Leadership Spotlight

Public Safety Partnerships

A stock image of a group of people in a meeting.

Understanding the value of partnerships and how to effectively build, maintain, and enhance them is a crucial but often overlooked component of law enforcement leadership. By their very nature, partnerships are based on relationships and anchored in trust. Once developed, trust is a powerful bond that encourages communication, cooperation, and collaboration — foundational leadership principles necessary for agencies to engage successfully with the people and communities they serve.

Public safety partnerships should extend well beyond law enforcement and encompass all stakeholders that contribute to the mission. Of course, strong relationships must exist with police agencies in adjacent communities to share intelligence, track trends, and maximize resources. However, it is equally important to develop such relations with city councils, prosecutors and courts, fire departments, emergency medical services, health departments, and a host of other entities.

Partnerships serve as a force multiplier, allowing staff to use the group’s collective expertise to help solve problems and provide better service. But that can only happen when communication, cooperation, and collaboration are part of the organizational culture and regularly exercised by all. In a typical agency, department heads have regular staff meetings with their peers, but what if line officers do not have relationships with their counterparts in other areas of the organization? This may lead to missed opportunities to use all resources the municipality has to best serve the public.

The community’s people are law enforcement’s largest stakeholders. They live, work, and socialize within a variety of influential groups. Each person is part of a broader network that extends well beyond individual geographic borders. They see, hear, and know things that can contribute to the overall mission. 

However, if no effective relationships with them exist, that information and influence is not readily accessible. Developing individual and strategic partnerships within the community is essential. Local businesses, community-based organizations, hospitals, educational institutions, and houses of worship are some areas where communication, cooperation, and collaboration are possible. They are sources of information and influence that should be developed. 

Some ideas for engagement include business/corporate crime briefings, community meetings, topic-specific roundtables, media roundtables, Adopt-a-School events, and Citizens and Youth Academy programs. Regular interactions help build relationships, but it takes time and effort to develop them into partnerships. But once those partnerships exist, the entire network can serve as a force multiplier.

Organized partnerships are not new to law enforcement. For instance, the Neighborhood Watch Program was developed in the 1970s to help address burglaries. However, the role and responsibilities of law enforcement have expanded substantially in the last 50 years, including the essential function partnerships serve. Understanding, appreciating, and instilling the underlying principles of communication, cooperation, and collaboration will ensure partnerships are valued and prioritized throughout an organization.

“Understanding, appreciating, and instilling the underlying principles of communication, cooperation, and collaboration will ensure partnerships are valued and prioritized throughout an organization.”

Robert Botsch, the Republican National Convention coordinator for the FBI’s Milwaukee office, prepared this Leadership Spotlight. He can be reached at rjbotsch@fbi.gov.