The role of leadership in promoting ethical police behaviour
Leadership is consistently identified as one of the most important aspects to maintaining police integrity and ensuring police professionalism. Identified weaknesses include lack of supervisory presence, superior officers not setting common standards, and supervisors willingly turning a blind eye to corrupt behaviour.
Leadership principles from organisational psychology, such as transformational leadership and operant leadership offer guidance on effectively promoting ethical behaviour. Concepts such as leader visibility, fairness, timeliness, consistency and proportionality of responses to performance have been shown to be effective while feelings of unfair treatment can negatively affect job performance and rule adherence.
Recent developments in policing show several initiatives that can promote leadership responsibility throughout the organisation; for example, clear accountability structures, values statements, management intervention models, and devolution of complaints handling. A combination of these initiatives, through incorporation of the leadership qualities mentioned above, can offer a complementary model for improving leadership, management and, ultimately, integrity.
However, while organisations can change their formal systems, informal systems (cultures) are equally, if not more, influential. Thus, it is important to consider not just formal leadership mechanisms and styles, but also informal leadership, including social influence and role models.
Perpetuity and Griffith University (Australia) have been commissioned to undertake primary qualitative research examining both formal and informal leadership practices within police forces. This research will explore perceptions of leadership against other methods for regulating behaviour. Findings from the research will contribute to policy and training initiatives around ethical leadership.