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The ad hoc task force.

Change Made Simple

While some people seem to thrive on change, others oppose even the slightest alteration of their daily lives. Most people fall somewhere in between. Often, people resist change simply because they have it thrust upon them. For example, in business, management may implement a major change in policy or procedure without consulting lower-level employees. In turn, the employees may not comply with the new directive or may do so grudgingly, because they did not have the opportunity to provide input during the decisionmaking process.

Similarly, police managers, by the nature of their department's organization, may find their officers resistant to change. Most police departments have a defined hierarchy, consisting of the chief at the top and field officers at the bottom. Communications and decisions flow from the top administrator down, with little or no input from the lower levels, thereby increasing the likelihood of officer resistance to change.

Police managers can, however, reduce their staffs' opposition to change by involving employees in the decisionmaking process through the use of an ad hoc task force. This article discusses how the Covington, Virginia, Police Department successfully created an ad hoc task force to implement a major change in its police officers' work schedules.


The ad hoc task force consists of a group of employees who, on a temporary basis, examine a specific problem and recommend solutions. By involving employees at all levels of the organization in the change process, the task force reduces employees' fears and suspicions regarding change, builds trust between employees and management, and helps employees to understand, accept, and cooperate in the change.



The Covington Police Department has an authorized staff of 15 sworn police officers and 8 civilian support positions. The department operates within a hierarchy typical of most police agencies, where communications flow from the top down.

Covington management planned to develop a more efficient and effective officer work schedule, because research indicated that the existing work schedule did not adequately meet the needs of the agency or the community. They also realized that a successful change in this area required the cooperation and input of the employees.

Therefore, management initiated employee participation through an ad hoc task force. They believed that the task force would allow them to solicit the best information regarding implementation of the change, while helping the employees to understand, accept, and cooperate with the change.

Because the chief traditionally issued all directives, orders, and other communications, department personnel had never been exposed to the ad hoc task force concept. Therefore, no policy on the development or use of this type of process existed.

Covington's chief determined that the first step in implementing the task force was to educate police personnel on the inadequacies of the original schedule and the changing needs of the community and department. To do this, college interns compiled information from complaint reports and radio logs. This data indicated that the patrol workload was inadequately distributed. In addition, the chief conducted an analysis of the crime rate and calls for service, which showed increases of 39 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

Next, the chief presented the data to supervisors, reiterating the results--an increasing crime rate, an increasing demand for service, an inadequate distribution of workload, and consequently, the need for a new work schedule. The chief also asked the supervisors to discuss this information with the officers on their shifts to determine methods that would address the issues.

Then, all agency personnel met to discuss the need for a new work schedule. This meeting helped reduce officer resistance to the impending change in two ways. First, the meeting provided a forum for the chief to present a factual justification for the new work schedule systematically to all affected employees. Second, the meeting afforded an opportunity for direct employee contact with the chief.

Participation at this phase was intended to elicit constructive contributions and reduce anticipated fears associated with the change. Assuring officers that management would consider all of their concerns in the development of a new schedule, the chief gave officers and supervisors the opportunity to participate in an ad hoc task force to study and design a work schedule for the department.

The officers responded enthusiastically, with several submitting requests to participate in the task force. Consequently, the chief impaneled a committee of four to begin developing a new work schedule. The chief appointed only four members because he realized that too many members might make the work of the task force cumbersome and present logistical problems. In addition, the chief selected officers who would represent a cross-section of attitudes and feelings of the department.

In the next phase, members of the task force met with the chief to develop a complete list of requirements for the new schedule. The task force prioritized the list and selected four management needs: To provide proper supervisory control, to deploy staff based on workload, to maintain adequate staffing levels, and to reduce overtime. In addition, the task force selected four employee needs: To provide compatibility with personal life, to provide schedule equity, to provide adequate rest periods between shift changes, and to provide as many weekends off as possible. To assist the task force in developing a schedule that would meet these objectives, the chief provided members with references and resources, including information from Federal authorities on scheduling and labor laws.

After 10 weeks of study, research, and meetings, the task force presented the completed work schedule to the chief. The new schedule achieved all of the management and employee objectives established at the beginning of the process. It also complied with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)(1) and the 1985 ruling in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority,(2) which applied the FLSA to State and local governments.

