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Multiagency Teams: A Leadership Challenge

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 71 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2004 Pages: 142,145,153
A. R. Gehl M.A.
Date Published
October 2004
This study examined the cultural practices and communications protocols that either aid or inhibit the ability of police agencies to sustain effective multiagency teams.
Sponsored by the Justice Institute of British Columbia, 10 police officials from across Canada were interviewed regarding their experiences with creating and sustaining multiagency teams. The interview results suggested that police culture, while positive in many respects, can also have negative outcomes that include barriers to effective communication with those perceived as outsiders. Thus, utilizing the positive aspects of police camaraderie while tempering the negative outcomes is vital to sustaining effective multiagency teams. The six significant police cultural practices that effect multiagency teams are identified: turf, the bigger-is-better perception, case ownership, secrecy, organizational isolation, and valuing individuals above the team. The systemic barriers to sustaining effective multiagency teams are also discussed and include a lack of a common database system, the paramilitary structure of policing, politics and regionalization, organized labor problems, the lack of a common case management system, resource issues, and policy differences. Next, three themes regarding communications protocols for effective multiagency teams are identified as: (1) communications that drive timely decisionmaking to form a multiagency team; (2) communications that endure the functionality of multiagency teams; and (3) communications that satisfy the needs of the member organizations. Recommendations are made regarding specific actions under each protocol, such as using clear memorandums of understanding to meet the second protocol regarding communications to spur functionality. While sustaining multiagency teams will continue to prove challenging, the issues identified through this research should aid leaders and decisionmakers in ensuring the effectiveness of their multiagency teams.