The Police Structure

From definition, the police force is regarded as a service made up of individuals mandated to maintain law and order and implementenforce the laws of the land by use of reasonablejustifiable amount of force. The police get exposed to very challenging and usually demanding working environment. To effectively cope with such demands, they undergo thorough training in various police academies to prepare them for the challenges in their policing culture. Their training shares some similarity to that of the military (Bayley, 1994).

In the United States, the police force and other law enforcement agencies are paramilitary in nature. This defining characteristic of the police organization is derived from their operation style, hierarchy and command structure which are similar to those of the military. According to Summerfield (2006), the adoption of the paramilitary structure is based on the fact that the police work hand in hand with the military and most policing agencies all over the world evolved from the military. In general, the various roles of the American police and law enforcement agencies include combating and deterring crime, offering emergency response services e.g. first aid and fire fighting, defending the constitutional rights of the citizens, traffic control, conflict resolution, etc.

Summerfield (2006) perceives the present US police and law enforcement agencies structure as tall, quasi-military, and with hierarchical bureaucracies whose operations follow a clearly defined protocol. Most of the powers, for instance, decision making, have been conferred upon high ranking officers within the service. The police service may also be regarded as bureaucratic since they work on optimized procedures aimed at achieving efficiency with little or no human interference in idea generation.

Over the years, several police departments all over the world have received high level criticism from several quarters concerning excessive use of force in combating crime, biasness in decision making, racism, excessive bureaucracy and resistance to change (Kathy, 1998). It is from this perception that many non-governmental organizations and human rights watchdogs all over the world have been advocating for police reorganization and positive reforms (Kathy, 1998). Though the reforms may not be fully achieved to satisfy all the interested parties, they are necessary in order to improve the corporate image of the police.

The primary objective of this essay is to look into the current paramilitary structure of the police organization, suggest some reorganization measures, analyze the issues involved in the restructuring, and conduct a brief needs analysis. In addition, the essay also touches on change management, aspects of resistance to change and suggests some methods of selling change to the police department. For the sake of clarity in the discussion and analysis, an unnamed police department assumed to be in the United States has been arbitrarily selected in the essay.

This department is currently made up of 69 members, of which 62 are sworn police officers. The department is headed by the chief of police and further subdivided into two divisions (i.e. the operations  the administration sections) headed by captains. Presently, the numbers of calls dealt with by the department on annual basis are in the range of 32,000 to 33,000. These rough estimations include between 21,000 to 24,000 incidents and approximately 10,000 officer activities. Based on this statistics, the average number of calls to duty and time spent per call has since escalated.

The emergency response is also hampered by the paramilitary police structure which has led to specific role definition and high bureaucracy within the service. When there is an emergency, say fires, accidents, armed robberies, etc, protocol demands that the teams or units specialized in such fields should be the ones to respond to such calls to duty. This kills the spirit of team and community policing and greatly affects productivity and efficiency. Police reorganization and restructuring therefore have to look into such police aspects in order to improve service delivery.

Issues Involved in the Transformation
There are many issues that can be put into consideration when contemplating or developing strategies for police reorganization. Some of the issues may revolve around the improving the police image, improving on the information-handling ability by the police and also working on increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the police service. In this case, the major factor to be considered when initiating reorganization process is the transformation of the police image, i.e. from a police force unit to a service unit.

In order to effectively achieve reorganization at police departmental level, some of the aspects to be considered include decentralization devolution of power e.g. decision making, adequate use of information communication technology in daily operations, scientific police employment, and consolidation merging of line functions (Sanders, 1998).  

The other issues involved in the reorganization of the department included thorough understanding of policing strategies and operations, conceptualizing the police-police relationships i.e. in terms of senior-junior rapport, bureaucracy, decision making, and modes of communication, etc. Establishing the impact of police training in regard to recruitment criteria, qualifications, duration, and courses covered, physical activities and exercise involved, the military approach to training are also other key issued involved when recommending the nature of departmental reorganization. The police training in the several police academies all over the United States is believed to have great influence on the police culture and individual personality, often overshadowed by conforming to the chain of command and inhibiting team policing.  

