Contemporary Challenges in Policing

Essay by cwritzUniversity, Master'sA+, April 2006

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Patrol officers still represent the front line of police service. They are the backbone of the Police Department. Quality law enforcement begins with dedicated men and women who are mentally and physically prepared, properly trained and, most importantly, supported by management. Since the founding of this country and up to the present, the agenda of the policing bodies have been clear: to uphold and enforce the laws of our society. Of course the way they do this today had undergone changes from the first police forces of early America; there is now a management vs. street officer phenomena.

History has shown, time and time again, the disastrous consequences of bad police management. This isn't just an issue of who gets promoted or the unique stressors at each rank. It's more of a problem with the shape of the "organizational pyramid"; a hierarchy with the chief at the top and rigid chains of command flowing to the bottom.

The pyramid needs to be inverted, with the community at top, followed by line officers, then managers. Police organizations are "tall, closed, hierarchical, paramilitary bureaucracies," and this combination represents the worst of management science (Reuss-Ianni, 1983).

Police managers serve as a citizen's gateway to the criminal justice system. This is reflected in the experience of being told "that's not a police problem," it is a management decision, with line officers simply relaying what their supervisors will or will not accept. In actual fact, it's probably the line officer and the citizenry who should be deciding what a police problem is. Unfortunately, bureaucracy gets in the way by: (1) limiting ingenuity because no lower level employee gets to use their particular skills, ideas, or talents; (2) limiting contact with the community, a professional distance develops between people and the police; and (3) limiting...