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The transition document.

In January 1993, the leadership of the Nation changed political hands peacefully as the power structure that had existed for a dozen years gave way to a new one. This tradition of peaceful transition is one of the great strengths of American democracy--one to which nations have aspired for nearly two centuries. Unfortunately, power shifts do not always proceed with the relative calm that accompanies changes in presidential administrations. Even the smoothest transition creates a certain degree of uncertainty and anxiety. Within a law enforcement context, much has been written about the profound effects that a change in command can have on departments and their personnel and how agencies can deal with the fear and concerns associated with internal transitions.(1)

Often overlooked, however, are the repercussions of political change outside departments and their resulting effects on municipal law enforcement agencies. Like changes in internal command, these external transitions--in mayoral administrations, city councils, and other local governing entities--can also have a significant impact on police departments and their personnel.

Reality dictates that every law enforcement agency in the Nation deal with a changing political landscape. For this reason, the Douglas, Wyoming, Police Department recently developed a transition document designed to familiarize newly elected city officials with the department. The 13-page booklet provides a written tour of the agency, highlighting its organizational structure, statutory and case-law foundations, budget requirements, personnel, equipment, relationships with other agencies, goals and objectives, and special programs. One of the primary purposes of the transition document is to furnish incoming officials and administrators with accurate information concerning the police department to assist them when framing policy.


The conditions that led to the development of the transition document are not uncommon to communities throughout rural America. In January 1993, all council positions in the City of Douglas, with the sole exception of the office of the mayor, changed hands. Almost overnight, by election or appointment, a city government with little governing experience--the only official with any tenure was the mayor, who had served on the council for 2 years--now administered the city's affairs.

The chief of police, the city administrator, and other department supervisors comprising the city's management team identified a potentially disruptive tendency for transitional fears to develop as a result of such a broad-based change in power. Initial efforts to communicate with the council-elect had been frustrated by the damaged relationships that often occur during hard-fought local election campaigns. Efforts at calming concerns throughout the police department and other government agencies were further thwarted by a steady stream of unsubstantiated innuendos from the age-old "rumor mill" that inevitably arose from the void of accurate information.

In an attempt to restore a credible information exchange, the police department explored the viability of creating a written package designed to convey the same information normally communicated during an orientation process. When completed, the transition document provided a full departmental tour in a clear, written format.


Organizational Structure

After a brief introduction from the chief, the transition document begins with a flow chart that outlines the divisions within the police department. The chart also highlights each division's general responsibilities, as well as the supervision of special programs and the management of the agency's computer network.

Statutory and Case-law Foundations

The transition document then describes the municipal code references that established the police department, as well as the powers of the chief and officers serving in the department. The document provides brief examples of Federal and State controls--citing the State's Police Officer Standards and Training Commission hiring and training regulations, case-law establishing jurisdiction, and Federal acts that regulate records release, civil rights violations, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other Federal programs.


The document outlines the police department's budgetary allocations, including division allotments and percentage of the overall budget that represent operating costs and salaries. To further familiarize council members with the department's financial outlays, examples are provided that illustrate the estimated hourly cost to field one patrol officer, as well as the expenses accrued to process a typical arrest for driving under the influence.


A discussion of the police department's personnel, including part-time employees and volunteers, is also provided. This section breaks down the number of officers serving in each division and their ranks. The discussion also includes such statistics as the average age of department employees, average work experience in the department and in the field of law enforcement, education level, and certificates held for inhouse training.


To give readers a further indication of the department's capabilities, the booklet provides a brief inventory of the equipment issued to officers. It also notes the supplies available for use during emergency situations.

Relationships with Other Agencies

This section of the document briefly describes the police department's interaction with other local--as well as county, State, and Federal--public safety agencies. To reinforce readers' appreciation of the department's many and varied commitments, the transition document highlights its allocation of resources to area task forces.

Goals and Objectives

To assist council members and other readers to understand the long-term aspirations of the police department and its leaders, the transition document outlines the department's primary goals and objectives. First among these is to advance implementation of the community policing model by adopting a more proactive, rather than reactive, approach to providing police services.

Special Programs

The transition document concludes with a discussion of the special initiatives being implemented by the department to enhance its mission. The discussion shows how the many programs--from a new bike patrol to a school-based alcohol and drug awareness series--support the proactive, community-oriented policing philosophy of the department.


Any transition in power creates uncertainty and a degree of anxiety. With a transition document, the leaders of the Douglas, Wyoming, Police Department provide newly elected and appointed city officials with credible information regarding the police department. This information not only serves as a useful introduction to the department but also ensures that incoming city government officials possess accurate information with which to make their decisions. Such information can reduce the uncertainty surrounding any transition.


1 Mark H. Moore and Darrel W. Stephens, Beyond Command and Control: The Strategic Management of Police Departments, Police Executive Research Forum, Washington, DC, 1991.

Chief Majerus heads the Douglas, Wyoming, Police Department.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Federal Bureau of Investigation
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Title Annotation:Police Practices; Douglas, Wyoming Police Department
Author:Majerus, Lawrence W.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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