Policing

Policing Leadership Academy

May 24, 2024: Policing Leadership Academy graduates and staff at the graduation ceremony for its second cohort. Photo by Beking Media.

The Policing Leadership Academy (PLA) is designed to increase safety and fairness in America’s most violent neighborhoods.

Challenge

Americans are deeply worried about American cities: a 2022 Gallup poll showed that 80% worry a great deal/fair amount about crime and violence. That is understandable – the murder rate in the United States today is about the same as it was in 1900. The US spends $100 billion a year on policing, but we are not getting our money’s worth. Public trust in the police is in decline, as is the morale of front-line officers across the country. America’s rate of gun violence is unheard of anywhere else in the industrialized world, a problem that harms disadvantaged communities of color the most. Uncontrolled gun violence is driving people and businesses out of our cities, the economic engines of the US.

Opportunity

We can fix this. American cities have been here before. Until the early 1990s, murder trends per capita for Los Angeles and New York City seemed hopeless. But those cities experienced staggeringly huge drops in murders over the next 30 years. Innovative management and leadership changes in our nation’s two largest police departments were the answer. In the private sector, we see that companies vary enormously in how well-run they are. We also see that better-run companies are far more productive than worse-run ones. The same pattern holds for public sector agencies, too – including police.

Chief Thelma Jones from Buffalo, New York receives her certificate.

In May, the Crime Lab hosted the graduation of our second cohort of the Policing Leadership Academy.

Project overview

The Policing Leadership Academy is a violence reduction initiative that aims to prevent violent crime, support officers, and improve fairness and effectiveness in policing. We do this by developing better police management practices nationwide and in select cities globally, with a focus on many of America’s highest-violence geographies.

The academy, which is being rigorously evaluated to measure its effectiveness, addresses a persistent training gap by providing a five-month, robust management and leadership education to police at the commander level and at no cost to the department.

We provide this training with philanthropic support from foundations and national business leaders – those who inherently understand how critical good management and leadership practices are to success.

The rigorous five-month curriculum provides hands-on training in data-driven management, violence reduction, and community trust. The program is being run as a randomized controlled trial and supported by extensive qualitative research to measure if the training intervention improves police departments and the communities they serve.

The PLA builds on prior research from the Crime Lab, showing that changes in police department management can drive reductions in both violent crime rates and police use of force.

Police departments and their host cities have quickly realized that this is a remarkable opportunity for impact at scale since training just a handful of police leaders can help them get far more ‘social good ROI’ from their existing police budgets.

View a gallery of photos from the Policing Leadership Academy.

Years Active

2022 – present

Project Leads

Roseanna Ander

Roseanna Ander

Founding Executive Director

Kenneth E. Corey

Kenneth E. Corey

Senior Fellow, Crime Lab and Director of Outreach and Engagement, Policing Leadership Academy

Dylan Fitzpatrick

Dylan Fitzpatrick

Research Director

Max Kapustin

Max Kapustin

Assistant Professor

Erin Kuller

Erin Kuller

Program Director, Policing Leadership Academy

Sandy Jo MacArthur

Sandy Jo MacArthur

Former Assistant Chief, Los Angeles Police Department

Luann Pannell

Luann Pannell

Director of Instructional Design and Academic Innovation, Policing Leadership Academy

Meredith Stricker

Meredith Stricker

Executive Director of the Policing Leadership Academy

Policing Leadership Academy Advisory and Research Committees

The Policing Leadership Academy Advisory Committee includes former generals, police chiefs, government officials, attorneys, and physicians. This committee serves as an advisory body to the Crime Lab and Policing Leadership Academy staff, provide mentorship to participants, and serve as ambassadors for the Academy to police agencies, policymakers, and opinion leaders.

The Policing Leadership Academy Research Advisory Committee is made up of academics with subject matter expertise. The committee serves as an advisory body for the quantitative and qualitative research components of the Policing Leadership Academy.