Other important issues considered when implementing police reorganization revolve around studying and understanding the society served by the department in regard to its policing needs and growth patterns, evaluation of the current police-community relationships and individual perceptions, determining facility and space needs, staffing projections, anticipated and current service loads among other aspects. 

Needs Assessment
This is defined as a logical exploration of the current way of doing business in regard to how the organization ought to carry out its daily operations (Rouda  Kusy, 1995). Needs assessment in this case will be based on around the organizational performance of the police department. There are four steps followed when carrying out an assessment of this nature. The first step is referred to as the gap analysis whereby the institutions actual performance is checked against the required standards.

The gap or difference between the actual performance and the desired performance is then analyzed in details. The second step involves the identification of priorities and categorizing them in terms of their importance and urgency. The root causes of underperformance and unexplored opportunities are then identified before actual solutions to the existing problems are undertaken or implemented (Rouda  Kusy, 1995).

The need for improving the services offered by the police department to the community is long overdue. Most of the existing facilities within the department and the paramilitary training background of the officers hinder cost-effective service delivery, efficiency of the staff, and also block any room for improvement. It is therefore necessary to conduct a major reorganization of the department in order to ensure that it adapts and grows to satisfy fully the dynamic needs of the society it serves.

Presently, this department serves an approximate population of 30,000. The crime rate within this population is on the increase due to the diverse background and metropolitan nature of the populace. Since the town being served has unique defining characteristics, such distinctiveness influences the departments police service needs. The unique factors are brought about by the fact that the town is home for many tourist attraction sites, it has many colleges and tertiary institutions and is also a border town. The department has therefore been mandated the responsibility of protecting and supporting the unique culture of life within the town. This is however hampered by the unfriendliness and bureaucracy of the paramilitary police.

Resistance to Change
There are many challenges faced by any attempts to reorganize the police force from its traditional semi-military nature to a modern service delivery team. The resistance to change is brought about by the existing paramilitary characteristics such as regular use of orders and commands, strong adherence and implementation of discipline, regulations and rules, blockading of individual innovativeness and creativity, and also the resistance of threats and challenges to the existing system.
Within various police departments in the United States, there exists a high wall that divides the civilian and police employees. This kills the spirit of team policing and sworncivilian collaboration which is expected to be based on mutual understanding and respect. These relations have to be repaired and cemented by the departments administration e.g. through devising several strategies in favor of such interactions. Another possible way of managing change within the police department could be through fostering a strong policing culture that effectively combines various positive elements of the profession, in favor of team policing.

According to Summerfield (2006), the high degree of bureaucracy within the police service has also made it difficult to introduce any positive changes in its structural organization. Common bureaucracy characteristics in the police organizations include defined hierarchyprotocol of authority, division of roles based on functional specialization, a defined code of ethics to be adhered to by staff and a set of guiding principles when dealing with various work related assignments (Summerfield, 2006). Other manifestations of bureaucracy are portrayed by the impersonal interactions between people and in the selection, recruitment and promotion based on competence.

Several surveys point out four major reasons that make people to resist organizational changes (Schlesinger  Kotter, 1979). The reasons include parochial self-interest whereby the opponents are against the changes in order to safe guard their own interests at the expense of institutional success. Misunderstandings resulting from communication breakdowns and inadequate information also make some officers to resist any organizational change within the department.

Schlesinger and Kotter (1979), also argue that resistance to change may be brought about by different assessments andor evaluations of the prevailing situation. Most police officers may fail to reach a consensus on the reasons behind the change and the accompanying advantages and disadvantages to be encountered during the transformation process. Finally, some officers within the department may be naturally against any change or reorganization especially when their job stability and security is threatened by the reorganization (Schlesinger  Kotter, 1979).

Overcoming the Resistance to Change
The methods of overcoming resistance to change within the police and law enforcement agencies are similar to those applied to any other organization or society since they both involve people drawn from several backgrounds. A common strategy, as proposed by Schlesinger and Kotter (1979), to be used in achieving this is communication and education, especially in scenarios characterized by inaccurate or inadequate unanalyzed information. Education, clarifications and proper analysis of the benefits of the change to the department is a major way of fighting resistance to change.
Another strategy that may be used for overcoming this resistance is through involvement and participation. In cases where the officers are involved at any level of the reorganization process, they tend to embrace this change as compared to situations where the change is imposed directly to the officers by the administration.

