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The Leadership in Police Organizations Program in the Delaware State Police: Recommendations for Law Enforcement Leadership Development

By Lieutenant Sean E. Moriarty, Delaware State Police, Dover, Delaware

ll organizations require effective and competent leadership to be successful. An organization cannot function effectively without proper guidance and direction. A sailboat may be able to sail with a crew, but without effective leadership, its chances of winning a regatta are dismal. Public service agencies are no exception. This is perhaps most critical among law enforcement agencies, whose duties focus on serving and protecting the public.

The complexities of managing personnel and managing crime create unique needs for police leadership. Technological advances in crime solving continually emerge coupled with innovative methods of committing crime. Socioeconomic, demographic, and political factors have also affected the law enforcement profession. These changes are perhaps most evident since the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The increased level of complexity in the law enforcement profession since then requires police agencies to evaluate their visions and missions and to examine the larger role of the profession in society.

Need for Leadership Development

Since the 1960s, law enforcement training and education have been central concerns for police agencies. However, training is often oriented toward specific skills involved in reducing and solving crime, with little training devoted to effective leadership.1 The extent of leadership development for most police officers relies on their own life experiences, including what was taught to them by family members or senior officers on the job. This absence of formal leadership development has made it extremely difficult for law enforcement executives to learn how to lead and develop officers within their departments.2

Every individual may be a leader at some point in life, but police officers must by definition be capable of leading. Most officers spend their entire careers performing basic functions, but, even in this capacity, they serve as both leaders and followers, enforcing laws, maintaining order, and serving the public.3

The role of police supervisors and managers is even more critical. Police sergeants are first-line supervisors in many departments, leading a shift or a squad and monitoring the line officers within their command. The sergeant is the person to whom the rank-and-file officer will look for direction, guidance, and assistance with problem solving. The sergeant essentially determines the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency.4

A successful police agency depends greatly on effective leadership development for rank-and-file officers and for supervisory officers. Once promoted, new sergeants must instantly become leaders. A great deal of responsibility is vested with the new sergeant, and expectations are high. However, many newly promoted police supervisors receive little or no leadership training.5 Psychologist Robert Pernick argues that transitioning to supervision without leadership development is unreliable.6 A failure to provide support, guidance, and leadership development for newly promoted sergeants causes many to fail.7

Successful organizations typically provide leadership development programs to enhance the skills of their employees, supervisors, and managers.8 When support, encouragement, and leadership development are provided, employees have the opportunity to excel.9 Pernick maintains that leadership development programs provide substantial benefit to organizations that offer them, including less employee turnover, greater employee satisfaction, and more talented internal applicants for agency positions.10

Chief Mary Ann Viverette of the Gaithersburg, Maryland, Police Department, now an IACP past president, addressed the issue of leadership development at the 112th Annual IACP Conference in Miami, Florida, in 2005. She noted that law enforcement leaders have the responsibility to maintain professional standards on a daily basis. Law enforcement officers face a myriad of challenges, competing demands, and public accountability. In a subsequent Police Chief column, Chief Viverette wrote,

Unfortunately, in our desire to address the immediate needs of our agencies and communities, we sometimes fail to plan for the future leadership needs of our departments and our noble profession. This is a critical oversight, because we must realize that our success as police chiefs will be judged not only by what we accomplish today but also by how we prepare our agencies to confront the challenges of the future. It is vital that we, as law enforcement executives, take an active role in ensuring that our organizations have programs in place that systematically develop leaders so our organizations have leadership in depth and are continuously preparing leaders for the future.11

Effective law enforcement leaders must ensure that proper staff development and training are provided to their members to deal with these issues. Corrections specialists Allen G. Ault and Robert M. Brown Jr. state, “What we will need in the future is not simply a collection of managers, but uniquely courageous groups of men and women who will provide a distinctive set of strategic directions that will differ from the past.”12

Leadership development is a critical concern for the future of the law enforcement profession. A major component of the Delaware State Police’s vision is to commit to the lifelong study and practice of effective leadership. The vision holds that all Delaware state troopers will become 21st-century leaders by completing ongoing in-house leadership development training at all levels within the next five years. All troopers, including newly promoted supervisors, will be provided with the education and training they need to lead with confidence and professionalism specific to their roles in the organization. The broader vision is to extend leadership development to all Delaware police officers. This vision is fulfilled through the continued facilitation of the IACP’s Leadership in Police Organizations (LPO) program.


