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Police supervision in the 21st century.

As we near the end of the 20th century, policing is in the midst Adv. 1. in the midst - the middle or central part or point; "in the midst of the forest"; "could he walk out in the midst of his piece?"
 of some very critical changes. In the past several years, community-based policing strategies have emerged as the driving force behind most of these changes. Many police agencies - large and small, rural and urban - have incorporated a community-oriented philosophy into their operational approach. While the specific objectives and tactics of this proactive policing strategy may be as numerous and varied as the communities being served, the basic premise remains the same: To promote a partnership with citizens in order to solve problems and improve the quality of life in the community.

It is too early to measure fully the success of this philosophy. Still, academicians and practitioners have devoted a considerable amount of time to analyzing different aspects of community-oriented policing A philosophy that combines traditional aspects of law enforcement with prevention measures, problem-solving, community engagement, and community partnerships.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, U.S. law enforcement relied on a professional policing model.
 (COP). Most focus on how COP requires agencies to alter their ways of conducting operations. But, despite the volumes written on the subject, little time has been spent evaluating and projecting the changes in the supervision of line personnel required under a community-oriented policing model.

In reality, if COP is to be successful, law enforcement agencies A law enforcement agency (LEA) is a term used to describe any agency which enforces the law. This may be a local or state police, federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  must reevaluate the way in which administrators supervise line-level personnel. The changes ushered in by community-oriented policing require agency executives to examine not only the new external environment created by COP but also the new internal environment. To do so, executives must take a close look at their organizations and become responsive to initiating change within them. Community-oriented policing requires such change and evaluation in order for agencies to predict and control their futures effectively.


Few law enforcement officers know the name Fredrick W. Taylor, but nearly every officer sworn in during the past 75 years has served under the command structure he advocated. Taylor's classical theory - organizations indoctrinated along traditional lines; highly centralized cen·tral·ize  
v. cen·tral·ized, cen·tral·iz·ing, cen·tral·iz·es
1. To draw into or toward a center; consolidate.

, bureaucratic bu·reau·crat  
1. An official of a bureaucracy.

2. An official who is rigidly devoted to the details of administrative procedure.

, and designed on the premise of divisions of labor and unity of control - has been the enduring model of organizational command and control adopted by law enforcement agencies across America for most of the 20th century.(1)

This classical theory, modified and refined during implementation by progressive era police executives, such as August Vollmer August "Gus" Vollmer (March 7, 1876 - November 4, 1955) was a leading figure in the development of the field of criminal justice in the United States in the early 20th century. He was also the first police chief of Berkeley, California.  and O.W. Wilson, represented a reaction to the rampant corruption and other inequities that had plagued American policing since its early days.(2) To reduce the contaminating con·tam·i·nate  
tr.v. con·tam·i·nated, con·tam·i·nat·ing, con·tam·i·nates
1. To make impure or unclean by contact or mixture.

2. To expose to or permeate with radioactivity.

 effects of local ward politics on line officers, the classical model centralized authority in police headquarters. To alleviate favoritism and petty corruption in neighborhoods, the classical model established beats and revolving assignments for patrol officers. To ensure officers performed their assigned duties, the classical model instituted a military-style structure of authority and discipline. And to encourage personnel to follow the rules established by headquarters, proponents of the classical model - most notably Wilson - believed that line-level officers should adhere to adhere to
verb 1. follow, keep, maintain, respect, observe, be true, fulfil, obey, heed, keep to, abide by, be loyal, mind, be constant, be faithful

 a rigid chain of command and be supervised closely through massive amounts of written policy pronouncements.(3)

These command and control measures corrected many of the problems that they were designed to remedy. But in time, they created some new ones. One of the most enduring is law enforcement's inability to adapt to new policing strategies.


For the most part, police agencies have remained amenable to the classical hierarchy of organization, command, and supervision that dictates a rigid manual of procedures for employees. Unfortunately, adherence to these procedures prevents personnel in many instances from solving problems in the communities that they serve. For line officers, the strict pyramid control structure of the classical model severely limits discretion when carrying out their duties. Historically, central headquarters reserves full and final authority in all police matters.

