President ’s Message: What Keeps You Up at Night?By Chief Jim MacSween, OACP PresidentChiefs of police and other senior police leaders are often asked, “What keeps you up at night? ”In the dynamic world of law enforcement, the nature of police work naturally means that we have the strategic foresight to consider the future, while addressing challenges head on and always seeking opportunities for change in the ever-evolving profession of policing – change that can have a profound impact on our people and the communities we serve.Throughout my policing career, I’ve learned that to be an effective leader, we must strive to be critical thinkers. I’ve learned that constantly evaluating situations and issues is a fundamentally important part of being an effective law enforcement professional. This doesn’t mean that we dwell on issues, but rather we effectively evaluate and continuously plan to achieve our organizational, professional and personal goals and objectives.SHARING, LEARNING As society evolves and new crime trends emerge, the role of leadership in police services becomes increasingly significant. We are tasked with navigating complex challenges, from cybercrime to community policing to member wellness, and our ability to adapt and respond to such changes is vital to maintain public safety and trust.In May 2024, I had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of small and mid-sized police services from across Ontario. It was an opportunity for me not only to share what the OACP was doing to support them as police leaders, but also to learn from each other.As the leader of a large police service, it struck me that leaders from various police organizations, such as smaller services who police rural or geographically expansive areas of our province and our Indigenous police leaders, have much to share with me about their own realities.I found as OACP president that we can never stop learning from one another. Whether it’s seeing the amazing work of municipal or regional police in urban and suburban environments, the unique challenges that members of the Ontario Provincial Police deal with or the incredibly hard work of police professionals serving Indigenous communities, we have much to teach one another.DIFFERENT YET SIMILAR CHALLENGES One thing that I have learned keeps police leaders up at night regardless of where they work is the need to lead in tackling emerging crime trends. Crime evolves, and we all must evolve to meet these challenges. Some things I have learned in doing so include:UNDERSTANDING NEW CRIME TRENDS This requires police leaders to be well-informed and proactive in their approach to crime analysis. Emerging crime trends can vary widely, from the rise of digital crimes and cyberattacks to legislative and legal changes. Leaders must ensure that their departments have the tools and training necessary to identify and understand these trends as they develop.STRATEGIC PLANNING AND ADAPTATION This involves not only developing strategies that address the current crime landscape, but also preparing for future challenges. Effective police leaders must anticipate changes and lean on their people to develop strategies that can be adjusted as necessary.This might mean restructuring our organizations to better meet our service goals and to support our members’ mental health and well-being. It might mean seeking collaborative approaches with other policing groups such as police services boards or police associations. It might mean we become advocates for our people and our communities in relation to governments when we need laws changed or access to new funding and resources to deal with crime issues (the growing public concern over auto thefts is a case in point).POLICE LEADERS NEED TO RECOGNIZE THAT THE FIRST STEP IN TAKING CARE OF THEIR PEOPLE STARTS WITH TAKING CARE OF THEMSELVES.TRAINING AND RESOURCE ALLOCATION As new crime trends emerge, it is crucial that we invest in police members and equip them with the knowledge and skills they need. This requires advocating with government and police services boards for the resources needed to deliver ongoing training programs that are updated regularly to reflect the latest developments in criminal behavior and technology and support and protect members in the workplace.Police leaders must ensure that their organizations are adequately resourced. This includes not just having the right amount of people with the right skills to do the job, but also the technological tools such as data analysis software, digital forensics labs and advanced surveillance equipment they need to meet new crime challenges.TRUST AND LEGITIMACY To meet today’s policing needs, we must build and maintain trust within the community. As crime trends evolve, public perceptions of safety and the effectiveness of the police change. Leaders must engage actively with communities to foster trust and legitimacy.This means we must be out in the community meeting people where they are. It means making transparent communication and accountability pillars of what you believe as a leader, especially when it comes to controversial issues such as police use of force and community concerns about inappropriate and discriminatory behaviour by our police members.Police leaders need to recognize that the first step in taking care of their people starts with taking care of themselves. Senior officers often feel alone carrying the heavy burdens of leadership. How can we lead when we don’t take care of ourselves at work and at home? It’s vital we see our personal well-being as part of the job. You never walk alone.Jim MacSween is the Chief of Police of York Regional Police and served as OACP President in 2023-24.
READ MORE LIKE THIS
TRENDING ARTICLES
1

Inclusive Workplaces and Fairness in Community Safety

Key lessons learned developing toronto’s equity strategy

2

Countering Incivility, Harassment, and Discrimination in Policing

Creating a workplace environment that is inclusive, respectful, and free from harassment and discrimination is an ongoing priority for ontario police services. However, services face systemic challenges in their efforts to prevent these negative behaviours, effectively address them, and change their culture.

3

The Leadership Imperative: Leader development in Ontario

Modern policing is complex. Whether mediating a dispute or managing a crisis, it’s a job that not only requires a deep understanding of the law and society, but also the ability to lead with confidence and compassion.

4

THE FUTURE OF LEADERSHIP IN POLICING

Under the leadership of Chief Jim MacSween, the executive leadership team at York Regional Police (YRP) established a mission to re-imagine leadership development within the organization. YRP knew that standardizing leadership principles and delivering them to all ranks of the organization would enrich the development of ethical and professional leaders.

5

Behind Blue Eyes

Behind Blue Eyes: A Police Officers Resiliency Journal as a way to help myself, other police officers, and first responders heal. My journal is a tool and resource and was created because my 23-year-old self would have benefited from the wisdom, insights, and life experiences that I have now. I was not prepared for the death, trauma, and suffering that I would see in my career. Since I was not prepared for it, I didn’t know how to navigate it or to handle it effectively.

6

Connect, Lead, Inspire

As policing leaders, there are key elements to consider when it comes to developing outstanding organizations. Opening conference keynote presenter Tanya McCready of the Winterdance Dogsled Tour and author of Journey of 1000 Miles opened the conference with a timely message: time, dedication, trust, and practice are key elements to leadership, as well as ensuring that leaders know their team and where they thrive best.