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Leadership Lessons from an Annus Horribilis

Victoria Herrington, PhD, Director Knowledge, Australian Institute of Police Management, Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney University, and Karl A. Roberts, Consultant, World Health Organization, Professor of Policing and Criminal Justice, Western Sydney University, Australia

Introduction to this acrticle:

Across the world, 2020 threw challenge after challenge at police. The headline may have been Covid-19, but the subheadings have been many.1 From the unprecedented need to enforce a public health lockdown and the resulting social ferment about connected issues of inequality, distrust in authority, and injustice to the inevitable adaptation of criminal enterprises, the palpable pendulum shift of public opinion toward police from hero to villain, and serious discussions in the United States and elsewhere about whether taxpayers should fund policing at all, policing has seen many challenges.

Through all this adversity, millions of police personnel have gotten up each day, dressed in often-inadequate personal protective equipment, left their worried families, and continued to serve their communities. Facing an unrelenting barrage of murky information and wicked problems, officers have used their ingenuity, experience, and tenacity to press ahead. It is timely to reflect on the last 12+ months, about the multiple crises that policing has faced, the profession’s responses, and what leaders might choose to do differently instead.