For the Harris School, this is what we dream of: upholding the highest rigors of science, in service of real public policy issues, to have an opportunity to be of service to people working in the public interest, doing the most important work for public safety in our society. It is an honor and a privilege and the thing we exist for.

Dr. Ethan Bueno de Mesquita

Dean, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago

Headshot of ‘Crime Lab’ staff person

The PLA is the only police management and leadership education program in the country specifically designed for those at the level of commander. Our goal is to reduce violence in America by engaging district commanders from some of our most violent communities – places where violence often feels intractable. We are working to equip police leaders with the skills, tools, and support needed to make their communities, and the country as a whole, safer.

Meredith Stricker

Executive Director, Policing Leadership Academy

Headshot of ‘Crime Lab’ staff person

The University of Chicago Crime Lab is proud to be at the forefront of innovation in policing and community safety. We believe that education and leadership development are crucial elements in addressing the complex challenges our cities face. The graduates of the Policing Leadership Academy are leaving well-equipped to lead their departments towards more effective, accountable, and community-centered policing.

Roseanna Ander

Founding Executive Director

A headshot of Superintendent Larry Snelling.

The Policing Leadership Academy’s commitment to equipping police leaders with the skills and knowledge needed to navigate the intricate landscape of modern policing is commendable. It is vital that we empower law enforcement professionals with the tools and insights necessary to build safer communities.

Larry Snelling

Superintendent, Chicago Police Department

One of my biggest takeaways from the PLA is the practical application. The PLA helps me bring learning and tools back to my district and my city and put them into practice.

PLA Participant

About Cohort 1:

The first cohort of the PLA, which began in May 2023 and graduated in October 2023, includes 25 police leaders from 24 cities across the United States and one from Manchester, United Kingdom. They are responsible for overseeing policing in some of America’s highest-violence police districts, serving cities responsible for over 20% of homicides in America. They cover over 777 square miles and serve over 3 million residents.

About Cohort 2:

The second cohort, which began in January 2024 and graduated in May 2024, consisted of 35 police leaders from 35 police departments across the country and the world. These leaders are tasked with managing America’s highest violence police districts every day. Collectively, the first and second cohorts of leaders serve 41 jurisdictions comprising over 28% of homicides in America. Police leaders from Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom also joined the program.

Hear from a select group of PLA graduates on their experience with the academy.

Latest Updates

University of Chicago Policing Leadership Academy Hosts Second Cohort of Rising Police Leaders from 35 Departments Across the Globe
Press Release
UChicago Crime Lab
Jan 2024

University of Chicago Policing Leadership Academy Hosts Second Cohort of Rising Police Leaders from 35 Departments Across the Globe

The University of Chicago Policing Leadership Academy welcomes its second cohort, featuring 35 global police leaders in this press release.

The Evidence Says Police Management Can Reduce Violent Crime
Op-Ed
Crain's New York Business
Oct 2023

The Evidence Says Police Management Can Reduce Violent Crime

Former NYPD Chief Kenneth Corey, Professor Max Kapustin, and University of Chicago Crime Lab Director Jens Ludwig argue that improving police department management mechanisms can drive reductions in both violent crime and cops’ use of force against civilians.

Do the Police Have a Management Problem?
Podcast
Freakonomics Radio
Dec 2023

Do the Police Have a Management Problem?

Crime Lab Pritzker Director Dr. Jens Ludwig was featured on the latest Freakonomics Radio episode with Policing Leadership Academy participants and leaders. In this episode, Jens and Freakonomics Radio host Stephen J. Dubner discussed our Policing Leadership Academy and the importance of professionalizing police leadership to effectively reduce gun violence.

Related Resources
Community Safety Leadership Academies: Brief
Project Overview

Community Safety Leadership Academies: Brief

Aug 2023

Learn more about our Community Safety Leadership Academies.

Community Safety Leadership Academies: Project Overview
Project Overview

Community Safety Leadership Academies: Project Overview

Aug 2023

Learn more about our Community Safety Leadership Academies.