Leadership approaches in law enforcement: A sergeant’s methods of achieving compliance with racial profiling policy from the front line
This research aims to fill a void in the extant policy implementation literature that has overlooked the leadership contribution of sergeants to the successful adoption of policy decisions by front-line police officers. Using a qualitative approach and a sociological institutionalism perspective, and focusing on the racial profiling policy of a large North American municipal police organization, 17 sergeants representing 17 divisions (precincts) were interviewed. This research does not aim to assess the efficacy of the selected policy but, rather, examines leadership and supervisory perspectives relating to implementation and compliance. The findings demonstrate the methods used by sergeants to influence and achieve the compliance of front-line police officers with the racial profiling policy. Methods include auditing, being present, training, encouraging, rewarding, and disciplining. To explain these methods, it is theorized that sergeants blend two leadership approaches to ensure front-line officers conform to the racial profiling policy: an authoritative leadership approach and a supportive leadership approach. This study emphasizes the leadership contributions of sergeants when attempting to implement perceived controversial or unpopular policy—in this case, racial profiling policy—in a police organization and contains implications for law enforcement leaders, oversight committees, policy writers, and all government legislators who oversee public safety and security.
Copyright (c) 2021 Paul B. Rinkoff
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