, people, and practices.
Due to generational differences between the new recruits and existing officers, there is a growing absence of institutional leadership within departments that is not only harming the longevity of their careers, but it is hurting their community. Aside from other externalities that stem from a career in law enforcement, the lack of experiential training and leadership is a reason that many officers either switch agencies frequently or switch industries in general.
When recruits go through training to become law enforcement officers, they are put through a variety of different situations that might arise in the field. However, this training is very basic and does not account for the societal aspects involved with each individual case. This is when institutional leadership is needed most. Seasoned officers need to advise and instruct the new officers on how to adapt and apply their training in sticky situations. Oftentimes, this is more constructive than sitting through a lesson and allows the experienced officer to exemplify firsthand the values and ethics it takes to be part of law enforcement.
However, the institutional leadership that is lacking within departments goes both ways. The newer officers must understand that experienced colleagues may be less in touch with societal changes than they are. They must not be afraid to lend their opinion and speak up when they see something wrong. While they might be new to the industry, a fresh perspective on routine procedures can help weed out the little things that keep them from serving to the best of their abilities. Technologies will change, new procedures will be implemented, and new laws will be passed, but it’s incumbent upon officers, experienced or not, to lead themselves and their colleagues on a path towards exceptional service.