J. Harvey, Ed.D.
The modern world has become a place of constant
change and transformation. In this environment, success depends on how well
organizations recognize and adapt to change. Management theorist Tom Peters put
it very well when he said that the most successful organizations in the future
will be the ones that "thrive on chaos."(1) Those that cannot identify and act
on emerging issues are doomed to, at least, inefficiency and ineffectiveness
and, at most, disaster and possibly even destruction.
What does this trend mean to
law enforcement? With its traditional,
paramilitary structure, law enforcement has proven slow to adapt to change.
While traditional methods have brought success in the past, relying on these
techniques in the future may be dangerous.
To achieve success in the next century, law
enforcement agencies must recognize and welcome emerging trends. Part of this
means changing the way they operate, from their organizational structures to
their management of human resources.
This article discusses the strategies that law
enforcement agencies need to implement in order to build an organizational
foundation for the future.
In order to deal with the rapidly changing
environment in the 21st century, law enforcement's paramilitary hierarchy, with
rigid controls and strict chains of command, must give way to a structure that
emphasizes network-type communication and flexibility. The traditional
organizational pyramid, with the chief at the top and line officers at the
bottom, must become inverted. Instead, the community must sit at the top of the
pyramid, followed by line police officers, then supervisors, and finally
Late 20th-century belt tightening has put the
squeeze on middle management, and in the 21st century, those middle managers who
remain may disappear from the picture entirely. Better-educated employees who
require less supervision and technological advancements that make information
management easier will allow supervisors to increase their spans of control and
supervise more employees at one time.
Organizational efficiency will become critical, as
the privatization of law enforcement services increases. Currently,
private security firms employ 2½ times more
people than law enforcement agencies; this number will increase substantially by
the year 2000.(2) As a result, the
police will find themselves increasingly in
competition with private firms for law enforcement services. Without proper
preparation, agencies will have difficulty dealing with this newly found
police departments will acquire new specialized
functions in response to both emerging issues and those that continue to require
law enforcement attention. These new roles will affect the organizational
structure of the department.
For example, the plight of the homeless likely will
continue to be a pressing issue in the coming decade.(3) Departments will need
to create units that deal specifically with the homeless. Additionally, as the
population ages, police departments increasingly will be called
upon to respond to the unique needs of the elderly. As a result, departments
will require specialists in gerontology. Departments in the future also are
likely to change their organizational structures to incorporate more formal
partnerships with schools, community groups, and the media.
The most effective leaders in these new organizational structures
will be situational leaders. They will be flexible in
their approaches, adapting their leadership styles to the situation at hand and
the individuals involved. They will rise to the challenge presented by
well-educated employees who do not submit to authority as workers have in the
These leaders will be consensus builders and agents
of change. They will empower their employees and accept the attendant risks.
They will be the bearers of ethical standards and will devote themselves to
training and developing their staffs. Finally, these leaders will look to the
future, anticipating trends while they perform day-to-day tasks.
Business experts advise companies to work smarter,
not harder. In the coming years, many organizations will see this concept come
to fruition, as technological advances allow them to achieve the same or better
results with fewer employees devoted to the task.
Technological advances will help law
enforcement officers fight crime. Smart cars will allow officers to complete
such tasks as checking criminal databases, storing and retrieving
offender profiles, writing reports, and communicating with other officers, all
police cars. Smart houses will help prevent
break-ins by recognizing and admitting only authorized occupants. A single smart
card will replace the numerous cards people carry now for identification,
banking, and credit purposes. Biological advances, such as the "sober up" pill,
will decrease crimes fueled by alcohol, which, according to futurist Gene
Stephens, is linked in some way to 50 percent of all street crime.(4)
Perhaps the most significant changes for law
enforcement will result from the move toward a cashless society. In such an
environment, criminals could no longer rob citizens and
banks of their cash. Cash-only criminal enterprises would disappear. At the same
time, many lawbreakers will adapt and employ increasingly sophisticated
strategies to ply their trades.
While technological breakthroughs will decrease the
number of officers needed, other factors will cause exactly the opposite effect.
First, changes in demographics have altered the nature of the nation's
once-predominantly homogeneous communities. U.S. Census Bureau statistics
indicate that between 1980 and 1990, the United States experienced a 13.2
percent increase in the number of African American residents, a 53 percent
increase in Hispanics, and a 108 percent increase in Asians.(5)
Unfortunately, a rise in crime has accompanied this
diversification, as cultures and values have clashed.(6) In addition, a
predicted 14 percent increase in the 15 to 24-year-old population between 1995
and 2005 will raise crime rates, as the individuals in this age
group are most likely to commit or fall victim to crimes.(7)
In essence, the demographic trends that will increase crime may cancel out the
technological advances that will reduce it. As a result, in order to provide
adequate service to the community in the next century, law enforcement
probably will need to maintain current staffing levels.
