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Back to Archives | Back to March 2004 Contents 

For Smaller Police Agency Executives: Mentoring for Success

By Elaine Deck, Manager, and Pamela Juhl, Coordinator, New Police Chief Mentoring Project, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Alexandria, Virginia

The first 100 days of any new police chief's administration can be crucial to achieving a successful transition and to building important relationships within the new agency and the community. Often the alliances developed during the first three to 12 months are essential to ensuring that the new chief's strategic plan for public safety is articulated clearly to the community decision makers so that goals are met and the community trusts the agency to keep it safe. Steps taken to build relationships inside the police agency and between the police and the community in the first year can make or break a new chief's career in the community. For this reason, the IACP Research Center developed the New Police Chief Mentoring Project.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance is funding the IACP initiative for smaller police agencies-Services, Support, and Technical Assistance for Smaller Police Departments-to develop and coordinate a mentoring project for new police chiefs serving communities of 25,000 or fewer residents. The staff works closely with members of the project's advisory group on the new mentoring project. The goal of the project is to support the professional development of new police chiefs by providing an experienced police chief as mentor.

To participate in the mentoring program, a new chief or interested chief experienced working with smaller departments contacts the IACP staff and completes a profile. The new chief then is matched with an experienced chief best fitting the new chief's profile. The pair will work together on the issues identified by the new chief as the most essential. The mentoring chief will acquaint the new chief with available resources, including those through IACP, and the technical assistance and training programs dealing with the target issues identified by the new chief. It is anticipated that both colleagues will benefit from the relationship and that the professional growth and encouragement of one chief to another will enhance the profession.

Following are personal experiences about mentoring programs that have helped police executives and their agencies. The examples selected show personal assistance received from executive mentoring and mentoring programs for the entire department.

Harvey E. Sprafka, Chief of Police, Knoxville, Iowa
When I joined the Knoxville Police Department as a police officer in the mid-1970s, it was my good fortune to immediately find a mentor who encouraged and supported my transition into the law enforcement community. Prior to entering into a law enforcement career, I was an outside observer of government, community, and police department activities as the news director and reporter for Knoxville's AM and FM radio stations. It was during this stint as a radio newsman that I reported on what I now call the unfair and shortsighted demotion of Knoxville's police chief to assistant chief by a newly elected one-term mayor. The demoted chief would become my police mentor 15 months later.

I personally sought the mentorship of the assistant chief of police, a person who had a wealth of job-related experiences and varied interests, qualifications that met my needs and wants as a novice peace officer. As a mentor, the assistant chief became a role model, teacher, coach, advisor, and at times a confidante to this newly hired police officer from the news reporting field. The assistant chief helped facilitate a smooth transition by explaining and detailing the history of the organization, its values, norms, politics, potential pitfalls or stumbling blocks to one's career development, and organizational culture. First and foremost, the assistant chief was an active listener who provided open and honest feedback and recommendations, as well as responses to my many queries related to patrol work and managerial issues. He continually encouraged and supported my efforts in problem solving.

Our mutually beneficial mentor-protégé relationship soon developed into a friendship that continues today. Although the retired assistant chief has been out of law enforcement for more than 20 years, I still apprise him of my challenges and continue to draw on the retiree's knowledge, experience, and wisdom. We both are proud of the contributions we have made to the organization and law enforcement profession that are a result of our long-term mentor-protégé relationship.

April H. Kranda, Lieutenant (Retired), Fairfax County Police Department, Fairfax, Virginia
A police chief who mentors his or her officers has an enormous impact on their personal and professional success, and instills loyalty. During my career with the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia, I benefited from a mentoring relationship. Although back then I didn't realize that the time invested giving advice, coaching, counseling, and, most importantly, listening to me demonstrated fundamental mentoring behaviors. As I look back on my career, I realize that whatever success I achieved as a police officer and after my retirement I can attribute to mentoring.

