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Institutionalizing Mentoring in Police Departments

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 75 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2008 Pages: 46-49
Harvey Sprafka; April H. Kranda
Date Published
January 2008
4 pages
After defining and discussing the benefits of mentoring in policing, this article provides a step-by-step plan for institutionalizing mentoring in a law enforcement agency, followed by a description of mentoring tasks and the role of the police chief as mentor.
“Mentoring” is a mutually beneficial relationship in which a knowledgeable and skilled veteran officer (a mentor) provides insight, guidance, and developmental opportunities to a lesser-skilled and experienced colleague (a protégé). The benefits for the mentor are the satisfaction of helping a fellow officer develop in the knowledge and practice of policing while providing valuable service to the department. The benefit for the protégé is having a readily available source of knowledge and experience in the face of a new and unfamiliar role with demanding responsibilities. Informal mentoring has long been a part of policing, as veteran officers have taken it upon themselves to offer help and encouragement to new officers; however, a formal mentoring program structured and managed by the department ensures that every new employee will have the opportunity for and benefit of mentoring. This article presents a step-by-step plan for a mentoring program. It has six features. First, mentoring skills should be taught to all sworn and civilian employees. Second, the chief should demonstrate and support total agency mentoring. Third, the agency should establish a formal new-hire mentoring process. Fourth, a career development mentoring system should be created. Fifth, succession planning should be done; and sixth, the chief should groom and prepare his/her successor. Tasks are listed for each of these features of instituting a formal mentoring program. A model for the chief as mentor is described as designed and implemented in the Knoxville Police Department (Iowa). Frequently asked questions about mentoring are answered in the concluding section of the article.