Advice For Reaching A Leadership Position in Law Enforcement: Interview with Deputy Chief of Police Glenn Hoff
We had the great opportunity to speak with retired Deputy Chief Glenn Hoff from the Rochester Police Department in New York. Glenn is the founder of the law enforcement leadership website, Guardian Leadership, which provides an excellent resource for law enforcement professionals who are interested in career development and effective leadership skills.
1. Can you tell us how you got started in law enforcement and your career path to when you became a Deputy Chief of Police?
My start in law enforcement was almost accidental. It had not been an ambition of mine as I was growing up. After high school I went away to college and took a part-time job with campus security to make some money. I got to know some of the local police officers and security officers who were aspiring cops and they influenced me to take on law enforcement as a profession – which in the end became my avocation.
I began my career with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department as a part-time park Deputy. I graduated at the top of my academy class and was hired for the next full time road patrol class. I stayed with the Sheriff’s office for five years with assignments on the road patrol and CID warrant squad. I eventually transferred to the Rochester Police Department (RPD) because of better retirement benefits, promotional and specialized assignment opportunities.
With the RPD I worked as a patrol officer, crime prevention officer and acting investigator. I made Sergeant after about five years and was assigned to Special Investigations (vice). This was a time of significant turmoil as the Chief and several members of the unit had been arrested for theft and civil rights violations. I remained a Sergeant in that Section for nine years, working in intelligence, narcotics and technical support. During that time I also had the opportunity to participate in the founding of the second ‘Project Exile’ weapon task force in the country. Our focus was illegal weapons and we received accolades from all the stakeholders, including the NRA, for our efforts. We received an award from then US Attorney General Reno for ‘Outstanding Contributions in Law Enforcement’. Shortly after, I took a Lieutenant’s exam and was promoted. I was transferred to uniformed patrol and took command of a midnight-shift platoon in one of our sections (precincts). Two years into that assignment I took the Captain’s exam, was promoted, and given the job of midnight staff duty officer – responsible for Department operations on my shift. While in this assignment, the Department was reorganized from a section (precinct) model into two Divisions, each Division responsible for half of the City. I took command of the afternoon shift in one of the Divisions. My next assignment was as the ‘executive officer’ of the Division. This position still held the rank of Captain but was responsible for coordinating Division crime analysis and control efforts. Upon the Division Commander’s retirement I was selected for promotion and took command of that Patrol Division. I held that position for a couple of years before being transferred to command the Investigation’s Division – responsible for all Department investigatory units. Following that assignment I was promoted to Deputy Chief, responsible for Department operations.
2. Can you describe the role of a Deputy Chief of Police?
In my case I was responsible for all operations while another Deputy Chief was responsible for the administrative side of the house. As with any leadership position you are responsible for being both a good follower and a good leader. You need to be supportive of the Chief and the City Administration in their directions while being true to your responsibility to appropriately express your own beliefs and get the job done. With your people you have a responsibility to ensure that they understand the purpose, direction and motivation for what you are asking them to do and that they have the tools and training necessary to accomplish it.
In the end, leadership is always a compromise between fulfilling individual and organizational needs. Often the impression is that as you rise through the organization you become more autonomous and you can do what you want. In my experience the opposite was true. The leadership task becomes more complex with each promotion with more stakeholders placing demands on you.
3. What were some of the common tasks that you spent significant time on when you held the position of Deputy Chief of Police?
- Monitoring crime and response – ensuring that we were coordinated and that the proper resources had been obtained and allocated without inter-Divisional friction.
- Implementing the policies of the Chief.
- Leadership/development of my direct reports and the rest of the Bureau through them.
- Coordinating the response to inquiries/complaints from the community, Chief and city administration.
- Coordinating efforts with the Administration Bureau, outside enforcement agencies and City entities.
- Evaluating and implementing ways to improve operations and performance.
- On an ideal day, having the opportunity to do some leadership by walking around and recognizing individual effort.
4. What advice would you give to someone who would like to reach an executive leadership position in law enforcement?
Today’s executive leaders need to be well versed in leadership, management, finance, communication, human resources, effective decision-making, strategy development and implementation, organizational change, development and culture, as well as leading the organizational environment. You need to be well rounded in your knowledge and education. Being the best at locking up the bad guy may not translate to being the best Chief when you are responsible for writing and defending a multimillion dollar budget. On the other hand, if you haven’t been a good street cop you won’t have the credibility to lead from any position in the organization.
Do your very best at your current level of while obtaining the knowledge you will need to be successful at the next level. Learn from great role models but don’t become a sycophant for any one individual. Handle disappointment as well as you handle success and be a team player. Be true to your Oath and Values, do your best and prepare for success and it will come in its own time.
5. How can taking college classes or pursuing a degree in criminal justice help police officers in their career?
Policing is a complex avocation. Referring to my answer to the previous question; you need to have an incredibly diverse skillset that you will not obtain from the school of hard knocks. Formal education is a necessity. An education in criminal justice helps provide you with the technical and tactical knowledge you need to be successful. The higher you go in the organization the educational demands increase. The education process exposes you to diverse ideas that can broaden your thought processes and give you a better understanding of how what you do relates to the rest of the ‘world’.
6. What is an important lesson you learned about leadership in your career?
Leadership can be learned and your success is dependent on your learning it. You will never achieve your potential alone and if you can’t influence others to join with you then you are up the proverbial creek. I never saw myself as a natural leader but I spent a great deal of time studying leadership and consciously applying the lessons I learned.
7. What qualities or skills do you think are highly valued by police recruiters and police leaders today?
One of the greatest challenges to recruitment today is finding individuals who can pass the basic background requirements. Having shown personal responsibility by maintaining their credit, stayed away from controlled substances and criminal activity, kept physically fit…
Beyond that, I think that organizations want to see people who are dedicated to service with the mental agility to make complex decisions in less than ideal environments. You want to hire someone that you are confident will serve the community and represent the organization well. Additional degrees, experience or skills that you bring to the table can help set you apart.
8. What are some of the most challenging issues facing the criminal justice system today?
- Budget – every Department will be challenged to do more with less.
- Recruitment – agencies are challenged to find eligible candidates.
- Technology – rapid advancements bring challenges and ethical issues. What should we be employing and how? What are the bad guys employing technology and how do we respond?
- Innovation – Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The profession is guilty of this in many instances. We need to alter some of our paradigms.
- Training – organizations will have to examine and modernize the way they do training. It is both time and cost prohibitive to do things the way that we have. Training is not well dispersed through organizations which results in morale issues rooted in equity concerns and robs organizations of the ability to develop all individuals within the organization.
9. Do any specific areas of law enforcement stand out as having a particularly high demand or a high level of opportunity for advancement for new recruits?
Policing remains a primarily civil service avocation where hiring and promotion is dependent on the candidate’s ability to perform well on an exam. I think that there will be future opportunities for specialization in the areas of technology based crimes, forensics and crime analysis. Hiring in some of these areas may be for civilian positions as the civil service process has not caught up to the trends in demands placed on organizations.