New Article > Top 10 Police Gadgets and Law Enforcement Must Haves <

Effective Police Leaders from Sergeant to Chief have these Qualities

home >> blog articles > effective police leaders from sergeant to chief have these qualities

 Brian Humenuk | Author | COPJOT

By Brian Humenuk   MS|CJA   COPJOT

Released on June 11, 2024

⏱️ 4.5-minute read or less



If you aspire to be a law enforcement leader it can be one of the best decisions that you make in your entire career.

But make no mistake, it carries with it a tremendous amount of responsibility both on the job and off as well as forming certain qualities that not only you must live by but through coaching, supervising, training, and inspiring you are able to instill the same qualities in your subordinates.

Being a part of police leadership in the 2020’s is just as difficult as it is important. In many agencies becoming a sergeant, lieutenant, captain, or chief can be quite a difficult task just to get the rank.


Keeping it and thriving in the position can bring on a whole other host of challenges.

Become a Thriving Leader by reading this article next >> Best Tips for Police Leaders Building a Positive Organizational Culture <<

tips for police leaders building a positive organizational culture

In the world today you don’t have to look far to see police leaders all over the country being terminated due to issues on the job and off.

Sometimes I believe that the pressure of the job, along with all that the job throws at an individual becomes a factor in poor decision making.

Listen, I say this all the time. At the end of the day Law Enforcement Officers are human. I am human.

I just don’t turn a blind eye to the full or nearly full backpacks that we, or I, carry around with us.

Before getting into the meat and potatoes of this article I want to tell you that becoming a law enforcement leader has a lot to do with timing. For instance;

Everything may be going for you in your favor. Great score on the test, awesome oral board results, your agency is filling several vacancies, and you get along well with the leadership. It's your time to get promoted.


  • Your agency may be facing budget problems and not able to fill vacant leadership positions.
  • There may be some competition that are better test takers than you. 
  • You may "die on the list of promotable employees" because a member of leadership doesn't see eye to eye with you.
  • You may have a fresh prior disciplinary issue.

Your career is a lot more of a turtle race than it is a rabbit race. In many instances bad timing will get worked out in your favor by allowing time to go by coupled with hard work and determination.  

Also, gaining rank too soon doesn’t allow you to fully master the patrol ranks and can put you at an experience disadvantage with your peers who you may need to supervise.

This has been a problem for young inexperienced leaders since the beginning of police time.

I also want to say many police officers, including myself, have a very important goal that we carry with us and that is retiring with a full or nearly full pension. It is the pinnacle of a long tough career in law enforcement. Am I right?


I caution you with getting to the top position of an agency too soon where you work under a contract and have no other protections besides that contract.

All it takes is one incident or one change with the city mayor or town manager and you may be sprucing up your resume looking for another job. So timing is important!

I wanted to massage those important scenarios first, because I know some of my readers only read half the article. But let's deep dive into effective leadership highlighting the positions sergeant through chief of police.

I am going to dive in to the essential qualities of effective police leaders, highlighting the attributes that distinguish exemplary leadership at different levels within a police department.

If you are new to COPJOT and me as an author please check out my other articles here at the blog index.


Are you interested in law enforcement code and terminology? Be sure to read my article >> 7 Powerful Police Leadership Books the Brass are Reading Today << next.

7 Powerful Police Leadership Books

The Importance of Leadership in Law Enforcement

Effective leadership in law enforcement is critical for maintaining public trust, ensuring the safety and well-being of officers, and achieving organizational goals.

From sergeants to police chiefs, leaders in police departments must possess a unique set of qualities that enable them to navigate the complex and often challenging landscape of modern policing.

Leadership in law enforcement is not just about giving orders; it’s about inspiring and guiding officers to perform their duties with integrity, efficiency, and compassion.

Qualities of Effective Police Leaders

Effective leaders influence the culture of their departments, affect the morale of their officers, and impact the quality of service provided to the community. Strong leadership is vital for fostering a professional, ethical, and accountable police force.

Key Qualities of Effective Police Leaders

Integrity and Ethics

Definition: Integrity involves adhering to strong moral and ethical principles, being honest, and having a firm sense of right and wrong.

Importance: Police leaders must model integrity to build trust within their teams and with the public. Ethical behavior fosters an environment where officers feel confident in the fairness and justice of their actions and decisions.

Application: A sergeant demonstrating integrity might openly address any misconduct among officers, ensuring transparency and accountability. A police chief with high ethical standards can set the tone for the entire department, emphasizing the importance of ethical conduct in all operations.

Communication Skills

Definition: Effective communication involves clearly conveying information, actively listening, and engaging in meaningful dialogue.

Importance: Good communication ensures that all members of the department understand their roles, responsibilities, and the department’s goals. It also helps in de-escalating conflicts and building strong community relations.

Application: Sergeants need to provide clear instructions to their teams and listen to their concerns. Police chiefs must effectively communicate the department’s vision, policies, and initiatives to both internal and external stakeholders.

Decision-Making Ability

Police Leadership Qualities

Definition: This involves analyzing situations, weighing options, and making informed choices quickly and effectively.

Importance: Police leaders frequently encounter high-stress situations that require prompt and sound decisions. The ability to make the right decision can save lives and maintain order.

