The Business of Policing

Many years ago, I found myself and some friends talking to a veteran police officer about what type of college education would be most helpful for becoming an officer. As genuine ‘wanna be’ teenagers, we were all convinced that police administration degrees (now called criminal justice degrees) would be the obvious choice. I will never forget his advice. He told us that we should look at getting degrees in business because, after all, the police department is just that; a business.

For the most part, we thought he was crazy.

Boy oh boy, was he ever right.

During my last 20 and then some years as a police officer I have seen this to be very true, and I have become more and more interested in the ‘business side’ of the policing industry. Interested may be an understatement. I am passionate about the topic, and I am convinced that the formal introduction of real business units in police departments is the next big step in the professionalization of our industry.

The public perception of the police has changed dramatically over the last few decades. Juries, pundits and the public at large tend to turn a critical eye toward the police. It seems that the salad days of unconditional trust are over, and we have had to make, and will continue to make, many adjustments to how we conduct ourselves and restore that trust.

It only stands to reason that that same critical eye will start to focus on how we handle the business side of the house; just what are we doing with tax dollars? After all, public safety budgets (especially the police) generally consume the lion’s share of government budgets, and there is every reason to expect that the taxpayers will want to know that their investment will bring a return. Personally, I share that interest. The clouds are certainly gathering.

So, in preparation for this coming storm, who better to turn to than the business and corporate world? It’s hard to pick up the news these days and not see an article where a corporation has gone under the knife; sliced, diced and gouged open for all to see. And of course, it is because stockholders, consumers or anyone with an opinion (stakeholders), are demanding to see things ‘just done right.’ We need to look at those that weather the storm, even come out in front of it, and those that did not fare so well, to understand what works and what does not work.

This blog is my way of generating conversation about policing and the world of business, by comparing the things that the two worlds have in common, and pointing out the things that go on in a successful corporate world, that can be applied in police agencies.



Change is not a threat, it’s an opportunity. Survival is not the goal, transformative success is. Seth Godin

Coming Up:  Why policing is a business and should run like a business.

© 2014 David A. Lyons
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