Organizational Change in Law Enforcement: Community-Oriented Policing as Transformational Leadership

By Pyle, Benjamin Schultz; Cangemi, Joseph | Organization Development Journal, Winter 2019 | Go to article overview

Organizational Change in Law Enforcement: Community-Oriented Policing as Transformational Leadership


Pyle, Benjamin Schultz, Cangemi, Joseph, Organization Development Journal


Glossary of Terms

Police Chief, Chief of Police, Chief Officer of Police, Chief Police Officer: The highestranking officer within a police department; an appointed or elected official who oversees departmental operations and police officer performance.

Law Enforcement Supervisors/Managers: Oversee individual divisions within police departments.

Police Leadership/Upper Management: Denotes a distinction between higher-ranked officials within departments such as chiefs, assistant/ deputy chiefs, commanders, captains, and lieutenants as opposed to sergeants, detectives, and officers.

Stamper (2016), a former police chief and officer of 34 years before his retirement in 2000, argued the apparently permanent tensions between problematic police actions and public scrutiny stem from systemic issues that will inherently remain unaddressed without comprehensive institutional reform of law enforcement practices. The best approach to addressing modern-day concerns of police decision-making procedures, Stamper suggested, would embrace a community-oriented policing paradigm, radically transforming the role of law enforcement toward one of full partnership between officers and citizens in best serving the needs of their shared communities. Communityoriented policing procedures have existed since the 1980s, but Ponsaers (2001) argued due to a lack of consistent definitions, nor a clearly established and agreed-upon theoretical basis for this paradigm, many efforts at community-oriented reform lie in the responsibility of individual police chiefs and political leaders to determine the approach and efficacy of departmental policies. This lack of consistency regarding community-oriented policing practices impedes widespread implementation of a direly necessary paradigm.

However, a theoretical basis for communityoriented policing currently exists; it merely requires further empirical justification. Vinzant and Crothers (1994) explored interactions between police and the public, arguing street-level officers play an essential role within their communities as individual leaders. In consideration of evaluative criteria for understanding officers' roles and their integration into a community-oriented policing context, Vinzant and Crothers drew upon Burns' (1978) theory of transformational leadership. Burns (2003) explained a consistent factor in effectively leading others depends on how "the needs are defined and their satisfaction sought on the needing person's terms" (p. 240). Northouse (2015) defined transformational leadership as "the process whereby a person engages with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower" (p. 162). Expanding on the influence of transformational processes, Wood, Fleming, and Marks (2008) likewise argued that individual officers of all ranks contain the capacity to grow into leaders of change within their communities. The authors suggested due to all officers' equal consideration as change agents, "the challenge before us is to...establish the conditions that build this capacity...'from the bottom up'" (Wood, Fleming, & Marks, 2008, p. 75).

Furthermore, Silvestri (2007) provided a conceptual bridge between officers' roles and change efforts, arguing officers who utilize transformational leadership styles, most notably female officers, proved more successful in effecting organizational and community change. Unfortunately, Silvestri also offered the police organization as a whole persists in utilizing more transactional rather than transformational leadership practices. Northouse (2015) defined transactional leadership as a style whose primary focus pertains to an exchange of services through a system of rewards and punishments. Rather than prioritizing a unique connection with followers, the transactional relationship emphasizes performance through strict compliance to policy and procedure, essentially depersonalizing all aspects of organizational processes. …

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