Reinventing or repackaging public services? The case of community-oriented policing

Author: Gianakis, Gerasimos A; Davis, G John III Source: Public Administration Review v58n6 (Nov 1998): 485-498 ISSN: 0033-3352 Number: 04031200 Copyright: Copyright American Society for Public Administration 1998


What are local law enforcement organizations adopting under the banner of community-oriented policing? Does implementation of community-oriented policing entail changes to the traditional structure of local law enforcement agencies? To what extent are implementation and structural changes being supported by changes in operational policies and administrative systems? The authors address these issues through a survey of local law enforcement agencies in Florida. They find that community-oriented policing manifests itself in a variety of forms, but they all seem to center on changing the officer rather than the organization. Even when structural change occurs, the impact on existing policies and systems is minimal The authors question the long range prospects for this innovation.

If the sound bites of the reinventing government movement are ever to attain the status of sound scripture, they must first be operationalized in terms of specific services. These slogans call for a market-oriented, customer-driven government, owned by empowered communities and featuring decentralized services focused on preventing rather than on curing. These new initiatives are delivered by public organizations employing participative, team-oriented management systems and results-oriented evaluative criteria (Osborne and Gaebler, 1992). Although community policing builds on previous innovations in policing, such as problem-oriented policing (Goldstein, 1990; 1979) and team policing (Schwartz and Clarren, 1977; Sherman et al., 1973) that predate the formal reinventing government movement, community policing has become recognized as the law enforcement manifestation of that movement (Turner and Wiatrowski, 1995). Like outcome-oriented, mission driven government, community p! olicing has become a global phenomenon (Bayley, 1994a; Weatheritt, 1991) that reflects reinvention's market values and outcome-oriented management precepts.

In his capacity as chairman of the Task Force on Government Accomplishment and Accountability of the American Society for Public Administration, Raymond T. Olsen reviewed nearly 40 case studies of outcome management strategies in the public sector, and he concluded that the core management systems of the organizations pursuing these strategies were generally not being realigned to accommodate them (Olsen, 1997); that is, these management systems continue to reinforce a process of control rather than supporting a results-driven orientation.

This article examines the implementation of the community policing model by local law enforcement agencies in Florida. It focuses on the extent to which adoption has affected existing policies, procedures, and organizational structures. Local law enforcement service delivery systems have typically been housed in hierarchical bureaucracies featuring command-and-control management systems. Such systems would appear to be antithetical to the spirit and substance of community policing.

Community policing has suffered from conceptual confusion in both research and practice (Roberg and Kuykendall, 1993; Wycoff, 1991; Greene and Taylor, 1991). Community policing has been implemented in a wide variety of ways, manifesting differences in personnel, organizational structures, deployment schemes, patrol modes, operational functions, geographical scopes, and degree of involvement of citizens and coordination with external agencies (Bayley, 1994a; 1994b; Sadd and Grinc, 1994). However, despite this confusion, community policing is widely accepted by politicians and police professionals as an innovative way to deliver police services (Eck and Rosenbaum, 1994). As early as 1984, 143 police agencies surveyed nationally reported utilizing community policing (Trojanowicz and Harden, 1985). Forty-two percent of all police departments serving populations of over 50,000 recently reported that they had adopted some form of community policing (Trojanowicz, 1994).

For Bayley (1994a) the basic elements of community policing are: consultation with community groups regarding their security needs; command devolution so that those closest to the community can determine how to best respond to those needs; mobilization of agencies other than the police to assist in addressing those needs; and remedying the conditions that generate crime and insecurity through focused problem solving. He and others (Moore, 1994; Eck and Rosenbaum, 1994) are comfortable with the ambiguity that surrounds the concept, but Wycoff (1991) suggests that it may now be a barrier to effective communication about police practices. Walker (1992) notes that community policing may be victimized by its popularity and rapid expansion inasmuch as proper planning and implementation appear to be lacking. Moore calls for "a survey of the field of policing to determine to what extent community policing is moving from rhetorical to operational levels throughout the country&q! uot; (298). Like the reinventing government movement in general, the question of whether the community policing model represents a lasting innovation is very much an open one.