Attracting and Selecting
In the 21st century, employee recruitment will
remain the cornerstone of organizational success, just as it is today. In order
to attract the best candidates, law enforcement agencies will need to continue
to offer competitive salaries and benefits; however, these financial rewards
will become less important. Employees will be less motivated by financial
incentives and will look more for an organization with concern for employees.
Future job candidates will seek out employers who offer such perks as flexible
working hours, housing assistance, alternate work schedules, employer sponsored
child care, and telecommuting options.
Police departments also will recruit a
different type of employee. In the past, agencies have sought aggressive, "hook
and book"-type officers. This one-dimensional approach to law enforcement will
not suit the community and service oriented agency of the future. Thus,
recruiters will seek candidates who understand the total concept of how they fit
into the organization and the community.
Although some of today's testing methods still may have some relevance,
personnel officers will need to study and employ testing procedures that
identify the type of individual best suited to deal with the broad array of
community issues that will exist. For example, departments might consider
including community members on their employee selection committees.
More than likely, tomorrow's officers will have
college degrees, not only in
criminal justice but also in the social
sciences. As a result, these officers will have a better understanding of how to
serve their communities.
In addition, police departments will need to
recruit employees who can help them understand and use the
police technology resources available in the
years ahead. Finally, police agencies will hire according to the needs of the
community, and their employees will reflect the diversity of the citizens they
Making a Good First
As they concentrate on selecting new employees,
agency recruiters often forget that the reverse is true: new employees select
the organizations where they work. The orientation process represents the first
step in helping employees see that they have made the right choice.
Chances are, even the most senior employees
remember their first days on the job. Truly, first impressions can last a
career. As a result, employees must be exposed to organizational values right
from the start, and agencies must treat orientation programs that instill these
values as a priority, not an afterthought.
Placing New Employees
By the year 2000, employee placement may be quite
different. In the future, law enforcement agencies will place greater emphasis
on determining the individual skill levels and potential their police officers possess. Employee placement
will become more of a science, with agencies matching officers to positions that
take advantage of their unique abilities.
In a knowledge-based society, lifelong learning is
a necessity,(8) and in the future, continuing education and training will become mandatory.
In order to cultivate employees who can adapt to the ever-changing environment
of the future, agencies will need to make a commitment to staff training and
Such training will take many forms. Although
specialized expertise will remain important, cross-training will receive added
emphasis.(9) Cross-training will help agencies deal with decreasing budgets and
the call to do more with less. Employees trained in this way will benefit not
only by becoming more versatile but also by broadening their overall perspective
of the organization.
Furthermore, in order to benefit from new technology, agencies will need to implement
training programs that teach employees how to use their new tools. In fact,
managers must involve employees in the process from the very beginning, perhaps
even before choosing the new procedure or equipment. As futurist John Naisbett
has pointed out, high-tech approaches must be tempered with
equal amounts of "high touch."(10) Employees control the destiny of new
technology; unless they feel comfortable with it, they will abandon it.
Traditionally, evaluations have measured officers'
performance in quantitative terms-the number of tickets written and arrests and
field contacts made. In today's era of community policing, police departments find that they have a
difficult time evaluating their officers. This will remain true in the future,
as agencies ask even more of their staff members. Officers will become problem
solvers and caretakers of the communities where they patrol. As such, their
performances will be difficult to measure.
Management theorist Tom Peters says that what gets
measured gets done.(11) If this theory is correct, then police departments will need to develop
effective measurement systems that quantify patrol officers' achievements in
tangible ways. Allowing community residents to evaluate officers with whom they
have had contact may represent a viable evaluation method.
In addition, the annual evaluations that most
employees now receive must give way to a process that generates continual
feedback. Although once a year may suffice for a formal performance appraisal
report, too often, employees hear nothing all year long, then get surprised by
their supervisors' assessments of the quality of their work. If something in an
employee's yearly evaluation comes as a surprise, then perhaps the boss needs a
Supervisors need to use the evaluation process to
create a road map for employees that not only will assist them in their current
roles but also will guide them into areas in which they express interest. This
means that supervisors will be responsible for providing career development
assistance to their employees on almost a daily basis.
