Psychology and Policing

By Neil Brewer; Carlene Wilson | Go to book overview

13
Group Performance and Decision Making

Gordon E. O'Brien The Flinders University of South Australia

In police organizations, much of the work is done by small groups. These groups are given responsibility for specific tasks. Thus there are groups responsible for diverse tasks such as monitoring of traffic flow, supervision of crowds, control of drug use, vice, and gambling. Other groups are involved in crime processing which involve solving cases of crime such as murder, fraud, and sexual assault. There are also groups involved in dealing with immediate demands for assistance by citizens made by phone, in the street, or at the local station or precinct. At higher levels, policy groups make decisions about allocation of resources and methods of implementing community-based demands for new forms of police organization.

Because group performance and decision making is a common feature of police organizations it is pertinent to refer to the literature about the effective ways of assessing and improving group performance. There are few studies of group performance of police groups but the psychological studies of groups, in general, provide guidelines or principles that could be useful for assessing and improving the performance of police groups. A few studies have examined police groups and have suggested that police organizations could examine and improve their performance ( Adamson & Deszca, 1990; Fry & Slocum, 1984; Manning, 1983). However, improvements should be implemented using established principles of group design. This chapter examines some of the identified determinants of group performance. The chapter draws on research with various industrial and laboratory groups and tries to identify major factors that affect group performance.

Group performance is determined by both member resources and the structure of the group. Obviously a group performs best when its members have the

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