Most of us have heard of the adage attributed to Ben Franklin who allegedly said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Note that the “quote” from Ben Franklin has different versions such as “the person who fails to plan, plans to fail” or “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Regardless of whether Ben Franklin said these things, it is still wise advice.

In our work with police departments all over the country for the last dozen years, strategic planning continues to be a key recommendation for many departments. The Office of Community Policing Services, U.S., Department of Justice (COPS Office) recently released Law Enforcement Best Practices: Lessons Learned from the Field. This publication, developed by Hillard Heintze in conjunction with the COPS Office, covers eight key law enforcement topics. Many of those topics discuss the need for police departments to adopt written strategic plans. A strategic plan is like a roadmap for accomplishing an organization’s goal in a timely and effective manner. Strategic plans identify, among other things, an organization’s vision, values missions and short- and long-term goals.

Where to Adopt a Police Department Strategic Plan

In police agencies, strategic plans are used for a variety of purposes. We recommend that departments adopt plans related to topics such as:

  • Overall policing strategies
  • Community Policing and Engagement
  • Recruitment and Hiring
  • Communications and Public Information
  • Crisis Management
  • Training
  • Data Management
  • Officer health and wellness
  • Growth of the Department as identified by a staffing analysis

Be ‘Smart’ About Your Department’s Strategic Plan

A police department’s strategic plan in any of these topic areas does not need to be long or complicated but the goals and objectives of the plan should follow the SMART criteria. That is, they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Keeping these criteria in mind, a police department entering into a strategic planning process should involve internal stakeholders (such as line staff) and external stakeholders (such as community members) whenever applicable (in most cases, including both community members and internal stakeholders is a recommended practice). The plan should also be data-driven, that is, it should use data to assist in defining the current environment, better understand and prioritize problems and monitor implementation of the plan.

We have helped mayors, city councils, chiefs of police and other senior law enforcement leaders capture and document a high-level, risk-driven, multi-year strategy by providing support in program development, management and leadership oversight, and modernization and transformation of a police department.

Sometimes the Best Strategy is Looking from the Outside In

Whether or not you engage us to help you with an assessment or strategic plan, keep in mind the advice of another often quoted “philosopher” Yogi Berra, who said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Take the advice of Ben Franklin, Yogi Berra and Hillard Heintze – start your strategic planning process so that you can drive the department’s successful future, rather than leaving the future success to chance.

Develop a strategic plan and roadmap that sets your department up for future success.
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