Tribal Law Enforcement Executive Leadership

Image: Tribal Law Enforcement Executive Leadership Seal
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Image: Officers in a class

Native American leaders understand this unique relationship, which has been expressed in a quote by Benny Shendo of Jemez Pueblo:
“For us in Jemez, we are leaders among equals…at some point you are called and given certain responsibilities as a leader. People respect that. But, when your time is done, you are among equals again.”

Nearly every police executive in the nation, whether from a large metropolitan department or a small-town agency, faces issues and opportunities, but in the Native American community, the law enforcement leader must address a unique set of challenges and concerns. The Tribal Police Chief must be able to perform under extreme environmental and social conditions, while blending officers from other cultures who may have differing values and philosophies on Native American policing, into one agency—unified to fight crime, protect citizens, and improve the quality of life for everyone.
To address these challenges the COPS Office funded the Upper Midwest Community Policing Institute (UMCPI) and its partner, Community Safety Institute (CSI), to create and deliver a Tribal Law Enforcement Executive Leadership course. This third and final installment of the COPS Native American Training Series (NATS) is specifically designed for the tribal law enforcement chief executive and their command staff.

Stephanie Beebe, a Sergeant with the Ft. McDowell Yavapai Nation Police Department, wrote after receiving the training, “I would like to say how beneficial this training was for me. This training was able to show me where I may have some weaknesses and ways that I can make improvements—making my job much less stressful, both for me and my subordinates.” Sergeant Beebe went on to write, “Our department was lucky enough to allow each supervisor to attend this training. We are a small department, 22 people, and our Chief, Patrol Lieutenant, and all six Sergeants were able to attend.”
For over a decade, the COPS Office has provided tribal policing grants, as well as trainings and technology. However, research has indicated that many of these programs were not being utilized because they were not tailored to the Native American community. The COPS Native American Training Series is designed to tailor existing successfully implemented community policing initiatives to meet the needs of Native Americans, thereby increasing utilization of the training programs and institutionalization of community policing in tribal communities.

The Tribal Executive Leadership Program—as its name implies—is about leadership, not supervision. Conventional theory tells us that leadership is a tough quality to define and that there is no one definition that fits all aspects of leadership. However, some common characteristics that are discussed in the class include: A real leader is one who knows how to serve others first; and, a leader is a visionary who is reliable, has a positive disposition, and who possesses a high level of audacity, yet is empowering of others.

The essence of leadership is a mixture of physical and mental traits, intelligence, aptitude, and temperament. A leader inspires, motivates, and believes in others. A leader is not afraid to get his hands dirty, or to become directly involved. This type of involved leadership is modeled throughout the training and was noticed during development by Dennis Cusick, UMCPI’s Executive Director and a former Chief of Police who commented, “Although developed for tribal police leaders, every law enforcement chief executive in the country could benefit from this type of training and its self-evaluation components.”

All too often the terms management and leadership are used interchangeably. In tribal police departments these terms are further blurred as managers are assigned to take temporary leadership positions before returning to their permanent positions. Even more difficult may be the transition from supervisor to police executive with little or no formal training or preparation.

In the law enforcement community, teams of officers are assigned the task of maintaining order and arresting offenders within a defined area. A leader has a special responsibility for the functioning of this group and must know the best way to produce the highest level of success. Effective leaders have the ability to determine the type of leadership interventions that are needed for the group to be successful.
In tribal policing, strike teams or support teams are often deployed to address crime problems in specific geographic locations. Teams of officers who have never worked together before are often assembled from various agencies and sent to assist their host agency on large tribal reservations far from their regular duty stations. For tribal police executives, leading these disparate teams can present a significant challenge as they try to address concerns regarding officers, their operations, and their ability to work with local community members.

Throughout the course, participants take a variety of self-assessments in order to determine their strengths and weaknesses in important leadership areas, such as: accountability, delegation, decision-making, management styles, motivation, teamwork, and time management. The course culminates with each attendee completing a Personal Development Plan (PDP). The PDP is a multi-page document created by each individual and based on their self-assessments and other materials presented throughout the course. In the PDP each leader lists challenges to themselves where they can personally improve their leadership skills, and then they build an Action Plan detailing the timeframe for this personal development, how they plan to achieve their goals, and an evaluation of how they will know when they have succeeded in increasing their leadership capabilities.

The NATS III – Tribal Law Enforcement Executive Leadership Course prepares tribal police leaders to effectively address leadership challenges of today. The COPS Office materials selected for inclusion in this course, combined with cutting edge 21st century leadership training and identified best practices, have been enthusiastically accepted by Native American police.

For more information please contact Wayne Shellum, Services Director of UMCPI at 651.917.2255 or  Upcoming classes will be posted online at as they are scheduled. Direct link to the training page:

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