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Can Empowerment Work in Police Organizations?

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 73 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2006 Pages: 48-55
Todd Wuestewald; Brigitte Steinheider Ph.D.
Date Published
January 2006
8 pages
This article describes the efforts of the Broken Arrow Police Department (Oklahoma) to incorporate frontline personnel into the important decisionmaking processes of the department, followed by a report on the findings of an evaluation of the outcomes of these efforts.
The Broken Arrow Police Department (BAPD) employs 164 full-time personnel and provides a full spectrum of police services to a metropolitan community of 91,000 in northeastern Oklahoma. Since 2003, the BAPD has had participative management in the form of a steering committee called the Leadership Team. It is composed of 12 individuals who represent the police union; management; and most of the divisions, units, ranks, and functions in the department. The Leadership Team is an independent body with authority to make binding decisions on a wide range of policy issues, working conditions, and departmental strategies. The chief's office is not represented on the team, and all decisions are made democratically. The chief retains control of the team's agenda, but once an issue is referred to the team, its decisions are final and binding on all concerned. The team was trained by experts in organizational dynamics in order to facilitate team interactions and communication. An independent evaluation of the effects of the Leadership Team on departmental functioning involved a quantitative comparison of the department before and after the establishment of the team. Dramatic improvement was found in employee relations in such areas as discipline, promotions, hiring, recognition, rewards, and incentives. Various motivational factors also improved. The department's productivity increased as well, as arrests of all types increased, along with traffic citations, field interview reports, and cleared cases. In terms of advancing the contemporary paradigm of community policing, both quantitative and qualitative data showed a greater acceptance of the department's community policing mission by frontline personnel. 3 figures and 20 notes