Cover: Command College

Command College

Foresight as a Foundation to Police Executive Development

Published in: On the Horizon, Volume 27, Issue 1, pages 24–34 (2019). doi: 10.1108/OTH-07-2018-0022

Posted on Dec 4, 2020

by Bob Harrison


The education of police executives has been a priority of criminal justice agencies for more than 40 years to address the need to professionalize law enforcement in America. Since the 1980s, programs for this purpose have existed, one of which is the California POST Command College. Command College is an academically oriented executive development program intended to "invest in the future" as its students—mid-career police managers—acquire the tools and skills necessary to be promoted to executive positions. This paper aims to answer the question, "Does the Command College achieve its intended goals?"


A survey instrument was used to obtain perspectives of recent graduates and of those who had graduated from the program more than four years before the survey. An assessment of the frequency of promotions to command and executive roles was completed, and an external academic assessment of the program's curriculum was completed by a university.


Support for the program by graduates increased over time, graduates were promoted at a rate of three times higher than baseline averages for police managers and the program's curriculum was vetted as being equivalent to graduate-level courses at the university level.

Research limitations/implications

As its value is validated through this assessment, others can learn how they might better prepare their police executives for the future. No similar law enforcement program has been similarly assessed, so others may also learn ways to ensure they are achieving their intended outcomes from this example. Given the differences in other law enforcement leadership programs in terms of student selection and specific goals, direct comparisons would be limited, both by the program differences and the research design used by others as they work to validate their success in meeting their goals.


Although law enforcement executive education has existed since 1935, and leadership training programs for the police since 1982, no research has been conducted to validate the outcomes and impact of such programs on the graduates of such programs and their agencies.

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.