Public Safety and Emergency ResponseWebinarPublication Date: Jun 17, 2021

The hour-long webinar featured retired Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan, who provided strategies that select board members can use in working with their police departments to best meet the needs of their communities.

Ryan discussed municipal policing challenges in the current climate, including a trend toward early retirements and a difficult recruiting environment, both of which are leaving critical leadership roles vacant in some departments. Ryan provided some best practices that can be used in recruiting, including prioritizing the use of assessment centers over traditional technical exams.

Ryan highlighted the impact of the 2015 report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing on municipal police operations. He emphasized the importance of recruiting chiefs that are fully versed in the report’s recommendations and committed to putting them into action.

Ryan provided an overview of procedural justice, describing it as a policing strategy in which those who are policed are given an opportunity to speak, a clear explanation of why police action is being taken against them, and the opportunity for follow up. For procedural justice to work, he said, there must be a system in place that shows that the resources being expended are resulting in meaningful and positive change. In his experience, he said, “complaints against police departments utilizing procedural justice plummet, while trust and legitimacy go off the charts.”

In discussing culture change within police departments, Ryan emphasized the importance of adaptive leadership. Under this approach, when trying to implement a change that a department would not otherwise choose, the person leading the change must do so slowly and adaptively. The likelihood of positive outcomes grows when change is implemented at a rate that can be absorbed by those within the organization.