An Analysis of Police Professionalism in the US


Like management and supervision, the word organization has a number of meanings and interpretations that have evolved over the years. Some people think of organizations as entities of two or more people who cooperate to achieve an objective. Certainly, in that sense, the concept of organization is not new. The first organizations were hunting parties. Coordination and organization both were required to kill huge animals, as revealed in fossils from long ago. Kenneth J. Peaks (2009) states "An organization may be formally defined as a consciously coordinated social entity, with a relative identifiable boundary, that functions on a relatively continuous basis to achieve a common goal or set of goals" (p.22) the term implies management. Social entity refers to the fact that organizations are composed of people who interact with managers within organizations and one another (Peaks, 2009, p.22). Peaks (2009) remind us," The history of management can be divided into three approaches and time periods: scientific management (1900-1940), Human relations management (1930-1970), and systems management (1965-to present). (p.23)

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Features of scientific approaches and human relation approaches were combined together in the system management approach in the mid-1960s. It attempted to help managers use employees to reach desired goals. This approach recognized that it was still necessary to have some hierarchical arrangement to bring about coordination, which responsibility and authority were important, and the overall organization was with one another and with people in other organizations. Relatively identifiable boundary alludes to the public served and the organization's goals. We can consider many types of formal groups as full-blown organizations using this definition by asking the questions" Who benefits?" Answers include: business concerns, such as criminal justice agencies and the Department of Defense, where the beneficiaries are the public at large (Peaks, 2009, p.24).

Organizational Theory

Kenneth J. Peaks, in his text explains, "Organizational theory is the study of organizational structures, designs, relationships of the organization with their external environment, the behavior of administrators and managers within organizations" (p.23).

Scientific Management

Peak (2009) reminds us, "Fredrick W. Taylor, who first emphasized time and motion studies, is known as the father of scientific management" (p.23). Taylor, spending his early years in the steel mills of Pennsylvania, became chief engineer and later discovered a new method of making steel; this allowed him to retire at age 45 to lecture and write. He was interest in methods for greater productivity from workers and was hired in 1889 by Bethlehem Steel, where he measured the time it took workers to carry a pig iron and a shovel. Taylor recommended going to a piecework system and giving workers hourly breaks, among other adjustments. Highly criticized by unions for his management oriented views, Taylor proved that administrators must know their employees. In 1911, he published a book, titled The Principles of Management. His perspective caught on, as soon as emphasis was placed entirely on the formal administrative structure; terms such as chain of command, span of control, authority, and division of labor were coined.

Kenneth J. Peaks (2009) reminds us "Luther Gulick formulated the theory of POSDCORB in 1935, an acronym for planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, report, and budgeting; this philosophy was emphasized in police management for many years."(p.23) scientific management's application to criminal justice agencies was heavily criticized. It viewed workers as passive tools whose feelings were disregarded. Equally, workers were considered to be motivated by money alone.

Human Relations Management

People realized the negative effects of scientific management on employees. A perspective rose in policing that management should instill dignity and pride in officers. According to Kenneth J. Peaks, "during the late 1920s through the mid-1930s, the movement toward human relations management began with the famous studies by the Harvard Business School at the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric Company; these studies found that worker productivity is more closely related to social capacity than to physical capacity, which noneconomic rewards play a major part in satisfying and motivating employees, and their employees do not react to management and its rewards as individuals but as members of groups" (p.23).

Systems Management

Features of human relations and scientific management approaches were combined in the systems management approach in the 1960s. It attempted to help managers use employees to reach desired production goals. Peaks (2009)explains" the systems approach recognized that it was still necessary to have some hierarchical arrangement to bring about coordination, that responsibility and authority were essential, and overall management was required"(p.24). This approach combined the work of Abraham Maslow, who developed the hierarchy of needs; Douglas McGregor8, who stressed the general theory of human motivations; and Jane Mouton and Robert Blake, who developed the managerial grid which emphasized two concerns-for people and for task- that managers must have. System management holds that to be successful the manger must be interdependent with other groups and individuals and have the ability to deal with and recognize change and conflict. Managers require more than mere technical skills. They require knowledge of several major resources: money, people, time, and equipment. Team work is required to achieve organizational goals.

Bureaucratic Management

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Criminal justice agencies fit the description of an organization. First, these agencies consist of people who interact within the organization and with external organization, and they exist to serve the public. Second, they are managed by being organized into a number of specialized units. Supervisors, managers, and administrators exist to ensure that these units work toward a common goal each working independently would lead to conflict, competition, and fragmentation. Through policing and procedures, a mission statement, direction, and a proper management styles criminal justice administrators attempt to ensure that the organization uphold its overall goals of suppression and crime treatment in addition to working amicably with people and organizations.

