Organizational Development in a Law Enforcement Environment

By French, Barbara; Stewart, Jerry | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, September 2001 | Go to article overview
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Organizational Development in a Law Enforcement Environment

French, Barbara, Stewart, Jerry, The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

Today's law enforcement organizations engage new organizational practices that focus on empowerment, teamwork, and participative management. [1] Experts agree that implementation of these designs in law enforcement environments proves challenging. [2] Like many American organizations, law enforcement predominantly still uses old models of bureaucratic design, with power centered at the top, resulting in modest change efforts. The savvy implementation for organizational change remains a primary issue for law enforcement.

Law enforcement organizations that have accepted the challenge of organizational change are prime learning examples for other practitioners. Because learning often is a process of trial and error, the shared experiences of kindred organizations remain extraordinarily powerful learning vehicles. However, police managers must test organizational change models in the context of real organizational experience and practice. This intersection of a theoretical approach and applied practice proves valuable to law enforcement managers by enabling them to take both effective direction and action in their organizational improvement.


The journey of the Florida Department of Insurance, Treasury and Fire Marshal's Division of Fraud (DIF) into organizational development implementation serves as a learning ground and model for law enforcement agencies. With its headquarters in Tallahassee and field offices throughout Florida, the DIF has 121 sworn and 60 nonsworn employees and leads the nation in insurance fraud prosecutions and convictions. Despite its overall success, the DIF director became convinced that the division could improve even further by creating an organizational environment in which empowerment, teamwork, and participative management represent the norm. This illustrates the essence of an organizational attitude that past success should not prevent managers from looking inward for further improvement.

Additionally, the department's overall total quality initiative-a management approach based on participative supervision and the continuous improvement of organizational processes and practices-serves as part of the initial stimuli for the DIF. [3] Managers formed a team within the DIF to determine appropriate strategies and develop an internal plan for organizational development. As part of the overall approach, with the support from division executives, the team decided to do a leadership practices assessment focused on five leadership practices managers should follow. [4]

1) Challenge the process: search out challenging opportunities to change, grow, innovate, and improve; experiment, take risks, and learn from the mistakes.

2) Inspire a shared vision: envision an uplifting and ennobling future; enlist others in a common vision by appealing to their values, interests, hopes, and dreams.

3) Enable others to act: foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust; strengthen people by giving power away and providing choice, develop competence, assign critical tasks, and offer visible support.

4) Model the way: set an example by behaving in ways consistent with shared values; achieve small "wins" that promote consistent progress and build commitment.

5) Encourage the heart: recognize the contributions to the success of every project; celebrate team accomplishments regularly.

Managers shared the assessment results throughout the division and revealed the need for organizational improvement and cultural change. The DIF director and the core leadership team continued to move forward by delving deeper into related issues.


A variety of models exist concerning methods to achieve improvement within the organization. Organizational development (OD) is a model designed for planned, systematic, and ongoing problem-and action-oriented processes that focus on both technical and human improvement within the organization.

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