Many have argued that this rigid top-down organizational structure This article has no lead section.

To comply with Wikipedia's lead section guidelines, one should be written.
 precipitated the downfall of the team policing concept of the 1970s.(4) In many ways a precursor to today's community policing efforts, team policing called for the aggressive decentralization de·cen·tral·ize  
v. de·cen·tral·ized, de·cen·tral·iz·ing, de·cen·tral·iz·es
1. To distribute the administrative functions or powers of (a central authority) among several local authorities.
 of police operations. Almost from the beginning, the movement encountered a host of problems - perhaps none more formidable than the reluctance of administrators in central headquarters to relinquish control to station and precinct A constable's or police district. A small geographical unit of government. An election district created for convenient localization of polling places. A county or municipal subdivision for casting and counting votes in elections.


The demise of team policing and the tepid tep·id  
1. Moderately warm; lukewarm.

2. Lacking in emotional warmth or enthusiasm; halfhearted: "the tepid conservatism of the fifties" Irving Howe.
 response of some agencies and officers toward community-oriented policing do not necessarily indicate a defect in these approaches. Rather, these reactions may stem from the internal environment that evolved in many agencies as a result of the classical theory.


At one time, a rigid, centralized command structure represented the best prescription to deter corruption and misconduct. However, as policing evolves with newer strategies, this centralized command and control structure will require redefinition. Police operations must become decentralized de·cen·tral·ize  
v. de·cen·tral·ized, de·cen·tral·iz·ing, de·cen·tral·iz·es
1. To distribute the administrative functions or powers of (a central authority) among several local authorities.
 (through substations, neighborhood stations, satellite offices in storefronts for example) and move into the communities being served.

Commanders should allow these decentralized operations to become more participatory and to function with minimal interference from headquarters. Administrators should review organizational policies and procedures Policies and Procedures are a set of documents that describe an organization's policies for operation and the procedures necessary to fulfill the policies. They are often initiated because of some external requirement, such as environmental compliance or other governmental  to ensure that ample discretion exists for officers so that they may search for solutions to problems and not merely respond according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 narrowly written procedures. To bring about these changes, agencies must transform what evolved as the operational counterpart of the classical theory of organizational structure - the professional model of policing.


In many ways, the professional model represents an inevitable by-product by·prod·uct or by-prod·uct  
1. Something produced in the making of something else.

2. A secondary result; a side effect.


 of the classical theory. Police agencies during the reform era became vastly out of touch with the general citizenry cit·i·zen·ry  
n. pl. cit·i·zen·ries
Citizens considered as a group.


citizens collectively

Noun 1.
 In fact, reform-minded police leaders became so intent on shielding their agencies from political influences that police departments grew into some of the most detached and self-reliant public organizations in government.(5)

Because the professional model was driven by technology - new scientific processes, police cruisers, two-way radios A voice network that provides an always-on connection enabling the user to just "push the button and talk." Also called "dispatch radio," two-way radio has traditionally been used by police, fire, taxi and other mobile fleets. , etc. - it greatly improved the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes that had been committed. However, for much the same reason, it reinforced the estrangement of police officers from the citizens they served.(6)

Currently, the vast majority of police agencies still adhere to the professional model. For over half a century, this model - based on the premise that, as professionals, police officers should act aloof from the communities they serve - has provided an operational framework for the classical theory. Unfortunately, it also has fostered an assembly line mentality among rank-and-file police officers and line-level supervisors.

Subsequently, field officers are expected to take reports, write tickets, and make arrests - often instead of addressing the more immediate concerns of the community. Under the professional model, supervisors have scorned any deviation from this easily quantifiable mode of policing. Not surprisingly, police agencies have long based police effectiveness on arrest numbers and little else.