Kenneth J. Peak, in his text states" Criminal justice organizations are bureaucracies, as are virtually all large organizations in modern society"(p.25)Marx Weber, a German sociologist developed the idea of pure democracy. He argued that if a bureaucracy structure is to function efficiently, it must have the following elements:

Division of labor-Kenneth J. Peak (2009) in his text states" Division of labor involves the performance of functions by various parts of an organization along with providing the necessary authority to carry out these functions" (Peaks, 2009, p.25).

Expertise- Kenneth J. Peak (2009) states" Specialized training is necessary. Only a person who has demonstrated adequate technical training is qualified to be a member of administrative staff (Peaks,2009,p.25)

Written Rules-Decisions -Kenneth J. Peak states" Administration acts, decisions, and rules are formulated and recorded in writing."(p.25)

Rulification and routinization- Kenneth J. Peak reminds us, organization stress continuity. Rules save effort by eliminating the need for deriving a new solution for every problem. Also, they facilitate equal and standard treatment for similar situations. (Peaks, 2009, p25).

The administration of prison and police organization is based on the quasi-military pyramidal organizational structure containing elements of a bureaucracy: adherence to fixed rules, specialized functions, and hierarchy of authority. Bureaucracies are criticized for two reasons. First, they are said to stifle the spontaneity, self-realization and individual freedom of their employees. Peak(2009)states" James Q Wilson referred to this as the bureaucracy problems where the key issue is getting the front line worker… to do the right thing"(p.25). Sometimes bureaucracies can create problems.

Positive Aspects of Bureaucracy in Policing

Positive contributive of bureaucracy in policing often over looked because of problems associated with bureaucracies. Many of these contributions are best appreciated from historical perspective. Comparing the typical police department with the big-city police organization illustrates the contribution of modern bureaucracy. For example, the police department of 1900 was unspecialized, with two units' detective and patrol. The development of many specialties such as community relations, criminalistics, traffic, training, and juvenile has required the growth of complex organizations that have the capacity to coordinate all of these activities. The reduction of misconduct has been achieved through bureaucratic principles and the control of police discretion. The response to domestic violence or written rules on the use of deadly force, represent the technique of administrative rule making. Paper work involved in this approach is characteristics of bureaucracies.

Negative Aspects of Bureaucracy

Samuel Walker and Charles M Katz (2009) state" There are several major criticisms of the bureaucratic form of organization, all of which apply to police organizations" (p.89): First, communication within the organization often breaks down. Pertinent information does not reach individuals who need it. Consequently, bad decisions are made, or the organization pursues conflicting goals. Second, bureaucracies are often rigid, inflexible, an unable to adapt to external changes, for instance, many business administration experts argue that American corporations have failed to adapt to changing markets and the new global economy. Often, police agencies do not respond to changes in patterns of crime and the make up the communities they serve. Third, bureaucracies become self-serving, inward looking, and isolated from the people they serve. Organizational survival and self-protection take precedence over the basic goals of the organization. Bureaucracies do not allow employees to use their creativity and even stifle creativity. Observers have found serious morale problems among rank-and-file law enforcement officers and argue that agencies need to provide officers with greater opportunities at work and more flexibility to perform their duties.

Changing Police Agencies

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The current state of police organizations is disappointing. There are two perspectives on how to improve them. Samuel Walker and Charles M. Katz (2009) remind us" (p.100) the dominant school of thought accepts the basic principles of bureaucratic organization and seeks to apply them more effectively. Individuals who support this approach support greater control of discretion through written rules. The other school of thought seeks decision-making procedures that operate within the existing formal structure.

Police Professionalism and Bureaucracy

The bureaucratic aspects of policing are in constant conflict with the professionalism in other occupations. In medicine, education, and law, a professional is someone with expertise, resulting from experience and extensive training, who exercises independent judgment about critical events. For instance, the doctor makes critical decisions about treatment and diagnosis of patients. Professionalism is not expected to follow a rigid set of rules. The bureaucratic aspects of law enforcement represent a different approach to the control of behavior. First, police agencies attempt to control police officer behavior through written and formal rules. Second, the quasi-military nature of police agencies has emphasized hierarchical control and command rather than collegial decision maker. Police professionalism has acquired special meaning because of the history of the American police. Bureaucratization meant the same thing as professionalism. As a result, the professionalism departments were the ones in which followed departmental rules. However, to a certain extent, the professional autonomy of the traditional profession is disappearing. For instance, physicians increasingly work in medical facilities or large hospitals. Similar to other bureaucracies, these organizations impose formal control over physicians' behaviors. In addition, lawyers increasingly work in corporations or law firms which seek to control their behavior by monitoring the number of hours billed.