Since its creation in 1923, the Delaware State Police (DSP) has been the primary law enforcement agency for the state of Delaware. The agency currently employs 657 sworn state troopers and approximately 280 civilian support employees, who are assigned at various locations throughout the state. Unlike many state police agencies whose primary focus is highway patrol, the DSP is a full-service police agency. Troopers maintain peace and order, enforce state and federal laws, investigate traffic collisions, conduct criminal investigations, and handle disturbances. Troopers are assigned to uniform, detective, or administrative sections throughout the agency.

The sergeant is generally the first level of formal supervision over the ranks of trooper through master corporal. Lieutenants and above are commissioned officers who are concerned with managing and leading the agency. Consequently, troopers holding the rank of sergeant and above have critical roles in shaping both the vision and the mission of the agency. They are responsible for molding troopers under their command and creating future leaders.

Despite an extensive array of police training, the DSP did not have an in-house leadership development program until recent years. Before January 2007, newly promoted sergeants, lieutenants, and captains were not required to attend a formal leadership school or to have received leadership training. However, the DSP realized it was limiting itself by promoting troopers to leadership roles when there was a significant chance that they did not have any leadership training beyond their own career experiences. This observation is meant not to belittle the leadership capabilities or the work experiences of newly appointed supervisors but rather to bring attention to the fact that formal leadership development was needed in the DSP Academy curriculum. Since January 2007, the LPO program has provided troopers with formal leadership development without requiring them to travel to another state and to be away from home for an extended period of time.

Leadership Development

There are several methods of approaching leadership development. Some programs focus on leaders, whereas others focus on the issues of leadership. One method of leadership development concentrates on the process or dynamics of leadership, viewing the concept as a set of activities that motivates, influences, and guides individuals.13 Leadership, then, is seen from individual and organizational perspectives. The LPO program defines leadership as “influencing human behavior to achieve organizational goals that serve the public, while developing individuals, teams, and the organization for future service.”14

History of the LPO Program

The LPO program has its roots with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Since the 1940s, the U.S. military has supported the idea that leadership can be developed. Consequently, leadership development became a required component of military training at all levels. However, it was not until the early 1980s that police organizations realized the West Point model could be adapted to the law enforcement profession. The adaptation of military leadership education for law enforcement purposes ultimately resulted in the establishment of the LPO program. Working initially under a U.S. Department of Justice grant, the IACP developed and piloted the program throughout the United States from 2002 to 2005. The IACP now works with agencies wishing to develop or expand their own leadership programs by either teaching the LPO program to their staff or by teaching the program to their staff and then conducting a faculty development workshop (FDW) for students who are designated to teach the program within their own departments or regions. In January 2007, the DSP became the first state police agency in the country to implement this leadership development program and the follow-on FDW.

The notion of dispersed leadership is the foundation for the LPO curriculum. Dispersed leadership replaces the belief that leadership is reserved for senior officers with the idea that everyone in the organization is expected and trained to be a leader. This principle is based on the following characteristics: “shared understanding of what leadership means, commitment to shared goals and values by leaders at all levels of the organization, recognition of different styles and results of leadership, and dispersed leadership focuses both on the individual and the organization.”15

The core of the program is the focus of leaders on motivation, satisfaction, and performance of subordinates, peers, or supervisors. In essence, the leader’s role is to influence human behavior to raise or maintain high levels of motivation, satisfaction, and performance to meet organizational goals. The program requires extensive reading, case study application, and student journal entries. Each lesson begins with a lesson plan or course outline, followed by selected readings on relevant leadership theory, instructor review and discussion of the theory, case study application, student teach-back, and student journal reflection. Thus, adult learning is enhanced through this myriad of instructional methodologies.

Figure 1. DSP Lieutenant Melissa Zebley instructs a lesson
on individual differences.
Photo by Sean Moriarty

The content of the LPO program is taught in three one-week increments. The first week focuses on leading individuals (figure 1) and includes the following relevant leadership theories: individual differences, attribution, equity, expectancy/goal setting, motivation through consequences, job redesign/cognitive evaluation, followership, and an integration lesson.

The second week builds on the first week but concentrates on groups (figure 2). Week two includes the following relevant theories: groups as open systems, stages of group development, socialization, cohesion, group decision making, intergroup conflict, and an integration lesson.

