Planning for the Future: A Primer for Police Leaders on Futures Thinking

Publication Date

October 2019


Joseph Schafer
Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Saint Louis University

Thomas Cowper
New York State Police (Ret.)

Carl Jensen, Ph.D.
Professor and Head of the Department of Intelligence & Security Studies
The Citadel

John Jackson
Houston Police Department

Bernard Levin
Levin Group, LLC

Richard W. Myers
Chief (Ret.)
Newport News (VA) Police Department


This essay introduces futures thinking and discusses how it can be a valuable tool for contemporary police leaders. It starts with an overview of the emergence of futures thinking and a description of how one long-term police chief was able to effectively use this tool during his career. The essay next explains what futures thinking entails and how it can be integrated into strategic planning and decision making. A key tenet of futures perspectives for policing is to identify possible futures, examine the most probable futures, and then provide leadership that moves toward the most preferred future that will provide and maintain optimal police services in a community. Finally, several prominent trends of relevance to policing are considered. The document intends to orient the reader to what futures thinking entails and how it can be integrated into the work habits and routines of a police leader to increase her or his efficacy. While futures thinking might initially seem an abstract and complex process, in reality, it is an accessible and understandable way a police leader can improve their effect and influence.

Recommended Citation

Schafer, J., Cowper, T., Jensen, C., Jackson, J., Levin, B., & Myers, R. W. (2019). Planning for the future: A primer for police leaders on futures thinking. National Police Foundation.