Support and facilitation may also be used effectively to assist the otherwise resistive officers in the adjustment and adaptation to the new way of conducting business. This support, usually from the departments administration may help the officers in dealing with any fears arising from the transition period. This form of support may be facilitated by the police departments administration through offering counseling services specialized training to fit in the new system and providing incentives aimed at retaining the officers and boost their morale during the transition (Schlesinger  Kotter, 1979).

Another common strategy used in dealing with resistance to change is through use of dialogue, negotiations and agreements where deemed necessary. Agreements may be made on matters concerning early retirements, promotions and increased salaries between the departments administration and the usually powerful individuals against the transition. Such agreements and negotiations are usually aimed at making such resistive officers to accept and adapt to the requirements brought about by the change.

In circumstances where other methods of bringing change to the institution are regarded as costly or may face serious opposition, the optimal manipulation method would be co-opt with the opponents. This technique according to Schlesinger and Kotter (1979) involves the condescending gesticulation in bringing an individual into the change management picture for technical appearances into the reorganization process. Those regarded as leaders against change may be selected to participate in the transition process so that their ideas may be optimized and incorporated into the change.

As a last resort in overcoming resistance to change, implicit and explicit coercion is normally put into use. The police departments chief of police may in this case implicitly or explicitly force the junior officers into accepting the transition and its associated change. This forced change may be achieved by use of threats concerning job securities, transfers and demotions of officers perceived as elements against the change efforts.

Managing and Selling Change to Officers
Despite the many challenges and obstacles encountered, the change from paramilitary approach to team policing can be managed through adoption of optimal strategies. Some of the change management strategies may include devolution of power and resources to various subdivisions within the police department e.g. by allowing individual junior officers to make critical decision when dealing with an emergency.

Another possible strategy could be achieved by making appropriate recommendations to the departmental police training academy to make some changes in their various aspects. Some of the changes may be adopted in the selection and recruitment criteria, so as to attract personnel with high levels of integrity, qualifications and competence in various fields. The paramilitary approach in training may also be minimized in order to make policing an attractive profession that embraces team policing.

In order to embrace team policing, several incentives and approaches may be followed. By way of example, staff appraisals and promotions to team leader positions, etc should be pegged on the group performance of the unit as a team, and not on individual basis. These and other similar strategies have got the overall effect of promoting team policing and in turn improving productivity and efficiency.
Reorganization may also be done with an aim of improving the already tainted police image in the eyes of the general public. By way of example, the police officers within the department may also be made to attend several workshops, symposiums, open forums and training sessions where they may be taught alternative methods of conflict resolution. These alternative methods that use minimum force in implementation could be through the use of dialogue, rehabilitation programs, and probation and community service. This also enhances the spirit of community and team policing which is contrary to the traditional paramilitary approach which involves the use of force in implementing any laws.

At any given instant, change should not be sold to employees or affected officers as a way of speeding up agreements andor implementation. Change has to be clearly understood and effectively managed in a way that can be easily adapted to by the officers in question. Therefore, in order to effectively manage change, feedback should be encouraged and all sensitive features touching the organization should be conducted preferably using a face-to-face approach and not on the periphery.
Electronic modes of communication such as emails and to some extent written notices should be avoided when conveying an aspect related to organizational change. Such forms of communication are rated weak and may be misinterpreted by the parties concerned. Such important information has to be directly channeled by the administration in order to attract immediate response, views and suggestions directly from those who may be affected by the reorganization process. Honesty and openness should be used at all levels of change management in order to minimize building up of passive resistance from the staff or junior officers who may be against certain elements of the transition.

Policing is a challenging profession which in most cases is regarded as a calling, not a profession. The challenges encountered range from several hours of boredom which are regularly interrupted by life threatening rescue operations and crime fighting activities.
Over the years however, the police image has been tainted and reorganization is the only possible way of repairing its image to the public domain. The police culture and mode of operation has been attributed to their nature of training and the military structure of management which in most cases minimizes any activities that may promote team policing andor creative and innovative idea generation. Departmental reorganization is the only possible way of inverting the already fixed mindset about policing and their usually impersonal and unfriendly approach in service delivery.


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