Figure 2. DSP Corporal John Penrod assists his group through the LPO case study.
Photo by Sean Moriarty

The third week builds on the first and second weeks and concentrates on specific leadership strategies and the organization as a whole. The third week’s lessons are as follows: social exchange/bases of power, vertical dyad linkages, situational leadership, transformational leadership, stress management, communications and counseling, organization as an open system, leading the environment, shaping organizational culture, leading change, setting the ethical climate, and integration.16

Since 2007, 123 troopers and officers holding the ranks of corporal through lieutenant have successfully graduated from the LPO courses offered in Delaware. These graduates include troopers from Delaware, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Maryland as well as officers from New Castle County, Delaware. Additionally, the DSP has partnered with state police agencies in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Vermont to provide diversified instruction, valuable networking, and shared learning opportunities. The reviews from these participants have been overwhelmingly positive. As a result, the following three recommendations are proposed to enable agencies to provide continued professional development instruction:

  • Ongoing participation in leadership development programs

  • Developing and maintaining training partnerships with other agencies to increase the number of available instructors

  • Using training partnerships to provide leadership instruction to officers of other agencies

Ongoing Leadership Development

First-level supervisors (that is, corporals or sergeants) have significant roles in leading subordinate officers under their command. In essence, they are the mentors, coaches, leaders, and superiors who guide their officers each and every day. Consequently, ongoing leadership development should be provided to all corporals and sergeants. Providing that the LPO program is delivered twice annually in the DSP, for example, this goal could be reached within four years.

Many positive implications would result from following this first recommendation. First and foremost, there is significant need for leadership development within police organizations. The LPO program provides the knowledge, skills, and abilities to develop effective leaders. This is particularly critical for first-level supervisors. As corporals and sergeants receive training, their knowledge, skills, and abilities will be imparted to the subordinates under their direction and tutelage. As they progress in their careers and are promoted, they will carry their knowledge to the next level.

A second benefit to adopting the first recommendation is the creation of a common language and “leader thought process.” As new participants complete the leadership development program, they will acquire a uniform blueprint for problem solving, as well as a common language to describe, analyze, and solve individual, group, or organizational issues.

To reduce the financial and logistical impact on an organization, agencies should provide in-house training. The DSP Academy, for example, is centrally located in the city of Dover. On account of Delaware’s size, the location is easily accessible to all troopers, with a maximum travel time of approximately 90 minutes in any direction. The facility has a larger classroom, which is equipped with audiovisual capabilities and could adequately house the maximum 36 students and two instructors. The classroom computer provides access to a larger server, where many of the PowerPoint lessons and multimedia devices are stored; thus, access to electronic instructional materials is readily available to the instructors. The training academy also has dining facilities on site, which are available to the students and instructors. Moreover, the facility does not affect the program’s budget in any manner. Obtaining an off-site facility would increase the expenses incurred by the program.

Since public safety is the law enforcement community’s primary mission, adequate staffing is a critical concern. Each unit or section in the police department requires a minimum number of personnel to ensure safety to the public and to the officer. If minimum staffing levels are not maintained, the chances of injuries or greater response times are significantly increased.

Staffing is an implication for the LPO program since up to 36 corporals and sergeants will be removed from their primary job responsibilities for three weeks while completing the program. Assuming that the two program instructors are employed within the agency, staff would also need to account for their positions during those three weeks. Consequently, commanders will need to adjust work schedules, vacations, and assignments to ensure that at least the minimum necessary staffing levels are maintained. Additionally, participants will need to delegate responsibilities, assignments, and duties to the next ranking officers on their shifts or units during their absence. Participants are advised to delegate their primary responsibilities and job tasks to subordinate troopers, and special unit members (such as the Special Operations and Response Team and the Explosive Ordnance Detonation Unit) are advised to abstain from all activities unless an emergency develops. Thus, staffing is an important implication to consider. Fortunately, even with a program model hosting 36 students and two instructors, no degradation in quality of DSP service has been noted.

Partnering to Enlarge the Instructor Cadre

Police agencies should develop and maintain partnerships with other agencies to enhance the cadre of certified LPO instructors. The LPO program requires two certified instructors during the entire three weeks. However, the total number of certified instructors is currently limited. Maintaining and establishing partnerships with allied agencies is the solution.