In the early stages of my career, I was one of a dozen officers assigned to an antifencing task force who served under a lieutenant overseeing the operation. The lieutenant led his officers in a manner that was vastly different from that of other commanders. He became acquainted with each officer as an individual with varying personal needs and desires for professional growth. This was achieved by ongoing personal interaction and periodic one-on-one discussions during which the lieutenant solicited our interests, listened to and addressed our concerns, and provided relevant information to increase performance necessary to obtain career goals. For example, my goal was to become a sex crimes detective. As a mentor, he explained how the functions of my current assignment would teach me the basics of criminal investigation and how important it was to keep building my skills by seeking experience and training opportunities. At the conclusion of the assignment, he knew the next step in the career paths that each officer desired and became an advocate for us. I became aware of his advocacy when the commander of the criminal investigations bureau informed me that my first assignment would be the auto theft unit in order to gain essential skills and experience in interview and interrogation techniques prior to transfer to the sex crimes unit.

Although I would not work directly for the lieutenant until many years and promotions later, we still maintained a link. I knew that I could reach out to him for guidance, and on several occasions I sought his counsel.

In 1992 my former lieutenant became chief of police. When this occurred I was a lieutenant assigned to a patrol squad at a district station. Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by the chief and asked to serve in the public information office. Because of our previous relationship, I told him that I felt unqualified to serve in the position. Quite honestly, public speaking was one of those fears that I hadn't overcome and I disliked the media. To my amazement, the chief acknowledged my weaknesses and informed me that public speaking was another skill that I needed to acquire. As far as my position on the media, he stated that he wanted me to build a good working relationship that would be beneficial to the organization as well as the public. The chief's actions demonstrated several additional mentoring behaviors: first, the recognition of lack of experience or performance deficiencies; second, expressing confidence in the officer to succeed by providing training and experience; and third, providing the opportunity for continual learning and challenge through new assignments and tasks.

Although we are both retired, the chief has continued to be a wonderful listener, to possess the ability to inspire, and to encourage me to take on additional challenges.

Paul D. Schultz, Chief of Police, Lafayette, Colorado
I began my career as a police officer in a Denver suburb in 1975. In 1995 I retired as a lieutenant and was appointed chief of police in La Vista, Nebraska, and in 2002 appointed chief of police in Lafayette, Colorado.

Before arriving in Lafayette I knew the department had a history of employee turnover and was looking for a way to solve the problem. The Lafayette Police Department was often viewed as a training ground for other Denver-area law enforcement agencies. The department in the past looked at all of the traditional ways to address this issue and had some success but never long-term achievements using these approaches. As the new chief, I took a new look at this continuing problem. With a new administration came new ideas and new approaches.

The constant turnover was literally robbing the department of valuable experience-experience that makes the difference every day in the effectiveness and efficiency of the department. Realizing that this was a critical issue, I turned to the International Association of Chiefs of Police for assistance. Specifically, I asked for assistance from the Services, Support, and Technical Assistance for Smaller Police Departments Project in the IACP Research Center, and soon it was on the way in the form of two department training sessions for police officers who volunteered to explore a new concept called "Mentoring to Improve Retention in Small Agencies." The ideas and approaches to this issue were immediately implemented and the results have been even better than expected. Attrition department-wide has been reduced by more than 50 percent from the high point before we implemented the program. Another interesting observation regarding the mentoring program is that only one new officer has left the department out of 10 that had a mentor. As a result of these successes, the Lafayette Police Department implemented a formalized mentoring program.

The program consists of several volunteer officers who are specially trained as mentors who are assigned to each new police officer to help him or her with a smooth transition into the department and involves a continual review of the program's effectiveness. To date the program has worked almost flawlessly. At first there were some misunderstandings among the department field training officers, but since the concept was thoroughly explained there have not been any recurring problems with the FTOs.

A unique aspect of Lafayette's program is that a department mentor is assigned to each new officer before the new officer officially joins the department. The mentors assist in socializing the police recruit to the department in a variety of ways, from explaining the community and the department's values and cultures to assisting with housing, schools for children, and employment for a spouse. This bond becomes very strong, and the police recruit always has a trained ear to listen to any concerns and to respond to those concerns in an informed, professional manner.