Application: A sergeant might need to make quick decisions during an ongoing incident, ensuring officer and public safety. Police chiefs make strategic decisions that shape department policies and long-term planning.

Empathy and Compassion

Definition: Empathy involves understanding and sharing the feelings of others, while compassion entails a desire to help those in need.

Importance: Empathetic leaders build trust and rapport with their officers and the community. Compassionate leadership can improve officer morale and enhance community-police relations.

Application: Sergeants showing empathy can better understand the personal and professional challenges their officers face. Police chiefs demonstrating compassion can develop policies that prioritize community welfare and officer well-being.

Adaptability and Resilience

Definition: Adaptability is the ability to adjust to new conditions, while resilience refers to the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

Importance: Law enforcement is a dynamic field that requires leaders to respond effectively to changing situations and bounce back from setbacks.

Application: Sergeants must be able to adapt to new operational strategies and technologies. Police chiefs need resilience to handle public scrutiny, political pressure, and crises within the department.

Vision and Strategic Thinking

Definition: Vision involves having a clear idea of what the organization should achieve in the future, while strategic thinking is the ability to plan and execute actions to achieve those goals.

Importance: Leaders with vision and strategic thinking can guide their departments towards continuous improvement and innovation.

Application: A sergeant might develop short-term plans for team activities, while a police chief creates a long-term vision for the department’s growth and community impact.

Courage and Decisiveness

Definition: Courage involves the ability to face danger or adversity with confidence, while decisiveness is the ability to make firm decisions quickly.

Importance: Courageous and decisive leaders can inspire their teams, make tough calls in critical situations, and stand by their decisions.

Application: Sergeants often need to take immediate action during dangerous situations. Police chiefs must make decisive moves to address departmental challenges and external threats.

Leadership at Different Levels

Sergeants: The Frontline Leaders

  • Role: Sergeants are responsible for supervising officers, ensuring the proper execution of duties, and serving as a liaison between officers and higher-ranking officials.
  • Key Qualities: Integrity, communication skills, decision-making ability, empathy, and adaptability.
  • Impact: Effective sergeants foster teamwork, mentor officers, and maintain discipline within their squads. They are crucial for the day-to-day functioning of police operations and for ensuring that departmental policies are implemented effectively.

Lieutenants and Captains: The Mid-Level Managers

  • Role: Lieutenants and captains oversee multiple units or divisions within the department, manage resources, and coordinate operations.
  • Key Qualities: Leadership, strategic thinking, resilience, and vision.
  • Impact: These leaders bridge the gap between frontline officers and executive leadership, ensuring that strategic goals are translated into operational success. They play a vital role in resource allocation, operational  planning, and performance evaluation.

Police Chiefs: The Executive Leaders

  • Role: Police chiefs are the top executives of police departments, responsible for setting the overall vision, policy, and strategy for the department.
  • Key Qualities: Vision, strategic thinking, integrity, communication skills, and decisiveness.
  • Impact: Effective police chiefs shape the culture and direction of the entire department. They are the public face of the police force, engaging with community leaders, political figures, and the media. Their leadership influences public trust and the overall effectiveness of the department.

Challenges in Police Leadership

  • Public Scrutiny and Accountability: Police leaders must navigate public scrutiny, ensuring transparency and accountability in their actions. This involves addressing public concerns, managing media relations, and upholding high ethical standards.
  • Resource Constraints: Limited resources can challenge police leaders in maintaining optimal operations and ensuring officer safety and well-being. Effective leaders must prioritize and innovate to make the best use of available resources.
  • Community Relations: Building and maintaining positive community relations is a critical aspect of police leadership. Leaders must engage with diverse communities, address their concerns, and foster trust through community policing initiatives.
  • Internal Dynamics: Managing internal dynamics, including officer morale, training, and professional development, is essential for a cohesive and effective police force. Leaders must address conflicts, provide support, and create an environment conducive to professional growth.


Effective police leadership, from sergeants to police chiefs, is crucial for the success and integrity of law enforcement agencies.

Leaders at all levels must possess a combination of integrity, communication skills, decision-making ability, empathy, adaptability, vision, and courage.

By embodying these qualities, police leaders can inspire their teams, build public trust, and navigate the complexities of modern

About the Author

Brian Humenuk isn't just an entrepreneur in eCommerce, he is also an informed leader whose experience provides followers and visitors with a look into current and past police issues making headlines in the United States.

Brian has earned three degrees in Criminal Justice with the last, a Masters of Science in Criminal Justice Administration.

Brian extends his training, education, and experience to the officers just now getting into the field so that they may become more informed police officers and stay clear of police misconduct and corruption. 

You can find out more about Brian and the COPJOT story on the ABOUT US page.

Affiliate Disclosure

COPJOT is supported by its audience. If you make a purchase through links on this site I may earn a small affiliate commission. Enough to buy myself a small coffee and I want to thank you in advance. 

More Information

Are you a Police Officer, Sheriff or State Trooper, Law Enforcement family member or friend check out our Custom Police Notebooks and Metal Police Uniform Pens here on our main website.

Related Articles 

Brady Violations; What do they mean for Law Enforcement Officers?

13 Pro Tips for Police Officers Testifying in Court

Here's Where Police Body Worn Cameras see the Most Benefits