Today's leaner budgets limit the monetary rewards
available for deserving employees. In fact, in some departments, even yearly
cost-of-living raises have become a distant memory. Furthermore, in the future,
one of the most sought-after rewards will be praise and recognition from the
boss for a job well done.
Although monetary incentives, educational bonuses,
and specialized assignment pay will remain viable rewards, they will not take
the place of sincere praise. As a result, department administrators will need to
develop innovative ways to reward employees.
Some departments already are experimenting with
unusual bonuses. The City of Helper, Utah, has a system in place that allows
officers to receive up to 25 percent of the money they seize in drug forfeiture
cases.(12) Although some may contend that this type of incentive is improper, it
represents "outside the lines" thinking, something police departments should
strive to achieve.
Employees have become less inclined to spend their
entire careers with one agency. They will expect and demand certain things, or
they will leave. In order to retain the best employees, agencies will need to go
beyond the traditional enticements of salary, benefits, and retirement plans.
This may mean allowing officers to serve part time and providing or
supplementing day-care services.
Matching employees to positions, providing them
with state-of-the-art tools and training, including them in the decision-making
process, helping them grow within the organization, measuring performance
regularly, and rewarding good work all help to keep employees satisfied and
productive. In addition, department managers will need to develop creative ways
to deal with employee burnout to help those who have lost their zest for their
In the 21st century, jobs will need to be
redesigned continually, as job descriptions become obsolete.(13) New events and
emerging issues will come so fast that the nature of individuals' jobs will
change on a regular basis.
As part of the job design/redesign mechanism, law
enforcement agencies must involve line-level employees, who will have firsthand
information on how their jobs are evolving. The key to success will be a system
where employees can give honest feedback without fear of reprisal. This should
not be difficult in an organization where job enhancement, enrichment, and
cross-training have become the cultural norms.
In recent years, ethical concerns have come to the
forefront in law enforcement. Now, ethical issues loom even larger as advances
in technology place tremendous amounts of information literally at the
fingertips of police officers, thus increasing the potential for abuse.
With every technological step forward, police
departments must enact commensurate mechanisms to ensure that employees properly
use their new tools. Still, the controls must not impede employees
unnecessarily. This will require a delicate balancing act.
The Nordstom Company has a one-page policy manual
that instructs employees, "Use your own best judgment at all times."(14) If only
law enforcement could adopt this as its own policy manual. With the United
States' possessing 5 percent of the world's population and 66 percent of its
lawyers,(15) law enforcement agencies no doubt will arm themselves against
litigation with more detailed and complex policies.
Yet, while law enforcement will be held accountable
as never before for both departmental actions and use of resources, agencies can
do more to prepare for the future than write voluminous policy manuals. Instead,
they can properly select, place, and train employees and ensure their success
through appropriate job design, good organizational structure, and an emphasis
on strong ethical values.
Finally, law enforcement leaders must recognize and act upon emerging
issues. By doing so, law enforcement agencies can control their own destinies,
rather than merely react to forces that have spun beyond their control.
(1) - Tom Peter, Thriving on Chaos (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1987; HarperPerennial, 1991), XIV.
(2) - Hallcrest Systems, Inc., in "Defining the Future," California State POST
Command College Training Manual, January, 1995.
(3) - The U.S. Census Bureau reported a total of 228,621 homeless people as part
of the 1990 census, but due to the inherent difficulties in counting the
homeless, this number most likely is very low. In Universal Almanac (New York:
Universal Press, 1992), 215.
(4) - Gene Stephens, "Drugs and Crime in the 21st Century," The Futurist,
May-June 1992, 19-20.
(5) - In Universal Almanac (New York: Universal Press, 1992), 199.
(6) - Gene Stephens, "The Global Crime Wave," The Futurist, July-August 1994,
(7) - Cheryl Russell, "True Crime," American Demographics, August 1995, 30.
(8) - Tom Peters, Liberation Management (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), 757.
(9) - James R. Metts, "Supercops, The Police Force of Tomorrow," The Futurist,
October, 1985, 31.
(10) - John Naisbett, Megatrends (New York: Warner Books, 1984), 35.
(11) - Supra note 1,605.
(12) - Newsbrief, USA Today, February 1, 1995, 3.
(13) - Supra note 1, 605.
(14) - Supra note 1, 454.
(15) - Marvin Cetron, "An American Renaissance in the Year 2000," pamphlet,
World Future Society, 1994, 11.