Confidentiality between the recruit and the mentor is guaranteed except in the case of criminal conduct. To date this has not been an issue nor is it expected to be. The mentors take a great deal of pride in seeing their recruit officer succeed. In fact, the mentors routinely attend the badge pinning ceremony for the new police recruit, the graduation ceremony for the new police officer from the police academy, and partake in their success when they graduate from the FTO program. It is almost a coach-student relationship but in a peer-to-peer setting.

The Lafayette Police Department is very pleased to have introduced the mentoring concept to our department. It is truly making a difference that can be seen every day-in the form of police officers staying with our department.

Fairfax County Sheriff's Office Mentoring Program for Incoming Recruits
By Stan Barry, Sheriff, Fairfax County, Virginia

The Fairfax County Sheriff's Office Applicant and Recruitment Section initiated a mentoring program for newly hired deputy sheriff recruits in 2001. The program allows the agency to hire deputy recruits up to four months prior to the start of the six-month basic academy. This element is essential in the recruitment of highly qualified candidates with multiple applications in process with other agencies. The early-hire aspect of the program allows the sheriff's office to make employment offers ahead of other competing agencies. The program also assists greatly in the retention of employees by better preparing recruits for the rigors of academy life.

The mechanics of the program involve three main areas of importance. First, it gives the recruit a well-rounded knowledge of the entire agency and its many different branches. Small groups are assigned to work in various branches for periods of up to one week. This aspect of the program assists them in their personal decisions to future career development and eliminates mysteries about the agency's goals and objectives.

Second, the program prepares them for the physical demands of academy training and on-the-job activities. Throughout the recruit's workweek, a plan is implemented for them to spend up to two hours at the end of the day participating in a physical training program. This physical training is monitored by a mentor (a sworn deputy sheriff) or group of mentors who possess substantial training in strength and cardiovascular development.

Third, the program takes recruits of many different cultures, backgrounds, and life experiences and forms them into a cohesive team prior to the start of the academy. The unified group can now meet challenges together as a team to ensure a greater success rate in the academy and on the job.

The overall goal of the program is to better prepare individuals for the start of a successful career. The graduation rate from the Criminal Justice Academy has increased with the advent of this program. Newly hired employees feel like they are part of a family, and the stress level is lowered prior to entrance into the academy.

Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association Mentoring Program
By Patricia Moen, Executive Development Director, Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, Saint Paul, Minnesota

The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association began its mentoring program in 1996. The purpose of the program is to provide new chiefs with immediate assistance from more experienced chiefs. As soon as a new chief is appointed, the association notifies the Mentor Committee, a small group of seasoned police chiefs dedicated to helping others as they begin their careers as chief of police. The group consists of five veteran chiefs from various parts of the state. When notified that a new chief has been appointed, the closest mentor contacts the new chief by letter or in person to offer assistance.

Depending on the need, the assistance can take many forms. Mentors introduce new chiefs to established networks of other chiefs in the region. Mentors provide copies of model policies and procedures and advise new chiefs about their use. Mentors encourage the new chiefs to attend programs available through the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association. The association sponsors three programs of particular interest to new chiefs. The first is the annual Executive Training Institute. The Executive Training Institute provides new chiefs with a broad array of educational offerings and the opportunity to meet with their peers throughout the state. The second is regional training on police management issues. The third is a law enforcement and command academy, a three-and-a-half-day intensive residential training opportunity that focuses on topics critical to chief law enforcement officers. The mentoring program has provided funds to new chiefs who could not otherwise afford to attend these valuable programs.

Perhaps the most important part of the mentoring program is providing new chiefs with someone to call when they need advice, support, or guidance from someone with more experience.

IACP Mentoring Resources
  • New Police Chief Mentoring Project

    • The IACP has a mentoring program for new police chiefs serving communities of 25,000 or fewer residents. The program is funded by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice. For more information, call Pamela Juhl at 800-THE-IACP, extension 340, or write to her at

  • Best Practices for Mentoring Programs

  • Training for Managers of Mentoring Programs

    • The IACP Training Department will offer Mentoring for the Retention of Public Safety Personnel in Freehold, New Jersey,

    June 7-8, 2004. For more information, call Larry Haynes at 800-THE-IACP, extension 234, or write to him at>


From The Police Chief, vol. 71, no. 3, March 2004. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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