The positive implications of adopting this recommendation include a greater availability of instructors with a wider diversity of experience with which to enhance learning. Since the number of certified LPO program instructors is small, partnering with other agencies for instruction is appropriate and necessary. Instructors from outside the agency can also provide alternative perspectives that are detached from the agency. An instructor from another police agency, for example, may relate to a leadership issue that is similar to but slightly different from that of the host organization. The underlying issue may be the same, but the specific organizational response may differ slightly. Thus, alternative perspectives can lend greater credence to a universally applicable leadership issue.

Ancillary implications from this recommendation are logistical and financial. Although the fiduciary impact on the organization will be significantly reduced by eliminating instructor stipends, the host agency could incur lodging and meal expenses. If the agency can provide lodging and meals for the instructors, those expenses could be reduced or eliminated as well. During the first five DSP LPO courses, for example, Maryland and Pennsylvania state troopers taught specific lessons. These instructors stayed overnight and were provided meals at the DSP Academy free of charge. Thus, minimal expenses were incurred from their assistance.

Partnerships are mutual agreements between agencies. The logistical implications for providing instructional support are reciprocal. If partnerships are established, instructors from both agencies will need to assist each other during their respective leadership development programs. Thus, the lodging, meals, instructor availability, and staffing issues will be concerns for both agencies. Nevertheless, those ancillary issues are inconsequential compared with the broader beneficial implications.

Partnering to Create Opportunities for Smaller Agencies

Similar to the proposal for collaborating with other agencies for instructors, law enforcement agencies should also maintain and develop partnerships in order to provide and offer the LPO program to other law enforcement officers. The DSP, for example, has provided and will continue to provide openings for other state and municipal law enforcement officers in future courses. This recommendation is similar to the previous suggestion; however, the focus here is on student participation and information sharing rather than instructional support.

The LPO program has universal applicability. The program’s benefits are not restricted to the DSP, other state police agencies, or any one group of agencies, as the program is based on tenets of behavioral science that focus on personal motivation, satisfaction, and performance, regardless of occupation. As literature on the subject has revealed, the lack of leadership development in the law enforcement profession is a critical concern. Consequently, all law enforcement agencies can benefit from this program. Even if the agency is a one-person department, that lone officer can benefit personally and professionally from the lessons the program offers. Although individual and group issues may not be as prominent as in a larger department, the lessons on the larger organizational perspective are certainly applicable.

The implications for adopting this recommendation are similar to those resulting from the first and second recommendations. The positive effect of adopting this recommendation is the development of law enforcement leaders. The LPO program provides the knowledge, skills, and abilities to develop effective leaders while also creating both a common language to describe, analyze, and solve individual, group, or organizational issues and a common “leader thought process.” As mentioned earlier, participants internalize a uniform blueprint for problem solving.

Aside from the holistic benefits of sharing this program with other agencies, there are additional implications. The benefits of having a myriad of agency representatives are similar to the benefits for having outside instructors. Although the underlying leadership issues permeate each agency, they may have different impacts or resolutions based on the organizational structure. Thus, having a myriad of experiences from several different perspectives can add value to leadership development.

Establishing partnerships and reciprocal training agreements with other agencies may also reduce the fiscal and operational impact on one particular agency. Of the approximately 17,000 police departments in the United States, 80 percent have fewer than 25 officers. According to Joseph Polisar, chief of police in Garden Grove, California, an IACP past president, those departments do not have the budget to support the LPO program on their own.17 Partnering with other agencies would reduce the fiscal impact while providing the opportunity for smaller departments to receive this training. For example, the IACP has already worked with small and midsize agencies in the southeastern and western United States to help groups of three or more agencies join together to host both the LPO program and the follow-on FDW.

Although staffing issues will affect each participating agency individually, reducing the number of students from the same agency in the three-week program would diminish the overall staffing issue. In other words, if the 36 program participants come from several agencies, no one agency will experience a loss of 36 staff members at the same time.

The only negative implication anticipated from adopting this recommendation is that the timeline for training all supervisors in the host agency will be lengthened. Should other police officers attend the DSP leadership program, for example, the number of Delaware state troopers in the class would be reduced. The consequence of that action means that it will take the agency longer—perhaps six years instead of four—to reach its goal of training all its corporals and sergeants. Nevertheless, leadership development should not be restricted to one organization, as it is needed by and should be shared with other law enforcement agencies. It is the leader’s duty to share that knowledge throughout the profession.


