Strategic Planning as a Management Philosophy: An Interview with Will Davis

While strategic planning might seem dull in comparison to what law enforcement officers do to protect their communities on a daily basis, it’s the work of these strategic planners that help law enforcement agencies operate efficiently and ultimately ensures the agency has what it needs to keep our communities safe.

But what exactly is included in Strategic Planning — and how can it help your agency’s management team?

Join this recorded webinar as Will Davis of the Scottsdale Police Department and board member of IALEP shares the techniques to make your strategic planning process participatory, successful and sustainable, thus ensuring it:

  • Contributes to the development of leadership
  • Contributes to the long-term success of the agency
  • Improves the quality of life and safety of the community
  • Promotes participation and accountability
  • Improves resource management
  • Allows personal and professional development
  • And provides the basis for department budget requests, capital improvements, and program initiatives


Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH):  Will, you’re a new presenter for Justice Clearinghouse. Tell us a bit about your career and, in particular, your background with Strategic Planning.

Will Davis: I have been with the Scottsdale Police Department since 1991. When I first started with Scottsdale I was involved in technology procurement and implementation and created the department’s first Strategic Technology Plan, aimed at the flood of technology projects the department was facing in the next five years, including planning for Y2K!  By 2003, my duties had expanded into Planning, Research and Accreditation and our new Police Chief wanted one strategic plan for the entire department. He gave us some direction on his requirements that led us to a process that has been very successful for us over the years.

In 2006, I co-authored an article on our Strategic Planning process for Police Chief Magazine that brought our agency recognition and led to our process being emulated in agencies across the United States and Canada.  In 2007, our process was recognized as the International Association of Law Enforcement Planners (IALEP) Project of the Year, which gave us more recognition and validation.

In 2014, I conducted a Strategic Planning workshop for the members of IALEP at their conference in Albuquerque, to develop the organization’s strategic plan, and to provide insight for others who might want to take our process into their agencies.  That led to providing guidance and insight to multiple organizations as they pursued strategic planning and facilitating the process for several other agencies.



While the actual strategic plan is important,

the more important elements are its development

and the follow-up afterwards to ensure it thrives and leads to success.



JCH: Why is Strategic Planning so important to the health and development of a Law Enforcement or Criminal Justice Agency?  

Will: The process of strategic planning, when institutionalized, will allow an agency to proactively address current issues, potential problems, or even future concerns that may not have materialized yet.  It also allows for professional and leadership development of employees by instituting a culture of accountability and recognition.  Your strategic planning process also helps in your budget development.  If you have had the foresight to look a few years down the road you can give advance notice of future needs and help build support for projects and initiatives you will be facing in future years.



JCH: What are the biggest misconceptions that Law Enforcement Agencies or other Justice professions might have about Strategic Planning? 

Will: Strategic Planning is too often perceived as an end product: the Strategic Plan.  While the actual strategic plan is important, the more important elements are its development and the follow-up afterwards to ensure it thrives and leads to success.  First, you must have the right process for developing the plan with the right people in the room to ensure they have buy-in to what goes in it and how it was developed. After the plan is developed you need to have an accountability mechanism to ensure the plan, and the process, are routinely reviewed, to hold individuals responsible for progress, and to promote the success achieved.  The process is more important than the plan.  Focus on the process to ensure it continues so you don’t end up with a one-and-done document on a shelf that gets no attention.



Your strategic planning process needs to be flexible and adaptive.

…We are always making tweaks and changes at the start of the year

based on lessons learned from previous years.


JCH: You’ve learned a lot Strategic Planning over the years. What do you wish you would have known or realized about Strategic Planning years ago that you finally understand now?

Will: There are a couple of things that come to mind.  First, your strategic planning process needs to be flexible and adaptive.  I have not seen one process that is the same as the year before.  We are always making tweaks and changes at the start of the year based on lessons learned from previous years.  Another is that strategic planning does not have to be text-book.  Not every initiative needs to meet the strict definition of a “strategy”.  Our Chief mandated one guiding document for our agency and to make that successful we include strategies, initiatives, and projects that may not seem strategic in nature, but they are efforts that our Chief wants tracked and to be updated on progress.  We use strategic planning as a management philosophy to guide the organization toward our vision of the future.

Click here to register for “Strategic Planning as a Management Philosophy.”



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