Police officers in the United States are in an exceptionally demanding position since they confront predicaments and conditions that are characterized with physical danger, emotional challenges, and psychological difficulties. Generally, these professionals are placed in situations with great need though with limited resources. This in turn places them in circumstances where it's easy for them to develop feelings of skepticism and lethargy. As a result, the officers can not only develop hostility but also give way to resentment that is directed towards the organization and the people they serve. In attempts to achieve and maximize effectiveness, police organizations need to ensure that professionals serving in this crucial role are conscious of their duties as leaders, managers, and supervisors. Leaders in American policing are continually faced with the unique challenge of trying to define and attain success as well as helping other to harness their initiatives towards achieving success.
Nature of Police Work:
As previously mentioned, American police officers usually encounter distinctive demanding situations and dilemmas that force them to confront failure in their daily activities. Actually, policing in the United States involves a great deal and level of failure because of the nature of the work of these officers. The likelihood of failure in policing is attributed to the fact that no society can completely prevent all crime and arrest all perpetrators because of the need to comply with civil rights and liberties (Griffin, 1998). Commanders in police agencies and organizations are faced with the overwhelming task of promoting a realistic sense of what is considered as success and what is regarded as failure as well as how to cope with both.
Generally, police work involves facing situations that pose emotional, psychological, and physical dangers on a daily basis. These situations are mainly brought by the failure of families, relationships, communities, and society. As a result, police officers are usually in circumstances where the need is so enormous but the resources are limited to effectively meet the need. The nature of their work enhances the vulnerability of officers to develop feelings of apathy and cynicism, which contributes to resentment and hostility.
While police officers are usually confronted with failure, people who enter this field do so with the assumption and intention of achieving success, especially with regards to preventing and lessening crime. However, the relatively difficult and stressful working conditions make success in American policing to be very weak and seemingly impossible to achieve. As evident in every case and situation, it appears that success in American policing is totally dependent on competent front-line leadership. Therefore, leadership is at the core of success in American policing with regards to helping officers deal with the challenging nature of their work.
Communication and Police Leadership in America:
Since mid-Nineteenth Century, police leaders in the United States have faced numerous challenges in attempts to take command of their organizations beginning with initiatives to obtain control from political leaders. Police officers have also struggled to gain control from a machine that was created by policing i.e. The 911 instant response calls for service system (Mastrofski, 2007). While they were able to successful overcome control by political machines in mid-twentieth century, their attempt to regain control from the service system is generally a work in progress.
Since many American homes started to use telephones, it has become easier for them to summon police officers conveniently as the police are able to respond quickly to the requests of citizens. Since improvements in communications technology has facilitated and promoted rapid communication, police leaders have been able to develop general orders and response protocols. This has in turn enabled them to institute priorities for mobilizing police officers while assessing actual operations and documenting the major aspects of events that take place in the society on a daily basis.
However, these developments have contributed to and increased internal and external pressure on leaders in American policing. One of the major challenges that police leaders face as a result of the developments is the need for rapid response to a huge number of requests from citizens, which has contributed to the emergence of a kind of management-on-autopilot. The developments have also affected the ability of police leaders to deploy police to deal with emerging problems and issues in the community effectively. The second challenge emanating from these developments is the shifting of decision-making locus in American police departments and leadership.
Overview of American Police Leadership:
Policing strategy in the United States has continued to grow and undergone remarkable changes to an extent that policing is currently in the problem-solving arena. This has resulted in the emergence of several arguments and counter-arguments about American policing. One of the major arguments is that strong leadership is the core of the realization of preventive policing. Leadership is a paramount issue in policing in the United States because of several reasons including the diverse cultures and varying attitudes regarding law enforcement (Perry, 2010).
Secondly, police leaders are currently faced with increased stress and demands because of the intense media scrutiny of every aspect concerning policing from a local, national, and global perspective. Moreover, the current financial struggles demand that financial resources allocated to police agencies must generate the required and anticipated benefits for the communities served by police officers.
Similar to other organizations, police agencies need leadership since the success of these organizations is dependent on having reliable and apposite leaders. Leadership in American policing has continued to change and evolve over time because of the ever-changing nature or development of issues that police officers confront in the community. Traditionally, American policing used the London Metropolitan model of leadership that emerged from the enactment of the Metropolitan Police Act in 1829 by the English Parliament. The leadership model, which was the first one in policing in the United States, was based on a highly-centralized chain of command and bureaucratically-controlled organization.
Generally, the initial model of police leadership in America was characterized with the establishment of a hierarchical authoritarian agency that infused impersonality to the organizational structure. While New York was the first city in the United States that attempted to enforce this policing style in 1851, the city's initiatives towards establishing a strong central authority leadership style was negated by political, economic, and social factors (Conyers, n.d.). One of the major disadvantages of this kind of leadership is that it had a devastating impact on the communication process and the number of risks encountered by patrol officers. During this period, leaders in American policing were appointed because of their reputation and where they came from.
In the early 20th Century, leadership in American policing involved the use of bureaucratic-efficiency model. This leadership style continued to use the military command in the London Metropolitan model but included the component of scientific management. While it was a different leadership model, the bureaucratic-efficiency style was not very different from the initial model since leaders retained controlled through a centralized and inflexible command structure. This kind of chain of command was retained by leaders in order to contribute towards the realization of overall organizational efficiency. Notably, under this leadership style, leaders in American policing were mainly appointed depending on their longevity and experience rather than the characteristics they provide as leaders.
The incorporation of the component of scientific management in American police leadership was influenced by Industrial Revolution in this period. Through this component, police leaders would create what they expected of officers and then train these officers on how to carry out their activities. However, the bureaucratic-efficiency model has been associated with the disadvantage of lack of interest in the worker i.e. police officer. This is primarily because it focused on leadership at the top with nothing on the police officers or workers at the bottom. As a result, police officers were primarily guided on what, when, and how to carry out their respective tasks rather than being empowered to make personal decisions. This resulted in failed leadership in American policing because of inability to delegate, unwillingness to consider options, and inability to understand the sense of necessity (Conyers, n.d.).
Evolution of American Police Leadership:
Since the adoption of the initial model of police leadership, American leadership has evolved over time not only to address challenges with particularly leadership styles but also address the ever-changing issues in the community. In the past few decades, leadership is American police has eventually been categorized as democratic, autocratic or Laissez-Faire. The inclusion of these three aspects has provided a distinctive and multi-faceted approach towards leadership in policing in the United States.
The autocratic leadership approach deals with providing orders in order to achieve a particular task within the shortest period of time. In this leadership approach, officers are instructed on what to do, how to conduct it, when to do it, and then supervised to ensure that they accomplish the tasks effectively. In contrast, the Laissez-Faire approach enables a group of officers to make decisions independently without any guidance. The democratic style incorporates decision making by…