Leadership development is a major concern for the future of the law enforcement profession. As mentioned earlier, a major component of the DSP’s vision is to commit to the lifelong study and practice of effective leadership.

During his term as IACP president, Chief Polisar discussed the criticality of this need:

One of the central responsibilities of the 21st-century police executive—and a critical prerequisite to organizational success—is leadership development. It is vital that we, as law enforcement executives, take an active role in ensuring that our organizations have programs in place that systematically develop leaders so our organizations have leadership in depth and are continuously preparing leaders for the future. This is a critical need because failure to institute a leadership development system can result in a lack of teamwork, operational inefficiency, and mistrust between the public and law enforcement officers. It can also result in misuse of power, heightened stress levels, and ethics violations.18

The LPO program has been an overwhelming success for the DSP and for the other 149 police agencies that have participated in the program. The transformation process exhibited by program participants has been extraordinary. Perhaps the most convincing argument supporting that assertion was delivered by a 27-year veteran sergeant at the first DSP LPO graduation ceremony on January 24, 2007:

When I received [the] acceptance letter I said to my wife, “Great, they are going to teach me how to be a sergeant.” I had only been a sergeant for 13 years, but now I was going to learn how to be one. After I attended the orientation seminar and learned how much work was involved, I said to my wife, “Great, I am going back to college.” After completing this program, I didn’t learn how to be a sergeant—I learned how to be a leader. I will be going back to the same troop and will be working with the same people. However, I am going back to a new job.

Further information on the Leadership in Police Organizations program can be obtained from the IACP’s Center for Police Leadership ( or by contacting the author at
. ■

Lieutenant Sean E. Moriarty, Ed.D., is a 15-year veteran of the DSP, with the current rank of lieutenant. A master police instructor, he is one of the first certified IACP LPO program instructors and the program’s coordinator for the DSP. Moriarty holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in criminal justice and a doctorate in organizational leadership.


1Stan Stojkovic et al., “Correctional Leadership Education into the 21st Century: The California Leadership Institute,” Federal Probation 61, no. 3 (September 1997): 50–54.
2Joseph M. Polisar, “The IACP Center for Police Leadership,” President’s Message, The Police Chief 71, no. 4 (April 2004): 6.
3Edward N. Drodge and Steven A. Murphy, “The Four I’s of Police Leadership: A Case Study Heuristic,” International Journal of Police Science and Management 6, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 1–15.
4Robert Roy Johnson, “Developing the New Sergeant,” Law and Order 53, no. 8 (August 2005): 24.
5Trudy Jean Evans, “Entering Your New Leadership Position,” Supervision 66, no. 8 (August 2005): 12–13.
6Robert Pernick, “Creating a Leadership Development Program: Nine Essential Tasks,” Public Management 84, no. 7 (August 2002): 10–18, (accessed March 11, 2009).
7Trudy Jean Evans, “Transitioning from Superstar to Supervisor,” Supervision 64, no.9 (September 2003): 12–13.
8Pernick, “Creating a Leadership Development Program.”
9Evans, “Transitioning from Superstar to Supervisor.”
10Pernick, “Creating a Leadership Development Program.”
11Mary Ann Viverette, “Prepare Tomorrow’s Police Leaders,” President’s Message, The Police Chief 72, no. 11 (November 2005): 6.
12Allen L. Ault and Robert M. Brown Jr., “Correctional Excellence: Leadership Development,” Corrections Today 59 (April 1997): 134–138.
13Jean Hartley and Barrie Hinksman, Leadership Development: A Systematic Review of the Literature: A Report for the NHS Leadership Centre, Coventry, United Kingdom, Warwick Institute of Governance and Public Management, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, 2003, (accessed March 12, 2009).
14Quoted in IACP, Report from the Summit: Proceedings and Recommendations of the 2005 National Leadership Summit, August 2005, 11, (accessed March 11, 2009).
15Ibid., 2.
16Program content is presented here as outlined in Howard Prince II, John Halstead, and Larry Hesser, eds., Leadership in Police Organizations, 2d ed., 2 vols. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005).
17Personal communications, December 5, 2006.
18Polisar, “The IACP Center for Police Leadership.”



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVI, no. 5, May 2009. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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