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Organizational Recommendations to Spur Recruitment: Mitigating Officer Shortage at Centerville Police Department

Organizational Recommendations to Spur Recruitment: Mitigating Officer Shortage at Centerville Police Department

Steve Durchin
Recruitment Officer
Office of the Chief
Centerville Police Department

Report Submitted August 24, 2014


Due to organizational changes made at Centerville PD and the effects these changes have had on staffing and morale, we have found that potential officers do not want to be employed at the department. This report discusses possible changes to our organization that will make recruitment here more attractive to potential officers. These changes involve plans for police socialization, power implementation, and efforts to reduce organizational conflict at the interorganizational and intraorganizational levels.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction. 3
  2. Police Socialization 4
    1. Police Culture Background 4
    2. Strategies to Aid Recruitment 5
    3. Anticipated Issues 5
  1. Distribution of Power 6
    1. Types of Power Arrangements 6
    2. Officer Concerns 7
    3. Implementation Strategy 7
  2. Reduction of Organizational Conflict 7
    1. Current Issues 7
    2. Mitigation Strategies 9
  3. Conclusions 9
  4. Recommendations 10
  5. References 11


Due to recent difficulty Centerville Police Department has had in recruiting new officers, the Department authorized a study to analyze reasons for this difficulty. The researchers found that recent organizational change at the Department is partly to blame; another factor lies in reduced access to the traditional recruitment pool. The second condition is something we have little control over, but must be kept in mind as we vie for recruits. The recent organizational changes, however, are something we do have control of. Specifically, the research group found that the changes have resulted in poor job responsibility definitions, an inconsistent workload varying from overload to boredom, an abuse of power by line supervisors in assigning workloads, and most crucially, that changes in policing policies are vastly different then what new recruits are expecting.
It is not surprising that the recent changes have led to negative consequences; Crank and Langworthy point out that “organizationally-based reform efforts, however, seldom have achieved the desired goals”(1992, pp.339-340). Furthermore, Braga & Weisburd contend that community policing
has not been found to be effective in preventing crime( 2006, p. 13) These new programs of policing add to the traditional influences of stress on the police officer. Shane identifies two areas that contribute to officer stress, “job content” (or the operational environment), and “job context” (or the organizational environment), and that “job context” is part of the daily hassle. (2013, p. 1) Braga and Weisburd suggest that a plethora of police reform has added to the workload of the line officer; community oriented policing, problem oriented policing, “quality of life” policing (2006, p 5) Part of the “job text” strain comes from additional demand upon the officer; “To effectively implement a community policing or problem-oriented approach, police officers require more technical skills, and greater language and cultural awareness. In addition to new tasks for the organization, new skills
may be required of individual police officers” (Raymond, 2005, p.6) Shane notes that even management changes intended to improve communications between line and management can cause issues. (2013 p. 2)
This office intends to mitigate some of these negative consequences through a tripartite strategy aimed at socialization of officers, an effective distribution of power within the department, and approaches to resolving organizational conflicts. There will necessarily be some fluidity within this discussion, as social norms are affected by formal and informal power structures, social norms influence organizational conflict, conflict management results in the reorganization of both formal and informal power distribution. Each iteration of change within these arrangements can either add stress to an officer's workday, or lessen that load. However, this is necessary, as the “process of personnel
selection, training, monitoring, and support is key to a successful police department. Every
police manager and supervisor shares in the responsibility for recruiting, developing, and
retaining high-quality individuals” (Raymond, 2005, p.1)

Police socialization

Police Culture Background

Paoline notes that the traditional description of police culture are based upon the cultural norms of police that manage the personal strains involved with being a policeman.(2004, p. 207) Herbert defines some of the normative orders that shape this culture;the law, bureaucratic control, adventure/machismo, safety, competence, and morality (1998). As we shall see, several of these orders have relation to the concepts of reform we will be suggesting.
New recruits are attracted to police work in the anticipatory stage of socialization. The views that potential recruits hold of how the department operates plays a role in whether that potential recruit decides to join our department. Crank and Langworthy discuss how a police department can lose legitimacy in the eyes of the public; this concept can be extrapolated to the perceptions that potential recruits have as well. (1992, p.358) The Police Academy, and the rookie tour are the sources of formal socialization for new policemen, although the rookie tour will expose the new policeman to the real working conditions of police life beginning the informal socialization process. Informal socialization will continue through the policeman's career.

Strategies to Aid Recruitment

Strategies for adjusting the socialization process are mainly dependent of the results of other reforms; either reform makes our department an attractive prospect for recruits, or it does not. Ongoing training also plays a role in the socialization process.
Crank and Langworthy, in their discussion of legitimacy, contribute the idea of ceremonial ritual to re-establish legitimacy. (1992, p.358) For our purposes, we can institute a public relations campaign describing the success of our reforms in reducing the strain previous reforms have added to the policeman' life.
We also suggest that an ongoing training program to reinforce the positive norms of police culture be established; this training program will also maintain awareness of the department's overall strategies. Training should be conducted by officers that have been selected on their capability of having a direct influence on officers. Raymond suggests a parallel between military training programs and police training programs in there intense initial entry and ongoing career training.(2005, xi) This ongoing training contributes to the collective socialization process.

