Police Culture Transformation Blazes the Trail to Modern Culture

"In 2018, York Regional Police proactively commenced a journey that involved taking a much-needed look at culture. Our partnership with Being First unlocked the tools, language and especially the strategic direction that propelled our transformation into a model that other police services are now adapting for their own success. Our members continue to move the organization forward by perpetuating the tremendous work done under our transformational umbrella.”
Jim MacSween
Chief of York Regional Police


Traditional paramilitary organizations, including many law enforcement agencies, have inherited cultural norms that are not in synch with modern expectations of diversity, inclusion and respect in the workplace. This not only influences how members of these agencies interact with one another, it impacts their wellness and the relationship between police and the community. Systems and processes within these organizations may be influenced by residual unconscious bias, inadvertently disadvantaging certain members. Wellness resources and tools may be underutilized due to residual stigma associated with occupational stress injuries and PTSD, leaving members vulnerable to significant life-long struggle or even fatal outcomes.

As a leader in the promotion of member wellness, diversity and inclusion, YRP recognized the need to take proactive action to continuously evolve and keep pace with the needs of its members and society. In 2018 they commenced internal research to identify areas for improvement and any unintended factors that could contribute to wellness challenges or disadvantages for certain groups, including women, racialized members and members living with disabilities. The inquiry generated multiple recommendations. As a 24/7 emergency response government organization on a limited budget, spread across multiple sites from rural to urban, YRP needed to solidify and accelerate this comprehensive culture transformation and know that it would stick. For assistance, they reached out to Being First.


We tailored our Culture Change Strategy to YRP’s size, budget and application. We started by partnering with the Executive Command Team to name two Change Process Leaders, a sworn superintendent and the senior legal counsel, a civilian. Together, we developed a comprehensive change strategy to guide YRP’s two-year culture transformation, which they named “Breakthrough.” We began by putting the top 80 leaders and several police organization and union leaders through Leadership Breakthrough: Walk the Talk of Change, our flagship development program to build transformational leadership effectiveness through self-mastery, modeling, communication, and relationship skills. Simultaneously, YRP’s Change Process Leaders and two other project leaders attended Being First’s Advanced Change Leadership Program—4Sight (Now part of the Leading Transformational Change program)—to strengthen their capabilities, mindsets, relationships and strategies to work within the YRP’s paramilitary constraints
and make progress on the overall strategy. We coached them throughout to model their desired culture and adapt and revise their change strategy and plan as needed. Other key components of YRP’s successful transformation included:

  • 70 project team members attended our Leading Transformation course to develop core change leadership skills, including how to use our Change Leader’s Roadmap methodology to design and implement their projects and address the human dynamics of change.
  • We coached the Change Process Leaders to shape their high-level strategy and support their project teams.
  • We established a Change Leadership Team to guide each of the six change projects prioritized to achieve the Breakthrough objectives.
  • We guided YRP to create a Culture Champion Network of over 100 members to sustain ongoing communication and engagement with stakeholders throughout the organization.
  • We supported an organization-wide culture assessment to provide YRP with a snapshot of its current culture as well as insight into what an ideal culture looked like to its members.

See the related roundtable discussion with the Change Process Leaders from YRP: How to Use a Culture Champion Network to Maximize Stakeholder Engagement in Transformation


Confidently lead strategic transformational change.

Stakeholder engagement is one of the ten best practice strategies for leading transformational change successfully.
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