Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Sarah J. Noonan

Second Advisor

Jayne K. Sommers

Third Advisor

Derrick Crim


This qualitative case study investigated the career experience and internal motivation of African-American senior police leaders to serve in law enforcement. Fourteen African-American police leaders, including three women, participated in this study. The study addressed three primary themes: (1) early career experiences, (2) rise to leadership, and (3) motivation to pursue leadership roles. Senior police leaders described a commitment to serve others and societal change as their motivation to persevere despite institutional racism and overcome perceived barriers. In some instances, overcoming the barriers meant leaving one department so they could find advancement opportunities in another police department. The primary modes of analysis applied through the study involved the use of critical race theory (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017), describing race and racism in police service; and, servant leadership (Greenleaf, 1977), describing how serving others and the pursuit of the common good sustained and motivated participants to become police leaders. An overarching implication for practice concerns the need for police departments to assess their internal cultural competency and reputation for being a welcoming environment for African-American officers. Racism plays a role in an African-American officer’s decision to stay or leave a department. Recommendations include: (1) examining internal polices to determine if they unduly impact Officers of Color, (2) making a commitment to diversity and equity, (3) providing equal access to training to upgrade the knowledge and skills, needed by officers, and (4) increasing the focus on the service aspect of the mission to “protect and serve.”

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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