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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Interorganizational Conflict

“The criminal justice system is often viewed as a 'nonsystem' due to it's decentralized and fragmented nature”(Welsh & Pontell, 1991, p.74) Although the decentralized description can be explained by the multi-jurisdictional nature of our political system, how can the fragmented description be explained in agencies whose sole function is criminal justice administration? The main explanation for this can be found in the concept of interorganizational conflict. Stojkovic states that this type of conflict “occurs when different organizations share a common purpose but disagree about how that purpose will be achieved. This type of conflict arises when one organization (such as one component of the criminal justice system) perceives its goals and objectives to be in conflict with those of other organizations.”(2014, p. 320). Interorganizational conflict within the criminal justice system has been a point of some study:
“a conference was held at the School of Criminal Justice at Albany in which probation and police officials were asked to identify types of conflict existing between their agencies. The four types studied were: (1) conflict based on dissensus reflecting differences in values among groups within a system; (2) conflict arising from status and esteem differentials between individuals ; (3) operational conflict which is centered in the differences which occur when interrelated agencies seek to serve their own organizational requirements; and (4) perceptual conflict, the result of distortions which prevent a clear image of the duties, functions, and purposes of others in the system from being transmitted effectively. “ (O'Leary & Newman, 1970, Abstract)
We can see that interorganizational conflict shares some characteristics with other levels of organizational conflict in general. The first example of this comes into play with a comparison of two extremes in group values within a criminal justice system. The first extreme is the case of “The Punishers”; “a rogue element in the Milwaukee police department that operated under a set of norms that treated criminal suspects very harshly and outside the pale of departmental policies and procedures and existing laws.” (Stojkovic, 2014, p. 313) We will look at further at their motivations in a moment. The second extreme is the case of the LAPD Rampart Division’s CRASH unit, which abused the criminal justice system on the basis of gang allegiance and personal corruption. In both extremes, we can see the group values within the organization having a dissenual effect with other criminal justice organizations.
Interorganizational conflict can also be based on individual differences, and not solely on status or esteem issues, such as suggested by O'Leary and Newman. Miller discusses the ideological basis that individuals hold as well as their weighting within different elements of the criminal justice system, such as the prevalence of a conservative view among policemen as opposed to the likelihood of of liberal views amongst members of the judiciary. “The major contention of this presentation is that ideology and its consequences exert a powerful influence on the policies and procedures of those who conduct the enterprise of criminal justice, and that the degree and kinds of influence go largely unrecognized. Ideology is the permanent hidden agenda of criminal justice.”(Miller, 1973, para. 10) In the case of The Punishers, it is obvious their motivation lay in perception that justice was not being done, and can be explained by Miller's proposition.
Operational conflict as suggested by O'Leary and Newman can be best explained with growth complex theory ( or bureaucratic politics, or Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy). An organization grows, and as it grows, it begins to replace it's founding goal with the goal of advancing the organization.
One example of perceptual conflict is discussed by members of the Center for Technology in Government, who found in their dealings with criminal justice agencies an unwillingness to cooperate; “Their resistance to move beyond information exchange to truly collaborate in integrating information across agencies came from their organizational cultures and their previous experiences of joint projects” (Bodor, Thompson, & Demir├živi, 2003, p.4) .
However, we should not paint a picture of a criminal justice system in complete dysfunction, with officers of each agency hiding behind squad car doors or stacks of legal books glaring at each other with uncooperative eyes. Some of the same factors that build good leadership can also be used to promote goal sharing and conflict management. Informal communications between respective members of various agencies has often been used to cut the red tape, and formal organizations such as task forces have often been used to collaborate efforts. “Federally led law enforcement task forces and intelligence information sharing centers are ubiquitous in domestic policing. They are launched at the local, state, and national levels and respond to a variety of challenges such as violent crime, criminal gangs, terrorism, white-collar crime, public corruption, even intelligence sharing.”(Bjelopera & Finklea, 2014, p.3)










Bjelopera, J., & Finklea, K. M. (2014). Domestic Federal law enforcement coordination: Through the lens of the Southwest border. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from http://fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R43583.pdf

Bodor, T., Thompson, F., & Demir├živi, F. (2003). Criminal justice cultures in the United States: A context for understanding aspects of organizational change. Center for Technology in Government. Retrieved August 19, 2014 from https://ctg.albany.edu/publications/journals/hpa_2004_criminal/hpa_2004_criminal.pdf

Miller, W. (1973). Ideology and criminal justice policy: Some current issues. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 64(2). Retrieved August 19, 2014 from http://www.hhs.csus.edu/Homepages/CJ/BikleB/Miller%20-%20Ideology%20and%20Criminal%20Justice%20Policy.htm

O'Leary, V., and Newman, D. (1970, July). Conflict resolution in criminal justice.
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 7:2 pp. 99-119, doi: 10.1177/002242787000700201

Stojkovic, S. (2014). Criminal justice organizations [VitalSouce bookshelf version]. Retrieved August 19, 2014 from http://digitalbookshelf.southuniversity.edu/books/9781305465695/id/ch11-L11-1
Welsh, W. N., & Pontell, H. N. (1991). Counties in court: Interorganizational adaptations to jail litigation in California. Law and Society Review, 73–101. Retreived August 21, 2014 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3053890

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