Issues in Community Policing

Community policing calls for a new breed of police officer (Trojanowicz and Bucqueroux, 1990) operationalizing a new professionalism based on democratic values such as participation and openness, rather than on technological values rooted in substantive expertise (Skolnick and Fyfe, 1995). The community policing officer negotiates and designs policing for particular areas (Bayley, 1994a), and these policing strategies are directed to proactive prevention rather than reactive detection (Trojanowicz and Bucqueroux, 1990). One issue that emerges here is whether these attitudinal and behavioral changes at the police officer level will be supported by structural changes in the police organization. Conventional wisdom in organization theory holds that an organization's structure should be designed to optimize the functioning of its operational technology. However, it is possible that the "911" emergency response function will continue to drive the structure of the polic! e organization, and the community policing model will be forced to find its place within the hierarchical military model that has traditionally housed this reactive function. The maintenance of a dual proactive/reactive patrol capacity would certainly strain the resources of most agencies.

In order to successfully implement their community policing programs, most researchers contend that police organizations must adopt an "organic" organizational structure, a participatory management style, new reward structures, new training programs and selection criteria, and new control systems (Roberg, 1994; Kelling and Moore, 1991). Skolnick and Fyfe (1995) identify a decentralized command structure as an essential element of community policing. For Trojanowicz and Bucqueroux (1990), community policing entails the formal enrichment or enlargement of the job of patrol officer, and increasing the autonomy of the patrol officer calls for the enlargement of citizen participation as oversight to prevent potential abuses. Hence, the community policing model makes a host of demands on the hierarchical, military model, which has been largely closed to public participation. This may be the reason that in 1994, Moore could report that "in practice, no department ha! s yet fully implemented community policing as an overall philosophy" (290).

Following Bittner's (1970) classic analysis of the police function, Klockars (1991) suggests that community policing "is best understood as the latest in a fairly long tradition of circumlocutions whose purpose is to conceal, mystify, and legitimate police distribution of nonnegotiably coercive force" (240). These circumlocutions are necessary because the police function is inherently offensive but society must nevertheless reconcile itself to its necessity. Bittner described the first three of these circumlocutions-the legalization, the militarization, and the professionalization of the police function. For Klockars, community policing is an attempt to clothe coercive force in the attractive weave of community, cooperation, and crime prevention; but "police can no more create community or solve problems of urban anomie than they can be legalized into agents of the court or depoliticized into pure professionals" (1991, 257). Other researchers question th! e very concept of "community" (Crank, 1994). Community policing focuses on maintaining order, and the political community defines public order; however, the necessary political consensus may prove to be elusive, particularly in the areas that are most afflicted with "disorder" (Mastrofski, 1991). Buerger (1994) suggests that community mobilization may also be difficult. He believes that the community policing model does not seek to "empower" communities but rather to enhance the police response to crime through intelligence gathering. A full partnership and true co-production of police services would entail some "civilianization" of police positions and an enhanced public oversight of police activities.

Formal evaluations of some manifestations of community policing have been undertaken (Rosenbaum, 1994; Greene and Mastrofski, 1991). These studies have yielded small positive effects or contradictory results, and they have been plagued by methodological problems, including weak implementations of the program (Bayley, 1994b; Greene and Taylor, 1991). The selection of criteria for evaluating these programs highlights some of the issues regarding the ambiguity of the community policing concept. Moore (1994) suggests that the reduction of the fear of victimization and increases in feelings of security have independent value apart from any actual reduction in crime rates. For Moore, community mobilization and the enhancement of community control are also valued ends in themselves. Shaw (1993) contends that community policing efforts should be evaluated on the extent to which they are successful in restructuring police organizations so that they may continue to be adaptive and in! novative, and enhance the creative potential of their personnel. Greene and Taylor (1991) suggest more technical evaluation criteria that still reflect the spirit of community policing, such as the number of crimes committed by persons from outside the community.

Despite these real and potential problems, Wilkinson and Rosenbaum contend that "the fundamental question about community policing in the 1990s is not 'should it be implemented?'-the concept is already extremely popular with policy makers-but rather 'how should it be implemented?" (1994, 125). However, the model is clearly plagued by conceptual confusion, and it will be implemented in an organizational structure that may be antithetical to its basic precepts.

Issues in the Organization of Law Enforcement

The local police organization is treated in the literature as an example of what Meyer and Rowan (1983) called the "institutionalized organization." These are organizations employing ambiguous technologies in uncertain environments that produce outcomes that are difficult to appraise. Hence, issues of appropriate technology and structural adaptation to environmental change cannot be resolved on the basis of efficiency. In response to this uncertainty, "internal participants and external constituents alike call for institutionalized rules that promote trust and confidence in outputs and buffer organizations from failure" (Meyer and Rowan, 1983, 36). However, institutional rules inevitably come into conflict with whatever efficiency criteria may exist, because "the generalized rules of the institutional environment are often inappropriate to specific situations" (Meyer and Rowan, 1983, 37).

