International Journal of

Arts , Humanities & Social Science

ISSN 2693-2547 (Print) , ISSN 2693-2555 (Online)
Servant Leadership: Propositions for Improving Police/ Community Relationships


There little disagreement that the relationships between many police agencies and the communities they serve in the United States are strained in early part of the 21st century (Stogner et al., 2020), and police officers are struggling with their role in the community (Fernandez, 2020; Stogner et al., 2020). Political discussion on policing issues in the US is caustic, and the national level narrative during the past several years has largely condemned police officers (Maciag, 2018). The jury’s conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd in 2020 has not reduced the tensions in police/community relationship (American News, 2021; Armstrong, 2021; Fox News, 2021). Complicating matters, police officers are receiving conflicting messages on how they should relate to the community: “The message from many of their chiefs and mayors is to tolerate, connect, and empathize. The message on the streets. . . is that they are part of the problem. The message from the news media is watches what you say and do” (Fernandez, 2020). How can police leaders navigate these challenges to repair the relationships between the department and their community?

This paper suggests that the idea of service that permeates the leader-follower relationship in a servant leadership paradigm (Greenleaf, 1977;) and motivates police officers (Lester, 1983, p. 173; Whitson, 2020, p. 241) could be a bridge to begin rebuilding the police/community relationship. After reviewing the literature on police leadership and servant leadership, this paper offers seven propositions—based on the seven dimensions of Liden et al.’s (2008) servant leadership framework—for how leadership behaviors could improve relationships between police and the communities they serve.