The combined effect of the classical theory's strict organizational structure and the professional model's dependence on quantitative measurements discourages line-level officers from suggesting even minor changes to the everyday operations of the police department. To this day, in some departments, officers are met with strict discipline for slight deviations from the traditional system. Such a heavyhanded, top-down management structure represents a significant stumbling block stum·bling block
An obstacle or impediment.

stumbling block

any obstacle that prevents something from taking place or progressing

Noun 1.
 to the implementation of any innovative policing approach.(7) Before agencies can take community policing to the streets, they must confront internal impediments IMPEDIMENTS, contracts. Legal objections to the making of a contract. Impediments which relate to the person are those of minority, want of reason, coverture, and the like; they are sometimes called disabilities. Vide Incapacity.
 to its successful implementation. To do so, it might help to view the changes coming to law enforcement within the larger context of changes occurring in society as the 21st century approaches.


In his book, The Third Wave, noted futurist Alvin Toffler Alvin Toffler (born October 3, 1928) is an American writer and futurist, known for his works discussing the digital revolution, communications revolution, corporate revolution and technological singularity.  examines many of the forces that will shape society in the next century. He predicts that to survive in the 21st century, organizations will become significantly less top heavy.(8) Flattened flat·ten  
v. flat·tened, flat·ten·ing, flat·tens
1. To make flat or flatter.

2. To knock down; lay low: The boxer was flattened with one punch.
 hierarchies will, in turn, vastly alter the traditional bureaucratic pyramid structure common in most organizations, including law enforcement agencies.

Toffler also speculates that successful organizations will become more flexible, capable of interchanging two or more structural shapes as conditions warrant.(9) If we apply Toffler's thesis to police agencies, the advantages of such structural flexibility become clear. In times of riots or other mass disorder, the police must quickly become a rigid, central unit of operation. A clearly defined and strict chain of command becomes critical to applying force efficiently and to initiating a quick response to social upheaval. However, when relative tranquility prevails, the rigid command structure must give way to a flexible response to specific community problems.

This structural duality Duality (physics)

The state of having two natures, which is often applied in physics. The classic example is wave-particle duality. The elementary constituents of nature—electrons, quarks, photons, gravitons, and so on—behave in some respects
 requires that police supervisors operate flexibly under both systems. In one sense, it means adapting to a situation that demands strict command and control for the sake of public and officer safety; in another, it calls for allowing patrol personnel more accountability, control, and input in their daily beat work.

The coming changes to and expectations of society will require law enforcement leaders to reexamine re·ex·am·ine also re-ex·am·ine  
tr.v. re·ex·am·ined, re·ex·am·in·ing, re·ex·am·ines
1. To examine again or anew; review.

2. Law To question (a witness) again after cross-examination.
 many fundamental components of policing. Three that will assume particular importance are agency mission statements, approaches to supervision, and methods of evaluation.

Changing Mission

The mission statements of the 21st century must be redesigned to reflect values. The underlying premise of these mission statements will change from merely enforcing laws to encompass problem solving problem solving

Process involved in finding a solution to a problem. Many animals routinely solve problems of locomotion, food finding, and shelter through trial and error.
 and the formation of partnerships with the community.

To support these redefined mission statements, supervisors will be expected to promote creativity and broaden the scope of their leadership. They must become leaders with a vision for pulling their organizations forward.

In adjusting their command styles, supervisors will find that it makes good sense to allow the line-level personnel who are most familiar with problems in the community to have a say in developing solutions to those problems. In fact, effective community-oriented policing requires input from line-level personnel.

As we move toward the next century, the challenges facing communities show every indication of becoming more complex and difficult. To respond adequately to these challenges, police agencies will be required to reexamine their supervision methods.


The coming years will bring changes to many long-accepted maxims of police supervision. Police supervisors in the 21st century will be required to alter the traditional role of merely seeing that subordinates follow procedures, adhere to manual regulations, and engage in behavior that is consistent with departmental expectations.

In their newly emerging roles, supervisors will spend less time commanding and controlling and more time helping officers identify and find solutions to community problems. The supervisors of tomorrow will guide and coach line officers and encourage problem solving, risk taking, and innovation.


