Monday, June 17, 2013

DECENTRALIZING POLICE FORCE

1.0.0 Introduction According to UNDP (2006, p. 4) many a times institutions and organizations in the public sector are perceived as being resistant to institutional reforms; as a matter of fact, many public sector organizations are described as pursuing the capability to carry out activities rather than actual change. The focus of this research is on effectively implementing decentralized control in a traditional police department in the Midwest. The research will inform readers not only of the particular needs of the organization under review but also of the ramifications that the case study has on the subject of effective implementation of change in any public administration organization. Rockford Police Department (2012) has developed a plan to decentralize their department into three districts, but the plan is now three years behind in implementation. The reasons for this delay are more structural and cultural than financial or logistical. The current research explores how these obstacles can be overcome so that the decentralization can be implemented effectively and immediately. This paper will evaluate in detail the root problems of the issues as well as the process of police decentralization and the role played by innovation in public administration. 2.0.0 Case Study While a great number of transformations in the public sector are initiated by the government, sometimes the private sector or the stakeholders affected by the public organizations may demand for changes to be carried out. The police departments have a number of stakeholders with the most important being the citizens that they offer their services to. The organization to be studied is the Rockford Police Department in Winnebago County, Illinois. RPD’s vision is to achieve a city “free from crime and public disorder” (RPD, 2012). Its mission is to partner with the community to reduce crime and improve the quality of life of all citizens (RPD, 2012). Its objectives are: 1) improve partnerships with the community, 2) build a dedicated and well-trained staff, 3) foster trust with the community through geographic policing, and 4) improve technological coordination with traditional policing (RPD Strategic Plan, 2012). There are several organizational change management strategies that may be used in the process of decentralizing Rockford Police Department. The first strategy is As implied by Dempsey and Forst (2011) the general issue addressed in this research is organizational change in response to external growth factors. As cities grow, their public administration must also grow to keep pace with the increasing needs of citizens. However, sometimes the centralized organization of municipal public administration agencies grows so large that it is no longer as effective as it once was. The city of Rockford, Illinois has been experiencing progressive growth with increases at 4 percent per decade since 1990 (citydata.com, 2013). At the same time, the city has experienced a depressed economy with the end of the manufacturing era and an increase in crime because of illicit drug operations that use Rockford as a central distribution site with access to Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago (DOJ, 2011). Given this set of circumstances, the traditional centralized police department is no longer working. Crime has hovered at twice the national average for over a decade (citydata.com, 2013). By decentralizing the police department into three districts with separate but interdependent stations, RPD’s mission of reducing crime and improving the quality of life will be better satisfied. UNDP (2006, p. 4) posits that many times the different players involved in the implementation of change in public organizations wield particular powers and authorities. Consequently, there is always the probability that the model of change being carried out may be “politically fixed” in that it will reflect the interests of the most influential actors in the process. The separate districts are a motivational factor for officers because they have the opportunity to develop relationships with their district communities so that they feel more connected to the people they serve. In addition, their lieutenants, who effectively supervise the bulk of the patrol officers, are more empowered to lead and thus view themselves as executive leaders rather than harried middle managers (Esserman, 2001). Furthermore, the presence of neighborhood police presence facilitates better community involvement and raises the quality of life of residents who can visit their district station when troubles arise or when they need help in an area. Response times lower as officers are dispatched from stations instead of headquarters and investigations are focused on the patterns of crime and the trends in community life in each district. 3.0.0 Root Problem There are a number of problems that necessitate for the decentralization of the Rockford Police Department in Winnebago. The local police departments in America were established in the 19th century in order to respond to the myriad of challenges that confronted the new society characterized by urbanization and industrialization. Despite the intentions of establishing the police department being very noble, soon it became clear that the centralized police department was confronted with a myriad of problems which have extended to the modern days. The centralized police department has a tendency of being too disengaged from the community that it was established to serve in the first place. If the Rockford Police department is decentralized, the community members in Rockford and Winnebago will be allowed an opportunity to participate in the process of police department oversight and direction. Moreover, a decentralized police department will be more empowered and less manipulated by local politicians or leaders. 