Anticipated Issues

We can foresee opposition to these changes from the influences that introduced the original changes in the first place; “it is a common lament among those seeking to improve policing that the policing 'craft'” or the culmination of knowledge based on hands-on experience, is a feature of police culture that poses a formidable obstacle to implementing new policies and practices” (Willis, 2013, p.2) However, Willis does go on to discussing ways in which policing theory can be combined with policing experience for a better overall policing strategy. We hope to aspire to this in our proposed reforms.

Distribution of Power

Types of Power Arrangements

French and Raven attempt to define power from it's various sources of origination; legitimate power, referent power, expert power, reward power, and coercive power ( 2001, pp. 309-326) These bases of power are reflected in various ways throughout police command structures and through working relationships. Although researchers tend to criticize the paramilitary command structure, more focus should be placed on the tall power structure of bureaucracy. The bureaucratic structure is based on legitimate power, and theoretically provides cohesion and coherence. (Herbert, 1998)
One negative consequence is that command structures have also “become increasingly bureaucratized, especially since the 'reform era' when police leaders struggled to combat extensive corruption problems.” (Chappell & Lanza-Kaduce, 2010, p. 2) This leads to the types of intraorganizational conflict we shall discuss in that section.
Other types of power can be expressed either within the chain of command without being bureaucratized; Morreale contends that “Knowledge, trust and power are three essential forces of high-performance leadership” (n.d., p.5) Expert and referent power are reflected here. Chief Vollmer is a prime example of this in that he used his leadership qualities to reform police practice nationally. (Crank & Langworthy, 1992, pp.353)

Officer Concerns

Officers have expressed a range of concerns related to efficiency, personal safety, and their relation to power. Efficiency plays a large part of job satisfaction, and thus acts a mitigating factor in job strain. “job dissatisfaction is a result of strict policies, overemphasis on rules, inadequate working conditions, and poor interpersonal relationships” (Zhao, Thurman, & He, 1999) . Increased workload from implementation of new policy adds to this ; “Problem-oriented policing is a concept that calls on a patrol officer to address many calls for service in a substantive manner rather than through the superficial approach, which is common in many police systems. “(Cooper, 1997, p. 89) Considering the lack of understanding new roles and the possible lack some skills, the immediate peer support of using two-unit patrols becomes apparent. Indeed, del Carmen and Guevera found that officers perceived two-unit patrols both more effective and safer then one-unit patrols. (2003, p.146)

Implementation Strategy

There is an overlap between the strategies that deal with distribution of power and those that reduce organizational conflict. However, one organizational change we recommend at this point would be the implementation of two-unit patrols; we find that having two officers on scene increases the likelihood of having required skills, increases efficiency, increases officer safety, and thus increases the levels of referent power, expert power, and coercive power for the line officer.

Reduction of Organizational Conflict

Current Issues

We touched on the issue of bureaucracy and undue burdens on workload in the “Distribution of Power” section, but return to the subject with specific examples of organizational conflict. Herbert gives us an example of an LAPD officer who was engaged in a pursuit of a felony suspect, but was ordered to cease the chase by his watch commander. The officer continued the chase and captured the suspect. The officer was interested in enforcing the law; although his action violated the bureaucratic chain of command during the pursuit. (1998). In the case of our own department, the actions of line supervisors created vertical conflict with unfair and excessive work assignments. However, line officers are not the only ones who experience intraorganizational conflict; line supervisors also find issues with command structures; “This was evident in the frustrations that the supervisors discussed about peers who did not confront poor behavior in officers, tried to be friends and not supervisors to line officers”(Serier, 2011, p. 84)
Organizational conflict is often the result of a lack of unity in attaining realistic goals; the structure of organizations is often dependent on those goals. We feel that the direction of our policing strategy can benefit from the examination of our overall policy goal. Braga and Weisburd point us in the right direction with the concept of “hot spot” policing; 10% of victims represent 40% of victimizations, 10% of offenders cause over 50% of crime, and 10% of locations are the site of 60% of crime. (2006). In addition, Crank and Langworthy cite increasing body of study suggesting preventive patrol is not effective in preventing crimes. (1992, pp. 344-345). Finally, Guffey, Larson, & Kelso found a negative correlation between police officer staffing and the crime rates. (2010)
Braga and Weisburd quote Bratton (the NYPD reformer that turned that city's crime rate around) on effective chain of command:
We created a system in which the police commissioner, with his executive core, first e powers and then interrogates the precinct commander, forcing him or her to come up with a plan to attack crime. But it should not stop there. At the next level done, it should be the precinct commander, taking the same role as the commissioner, empowering and interrogating the platoon commander. Then , at the third level, the platoon commander should be asking his sergeants... all the way down until every one in the entire organization is empowered and motivated, active and assessed and successful. It work s in all organizations, whether it’s 38,000 cops or Mayberry, R.F.D (Braga & Weisburd, 2006, p. 6)
Mitigation Strategies

Our first strategy for combating organizational conflict also has the benefit of a more effective power distribution as discussed in the previous section. Our solution is to move to a flatter command structure with two-unit patrol teams on the bottom, and the minimum amount of supervisors required to ensure effective supervision, to support the line teams, and to ensure that each level of police is treated fairly. This strategy also minimizes vertical conflict within the department.
Our second strategy is to pursue a “pulling levers” strategy focusing on the “hot spots” of crime. Braga and Weisburd describe the “pulling levers” strategy as identifying key offending patterns, then collaborating resources from other agencies and targeting the offenders with a varied set of tools. (2006, p. 6) By utilizing other agencies to achieve common goal, interorganizational conflict patterns can be minimized.

