The Top Ten Rules of Good Police Leadership

Good Police Leader

You know it when you see it.

This list can be applied to almost any position of leadership, be it law enforcement or private sector.

There have been thousands of lists and writings on the topic of what makes good police leadership.

The term leadership means different things to different people. It can be hard to pin down. I have written extensively on the topic in some of my articles.

Most of my posts on the topic has been what not to do when leading cops in your agency.

This list will be the opposite.

Every few months or so, the next batch of promotions takes place at my agency. I look at some of the newly promoted sergeants and wonder if they know what they are getting into.

See Also: “The Top 20 Rules for All New Cops”

The following is not intended to be an exhaustive list on good police leadership. It is merely a starting point.

The top ten rules of good police leadership 

1. Be professional but have a sense of humor with your subordinates. This will make you appear human and not just an asshole who is only using your current assignment as a stepping stone to police management.

2. Make sure you present yourself as someone who has paid their dues in the trenches. This will help your cops better identify with and respect you.

3. Be flexible. There is no profession on earth that requires as many variables or course direction changes as policing (except maybe astronauts in space who experience mechanical failure outside of earths orbit)

4. Be fair. This is a lot easier said than done. You will have those cops who you favor over others and that’s okay. Never, ever let that be shown openly.

5. Know when to be a mentor and when to be a boss. Or vice versa. Remember, their success is your success.

6. Mean what you say, say what you mean. Be an effective communicator with your people. There is nothing worse than someone dropping the ball because you were not clear and concise delivering your message or order.

7. Never, ever, ridicule or embarrass one of your cops around their peers. This makes the employee feel like scum and makes you look even worse. And as mentioned in a previous article, ease off the passive aggressive emails when dealing with your subordinates. Do it in person.

8. Always show your employees you care. Not only about their professional standing but their personal lives as well. This doesn’t mean they will tell you but they will know that you at least cared enough to ask.

9. Document both the good and the bad. This trait also falls in line with fairness and shows your cops that you play both sides as far as their performance.

10. Always lead from the front. This should not be confused with micromanaging. Being there when things go south is what it really means. As we all know, things go south on a regular basis in police work.

You May Also Like: “Why Cops Develop These 6 Weird and Often Strange Character Traits”

**Please feel free to add to this list if I have forgotten the obvious in the comment section or on The Salty Sarge Facebook Page.


  1. Praise in public, reprimand in private.
    Celebrate small victories.
    Vent frustrations above, never below (your rank)

  2. Maintain a positive work environment; to the extent you can. I’m a Captain in a large PD and have been a supervisor since 2002. This is hard to do.

    Positivity and enthusiasm does a lot to stave of some of the negative aspects of the job. Particularly the internal bullshit. Which is often more stressful than dealing with criminals.

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