Police Professionalism 1900-1930

Samuel Walker and Charles M. Katz (2009) remind us," American policing underwent a dramatic change in the twentieth century. There were two principle forces for change: an organized movement for police professionalism and the introduction of modern communications technology" (p.35).If Robert Peel was the father of the modern police then August Vollmer was the father of police professionalism. Walker and Katz (2009) in their text state" He served as chief of police in Berkley California from 1905-to 1932 and defined an agenda of police reform that continues to influence policing today" (p.35).

Vollmer is most famous for advocating college education for police officers. Walker and Katz states" he hired college graduates in Berkley and organized the first-college level police science courses at the University of California in 1916" (P.35). He is the father of modern criminal justice education. Equally, Vollmer served as a consultant to many local police agencies and national commissions. He took a one year leave from Berkeley to serve as police chief of the Los Angeles police department. After the year was up, he returned home very pessimistic about the chances of reforming the inefficient and corrupt LAPD. Vollmer was one of many modern generation leaders at the turn of the century that launched an effort to professionalize the police. Walker and Katz (2009) remind us "Police reform was part of a much broader political movement known as progressivism between1900-1917. According to Walker and Katz progressive reformers sought to regulate labor, big business, improve social welfare services, eliminate child labor, reform local government, as well as professionalize the police (Walker and Katz, 2009, p.35).


Policing in the U.S. has changed dramatically throughout history.

For example, Kenneth J. Peak (2009) state" The history of management can be divided into three different approaches and time periods: scientific management (1900-1945), Human relations management (1930-1970) and systems management (1965-to present)" (p.23). Features of human relation and scientific approaches were combined in the system management approach in the 1960s. Peak (2009) in his text states, "Designed to bring the organization and individuals together, it attempted to help managers use employees to reach desired goals" (p.23). This approach attempted to help managers use employees to reach desired goals. When one considers the perspective of 300 years ago, the major change was the creation of the modern police department: a large specialized bureaucratic organization dedicated to maintenance crime control and order. With in the past 100 years, police departments have changed from corrupt and unproductive political organizations to enterprises with a non partisan objective.

The modern police agency is a bureaucratic organization, as are other large organizations in modern society: government agencies, universities, and private organizations. Police departments have similar characteristics of bureaucracy with these other organizations. Walker and Katz (2009) remind us" If Robert Peel was the father of the modern day police, the August Vollmer was the father of police professionalism" (p.34). From 1935 to 1932, he served as chief of police in Berkley California. He defined police reform more than any other individual that continues influencing law enforcement today. He is famous for advocating college educating police officers.

Modern police enterprises are bureaucratic as are other large organizations in modern society "Walker and Katz(2009) , in their text state" bureaucratic form of organization exist because it is the most efficient means that has been developed for directing and organizing many different activities in pursuit of a common goal"(p.35). Bureaucracy is not completely efficient, however, no other organizational for has been found that is able to carry out multiple task at the same time in pursuit of a common goal. Walker and Katz (2009) state" Modern bureaucracy has the following characteristics:

" Different task are grouped into bureaus or separate divisions in pursuit of a common goal" (Walker and Katz, 2009, p.95).

"Lower-ranking employees are delegated responsibility for specific task" (Walker and Katz 2009, p.95)

"Organizational structure is pyramidal or hierarchical, with a clear division of labor between first-line supervisors, chiefs, supervisors, and executives" (Walker and Katz, 2009, p.95).

"A complex organization performing many different tasks in pursuit of a common goal (Walker and Katz, 2009.p95)

There are clear paths by which personnel move upward through organization in an orderly fashion"(Walker and Katz,2009,95)

"There is a clear chain go command, which indicates who is responsible for each task and who is responsible for supervising each employee."(Walker and Katz 2009, p.95)

"Regulations and written rules are designed to ensure consistency and uniformity"(Walker and Katz, 2009,p.95)

'There is a clear uniformity of command, so that each employee answers to only one supervisor" (Walker and Katz, 2009, p.95)

"Information flows through the organization according to the chain of command"(Walker and Katz, 2009, p.95)

Bureaucracy is the best organizational structure for police agencies. However, if it were to be replaced with another, I would choose systematic management organizational structure because it is designed to bring the individual and the organization together. It attempts to help employees and managers reach desired goals. These approaches recognize that it is necessary to have some hierarchical arrangement to bring about coordination, responsibility, and authority that all organizations require.