People join the police to fight crime, redirecting their efforts they perceive as to social work and hampering even those efforts makes the job of a policeman less attractive to potential officers.
Criminal justice researchers have decried the “paramilitary” structure of police management without considering that it is the bureaucratic aspects of command that have hindered police work by creating additional strain.
By combining a more effective, safer system with officers unhindered by organizational conflict, and by socializing the factors which create motivated officers within this system, we can make Centerville Police Department an organization that officers will want to work for.


  1. A public relations campaign to explain how a new program of organization and departmental strategy will be more effective and relieve organizationally based job stress on officers. This PR campaign is dependent on the success of other reforms.
  2. An ongoing training program to reinforce the positive norms of police culture that aid in reducing job stress; this training program will also maintain awareness of the department's overall strategies.
  3. Implementation of two-unit patrols; having immediate peer support increases officer efficiency and safety; it also increases the power held by the line officer
  4. Move to a flatter command structure with less management and greater responsibility on the line; however, a clearly defined chain of command is maintained.
  5. Focus the overall crime fighting mission of the department to a “pulling levers” strategy targeting the “hot spots” of crime; this clarifies the goals and duties of the line officer, shares goals and responsibilities with other interested agencies, and reduces the potential for organizational conflict within our own department as well as with other agencies.

Braga, A. A., & Weisburd, D. L. (2006). Police Innovation and Crime Prevention: Lessons Learned from Police Research over the Past 20 Years. Retrieved from http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/218585.pdf?q=ideas-in-american-policing

Chappell, A. T., & Lanza-Kaduce, L. (2010). Police academy socialization: Understanding the lessons learned in a paramilitary-bureaucratic organization. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 39(2), 187–214. doi:10.1177/0891241609342230

Cooper, C. (1997). Patrol police officer conflict resolution processes. Journal of Criminal Justice, 25(2), 87–101. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047235296000530

Crank, J. P., & Langworthy, R. (1992, Summer). An institutional perspective of policing. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 338–363. Retrieved August 10, 2014 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1143860

Del Carmen, A., & Guevera, L. (2003). Police officers on two-officer units: A study of attitudinal responses towards a patrol experiment. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 26(1). doi:10.1108/13639510310460332

French, J. R., & Raven, B. (2001). The bases of social power. Modern Classics of Leadership, 2, 309–326. Retrieved August 24, 2014 from http://pdf-release.net/external/2807185/pdf-release-dot-net-the_bases_of_social_power_-_chapter_20.pdf

Guffey, J. E., Larson, J. G., & Kelso, C. (2010). Police officer staffing: Analyzing the Commonly Held Belief that More Cops Equals Less Crime1. Professional Issues in Criminal Justice, 52(2). Retrieved August 10, 2014 from http://kucampus.kaplan.edu/documentstore/Docs10/pdf/CJ/PICJ/PICJ_V5N2_3_Guffey_29_43.pdf

Herbert, S. (1998). Police subculture reconsidered. Criminology, 36(2). Retrieved August 21, 2014 from http://clontz.mc-companies.com/additional_readings/subculture.htm

Morreale, S. (n.d.). Law enforcement leadership:Literature and practice. New England Community-Police Partnership. Retrieved Retrieved August 15, 2014 from http://www.fstopltd.com/Police_Leadership.pdf

Paoline, E. A. (2004). Shedding light on police culture: An examination of officers’ occupational attitudes. Police Quarterly, 7(2), 205–236. doi:10.1177/1098611103257074

Raymond, B. (2005). Police personnel challenges after September 11: Anticipating expanded duties and a changing labor pool. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corp. Retrieved August 10, 2014 from Open WorldCat, ISBN 0833038508 9780833038500

Serier, J. (2011). Cop confidential: Police supervision and sub-culture (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved August 10, 2014 from http://ir.stthomas.edu/caps_ed_lead_docdiss/20/

Shane, J. M. (2013). Daily work experiences and police performance. Police Practice and Research, 14(1), 17–34. doi:10.1080/15614263.2011.596717

Willis, J. J. (2013). Improving police: What’s  craft got to do with it? Ideas in American Policing, 16. Retrieved August 10, 2014 from https://www.policefoundation.org/sites/g/files/g798246/f/201306/IAP16_Willis_2.pdf

Zhao, J., Thurman, Q., & He, N. (1999). Sources of job satisfaction among police officers: A test of demographic and work environment models. Justice Quarterly, 16(1), 153–173. doi:10.1080/07418829900094091

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