As the roles of officers and supervisors change, so too must the methods by which supervisors evaluate their officers. If community policing is to succeed in reducing crime through closer police-community cooperation, simply requiring officers to produce numbers every month will prove to be an inadequate measure of performance.

Instead, supervisors of the 21st century will evaluate officers primarily on their abilities to assess and solve community problems. Supervisors also will assess officers' effectiveness based on their ability to remain in touch and to communicate with the various groups within their beats.


Community-oriented policing ultimately will change the way that law enforcement agencies provide service to the community. These changes represent philosophical innovations, as well as stylistic ones. Police commanders must remain responsive to the evolution necessary in supervision strategies to ensure the effective implementation of community policing.

Today's officers come from a far different ideological plane than officers who entered policing just 20 years ago. Supervisors have an obligation to mold these officers' performance according to the community-based strategies that will be the standard of policing in the next century. To do this, supervisors must inspire these officers to become problem solvers and encourage them to become more entrepreneurial in their jobs.

Despite the many challenges facing society and policing in the coming years, the Years, The

the seven decades of Eleanor Pargiter’s life. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1109]

See : Time
 future looks bright for those in law enforcement. If agency administrators and supervisors embrace change rather than fight it, they stand a much better chance at controlling their own destinies.

But, the future is fast approaching. As the authors of the book Megatrends 2000 put it: "The dominant principle of organization has shifted, from management in order to control an enterprise to leadership in order to bring out the best in people and to respond quickly to change."(10) Now is a good time for law enforcement administrators and supervisors to ask themselves if they are looking toward the future or living in the past.


1 G.L. Kelling and W. J. Bratton, "Implementing Community Policing: The Administrative Problem," National Institute of Justice, July 1993, 3.

2 Jeffrey Patterson, "Community Policing: Learning the Lessons of History," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin is published monthly by the FBI Law Enforcement Communication Unit[1], with articles of interest to state and local law enforcement personnel. , November 1995, 5.

3 W.J. Bopp, O.W. Wilson and the Search for a Police Profession (Port Washington Port Washington, uninc. town (1990 pop. 15,387), Nassau co., SE N.Y., a suburb of New York City, on the north shore of Long Island and Manhasset Bay. There is extensive manufacturing, much of it reflecting the region's past association with the aircraft and aerospace , NY: Kennikat Press, 1977), 5.

4 L.K. Gaines, M.D. Southerland and J.E. Angell, Police Administration (New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
: McGraw-Hill, 1991), 125.

5 G.L. Kelling and M.H. Moore, "The Evolving Strategy of Policing," National Institute of Justice, September 1988, 108.

6 Supra A relational DBMS from Cincom Systems, Inc., Cincinnati, OH ( that runs on IBM mainframes and VAXs. It includes a query language and a program that automates the database design process. , note 2.

7 M.K. Sparrow, M.H. Moore, and D.M. Kennedy, Beyond 911: A New Era for Policing (New York: Basic Books, 1990), 57.

8 A. Toffler, The Third Wave (New York: Bantam Books Bantam Books is a major U.S. publishing house owned by Random House and is part of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group. It was formed in 1945 by Walter Pitkin, Jr., Sidney B. Kramer, and Ian and Betty Ballantine. , 1981).

9 Ibid., 263.

10 J. Naisbitt and P. Aburdene, Megatrends 2000: Ten New Directions for the 1990s (New York: Avon Books, 1990), 231.

Sergeant Birzer serves with the Sedgwick County Sedgwick County is the name of several counties in the United States:
  • Sedgwick County, Colorado
  • Sedgwick County, Kansas
 Sheriff's Department in Wichita, Kansas
For other uses, see Wichita (disambiguation).

Wichita, also known as the Air Capital of the World, is the largest city in the U.S. state of Kansas, as well as a major aircraft manufacturing hub and cultural center.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Federal Bureau of Investigation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Birzer, Michael L.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Jun 1, 1996
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