In addition, the new schedule was familiar to all employees, as task force members consulted regularly with other members of the department. Due to this unanticipated but welcome involvement of additional employees, the schedule received widespread support, and implementation proceeded without incident.


In order to evaluate the success of the task force process, the Covington Police Department compared productivity levels from 4 months before and 4 months after implementation of the revised schedule. The new work schedule provided additional police protection during peak service times, Wednesday through Saturday, 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Overall officer productivity, defined as the number of traffic summons, felony arrests, misdemeanor arrests, parking tickets, and arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol, increased 41 percent.

The most significant increase was in the area of officer-initiated activity. Arrests of drunk drivers increased 288 percent and the officers' enforcement of the motor vehicle code increased 147 percent. During the same time period, the department also experienced a 10-percent reduction in the use of sick leave by employees. The officers' job performance demonstrated the success of the new schedule.

The task force process was effective for the organization, employees, management, and community. In addition, because the procedure proved so successful for implementing the new work schedule for Covington's police officers, the department also used the process to implement a new work schedule for its supervisors and to select new uniforms.


Agencies that employ task forces reap a myriad of benefits. First, a task force introduces an upward flow of information into the communication process. In other words, after the chief sends a directive to officers, the officers provide feedback--creating valuable upward communication.

Upward communication provides the leader with an indicator of the level of morale and understanding in the organization. It also keeps management aware of the needs of employees.

Because the ad hoc task force provides a forum for two-way communication, it reduces, to some extent, employee resistance to the implementation of change in the organization and increases the probability that the change will succeed. The task force also generates ideas from the employees, who know their jobs well and can offer the best solutions for improvement. Therefore, police managers receive a greater number of alternatives to consider in the decisionmaking process.

The ad hoc task force also benefits the employees. Agencies that allow employees an opportunity to examine a problem and develop solutions provide the employees with a sense of ownership. Employees participating in the process have a personal and professional interest in the success of the program or any decision that affects them.

Employees also benefit because the upward communication process implicit in the task force concept makes police executives more accountable to the organization. Downward communication forces compliance; employees resent and resist what they believe are arbitrary decisions. Conversely, upward communication reduces the employees' resentment of the leader and increases trust between the leader and the employees.

The community profits from the task force as well. First, because officers who interact daily with the public participate in the decisionmaking process, the chief can "check the pulse" of the community and make decisions that benefit citizens. Also, because trust exists between the employees and management, and because the employees have a vested interest in the department's success, the community becomes the recipient of a higher caliber of police service.


Several concerns emerge in the use of an ad hoc task force process. First, a task force requires considerable time to achieve its mandate. It not only takes a significant amount of time to establish and assemble a task force but also to coordinate convenient meeting times for all members. In addition, providing members with the resources they need to accomplish their goal may make the process expensive. On the other hand, if members must share materials, they will spend more time completing their task. In short, the task force process cannot be used in situations that warrant immediate decisions.

The second concern pertains to the usefulness of the task force in certain situations. The task force process should provide the executive officer with a solution to a problem. However, the executive may find the solution developed by the task force unacceptable. The entire process could lose a great amount of credibility if the executive regularly rejects task force recommendations.

To prevent this, the manager must consider the types of issues that are not appropriate for a task force. For example, the manager should not present budget issues to the task force without setting guidelines. Because budget constraints might prohibit the use of certain solutions, the task force must know the limits of the department's resources.

Along the same lines, the manager should not present issues in which the resolution already has an established legal precedent. The task force must understand the legal parameters or standards within which it must work.


Clearly, the ad hoc task force process provides management with an excellent method to implement change. By allowing employees to participate in the decisionmaking process, management receives a variety of possible solutions to the problem at hand, while gaining the trust and cooperation of the employees involved. In turn, the employees have a personal and professional interest in the success of the program--they truly want it to work.

Advances in technology, diversity in the workforce, and increased scrutiny from the public put pressure on contemporary police departments to change the way they do business. Employee involvement through ad hoc task forces provides a legitimate and functional process to manage the necessary changes.


1 Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. sec. 201, et seq. (1938). The FLSA, also known as the "Wages and Hours Law," defines minimum regular workweek hours and overtime compensation. As applied to police officers, the FLSA mandates a maximum of 171 hours per each 28-day work cycle.

2 Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, et al., 469 U.S. 528 (1985).
COPYRIGHT 1993 Federal Bureau of Investigation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Brown, Jeffrey S.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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