Police leaders occupy a critical position in the criminal justice system, in the field of policing, and in the community. Persons in this position must have community, organizational, personal, and political skills, while also demonstrating substantial law enforcement and management experience (Birzer, et al., 2012). Some have suggested that the role of a police leader in the twenty-first century has never been more important or as formidable, given the evolving complexity of the police role in society (Taylor et al., 2022). While there is comprehensive knowledge about many aspects of policing, there is a dearth of information on the police executive and the challenges of police leadership, leadership development, and leader selection. One area that has received scant attention is leadership succession – the replacement of one leader by another – and succession planning. The present study aimed to fill that gap. Taking a qualitative methodological approach, in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with sixteen (n=16) current and former Canadian police leaders to explore their perceptions, philosophies, and experiences with leadership succession and succession planning. Interviews revealed five key areas, including the current challenges of implementing succession planning; the role of leadership development in succession planning; necessary leadership competencies; incorporating diversity into succession planning; and the role of police boards and commissions in succession planning. Based on this limited sample of interviews, it appears that succession planning in Canadian policing is occurring in a fragmented, uncoordinated manner, driven largely by existing police leaders, and based on little empirical evidence.
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Thesis advisor: Griffiths, Curt
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