4.0.0 Innovation In Public Administration As indicated by UNDP (2006, p. 4) a great number of the institutions and organizations in the public sector are perceived as being resistant to institutional reforms; as a matter of fact, many public sector organizations are described as pursuing the capability to carry out activities rather than actual change. This paper supports this multidimensional view of the effects of decentralized policing. Esserman (2001) relates his experiences in restructuring the Stamford, Connecticut police department. Esserman (2001) states that he radically restructured the department by conducting regular meetings with his lieutenants, paying them overtime, and empowering them to formulate their neighborhood district station in whatever way they thought would be most effective. He held them accountable for the crime in their area, and rewarded them for getting the job done. Because the lieutenants were the real bosses of the patrol officers, the empowerment of the lieutenants to lead instead of manage enabled them to be far more effective in the field. Esserman’s (2001) method was highly effective. Bass (2011) reports that crime declined by 70 percent during Esserman’s four year tenure in Stamford. In Esserman’s next four years in Providence, Rhode Island crime declined 50 percent (Bass, 2011). Compared to the RPD experience in implementing decentralization, Esserman’s (2001) techniques prove to be far more effective. RPD has yet to even open one district station after three years of commitment to the plan while Esserman was able to initiate it immediately. The primary differences between the two cases are the transformational leadership of Esserman, the lack of empowerment to lieutenants at RPD, and the lack of innovative thinking at RPD in housing the stations and restructuring departments. Esserman’s technique has its roots in community policing, a concept of policing that partners police with the neighborhoods they serve so that people are more cooperative with police, care more for their neighborhoods, and ultimately engage in less criminal activity. Dempsey and Forst (2011) relate research results where community policing initiatives were introduced in which police visited homes, listened to people talk about community problems, and responded with action to address those issues. These initiatives found reductions in criminal activity and increases in people’s willingness to cooperate with police in comparison to those areas where traditional approaches were utilized (Dempsey & Forst, 2011). Looking at Esserman’s results, the decreases in crime are stunning evidence for the effectiveness of his method, but his method is not just community policing as described above. It is essentially a method of human resource management that restructures the organization to reflect the needs of the consumers, i.e. the citizens, and the motivators for the officers as the employees. It is a method based on leadership communication at what one might call the CEO level, networked leadership at the executive level, and departmental conviction and loyalty in the rank and file. Esserman (2001) essentially created a web of communication between leaders that sustained the integrity and unity of the department while simultaneously empowering his lieutenants through increased pay based on initiative and local control of operations. RPD has the resources necessary to implement the redistricting and decentralization plan with Esserman’s techniques of increased communication and incentive pay for lieutenants. Shafritz and Hyde (2011) reveal that budget issues are very important in public administration issues. The police force is currently operating under budget with fewer officers than planned, but a recent report states that the force is large enough to handle demand. With this in mind, overtime pay would not be problematic. In addition, the city has plenty of empty buildings that could serve as district stations and the leadership of the RPD is strong. With this in mind, the full implementation of decentralized policing in Rockford is entirely feasible. 5.0.0 Conclusion As already implied in this paper, the process of reforming the police department by bringing about decentralization is one that requires effective knowledge of public administration techniques and models which will be used to inform the policy decisions carried out. The public administrators involved in the police decentralization process must bear in mind a number of important principles such as equity, organizational effectiveness and service to all stakeholders as they carry out the procedure. Nevertheless, the public administrators involved in this process must also be prepared to challenge any unfavorable efforts by interests groups within the policy process. Thus far, the Rockford Police Department has not been effective in implementing their now three-year-old plan to create three districts in the city for localized policing. The slowness of this implementation is largely due to the challenges of restructuring. As such, this research directly addresses the obstacles that impede progress and change in public management. The results of this research can refine knowledge on transformative change in public administration by showing how impediments can be overcome and how a complete picture of the needs of an organization and those it serves can be developed, implemented, and effectively managed. 6.0.0 References Bass, P. (2011), Esserman Returning As Police Chief, New Haven Independent, Retrieved from: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/wheres_waldo_game_about_to_end/ Citydata.com. (2013), Rockford, Illinois, Retrieved from: http://www.city-data.com/city/Rockford-Illinois.html Dempsey, J. and Forst, L. (2011), An Introduction To Policing, Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning. Department of Justice, U.S. (2011), Chicago: High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Retrieved from: http://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/dmas/Chicago_DMA-2011(U).pdf Esserman, D. (2001), How to Decentralize Control: The Heritage Foundation, Retrieved from: http://www.heritage.org/research/lecture/how-to-decentralize-control-and-get-police-officers-to-love-their-jobs RPD (2012) Strategic plan, Retrieved from: http://www.rockfordil.gov/media/244156/rockford_police_department_strategic_plan1.pdf Shafritz, J. M. and Hyde, A. C., (2011), Classics of Public Administration, Wadsworth Publishing Company UNDP, (2006), Institutional Reform and Change Management: Managing Change in Public Sector Organizations, UNDP Capacity Development Resource, Conference Paper No. 5., pp. 4