Meyer and Rowan (1983) identify four possible organizational responses to the dynamic tension created by the need to conform to "ceremonial" rules in order to maintain legitimacy and the need to resolve the uncertainties regarding day to day operations precipitated by that conformance. First, the organization can resist the incorporation of ceremonial rules, but it may then be unable to establish its legitimacy based on efficiency criteria. Second, it can maintain conformity by cutting off environmental relations, but this would be tantamount to acknowledging that the operational "myths" embodied in the institution's rules don't actually work. Third, the organization can acknowledge that its structure does not manifest an optimal response to the demands of its operational environment, but this would surely compromise its claims to legitimacy. Fourth, the organization can promise reforms in the future, but this may also weaken the case for current legitim! acy. Alternatively, the organization can decouple its formal structures from its operational activities. "The assumption that formal structures are working is buffered from the inconsistencies and anomalies involved in technical activities" (Meyer and Rowan, 1983, 39). Rather than focusing on the coordination and control of operational activities on the basis of efficiency criteria, management becomes a largely ceremonial function focusing on elaborate displays of confidence, satisfaction, and good faith in the face of ambiguous goals.

In the police literature, the elements of the institutionalized organization are expressed as the "dual realities" of policing that precipitate the "bifurcation of authority" that characterizes the typical police organization (Brown, 1981), and the dichotomy between "management cops and street cops" that yields the "two cultures of policing" (Reuss-Ianni and Ianni, 1983; Reuss-Ianni, 1983). In his research, Caiden observed that "the top and bottom of the police department were two different worlds.... There was no central control, only an insistence on authority and a pervading sense of powerlessness" (1977, 15). The strategies of the institutionalized organization are clearly manifested in the community policing movement: the promise of future reform; the display of good faith and confidence; the promulgation of ambiguous goals and the implementation of uncertain technologies; the avoidance of evaluation on the basis of eff! iciency criteria in favor of "good faith" criteria; and the idea that the new model is simply a reaction to the failure of the reactive model, which severed ties with the community and endangered the legitimacy of the organization.

Does the community policing model represent an attempt to couple operational activities and the environment in which they occur more closely with formal organizational structures in order to enhance the technical efficiency of those activities, or is community policing simply a strategy to buttress the legitimacy of the existing formal structures while leaving them intact? The continued commitment of the police establishment to evaluation through bureaucratic displays is evinced by another recent innovation, the police accreditation movement. Alternatively, if the organization's formal structures are effectively buffered from the operational environment, could it be feasible to implement community policing as simply an operational technology buffered from the formal organization? The requirements for participation, openness, empowerment, and decentralization, as well as the lessons learned from the failure of the team policing innovation in the 1970s-strongly resisted by mi! ddle managers facing marginalization (Roberg, 1994; Sherman et al., 1973)-suggest not.


Table 1 lists alternative community policing models in order of increasing organizational pervasiveness, and it depicts the percentage of the responding law enforcement agencies employing each model. The adoption rates of the three types of agencies examined are also displayed. In each case, the most common variant employed was restructuring patrol operations with decentralized substations-a fairly pervasive implementation featuring geographic decentralization and impacts on the patrol function as a whole. The second most common model adopted, except for police agencies, was the addition of specialized sworn patrol units to the traditional patrol function. The percentage of agencies indicating that they had adopted community policing only as a department philosophy is rather small given the fact that community policing is often described as a philosophy rather than a technology. The type of model adopted was not associated with agency type, agency size (measured by number o! f sworn personnel), or whether the agency was accredited. Analysis also indicated that there were no statistically significant relationships among the three agency variables, except that accreditation tended to be more common among large agencies (Cramer's V = .23; significance = .05). For the remainder of the analysis, the respondents were divided into two groups based on their level of adoption: those adopting variants featuring "philosophy only" or "specialized units" (minimal implementation), and those entailing some level of "restructuring" (maximal implementation). A separate analysis conducted on this variable and a dichotomized version of the date of adoption variable yielded no significant differences in level of implementation associated with date of adoption, so that the possibility that minimal implementation was simply a transitional stage was discounted.

(Table Omitted)

Captioned as: Table 1

The relative importance of the goals of the community policing model adopted is depicted in Table 2. Goals concerning community relations (closer community relations, problem solving, and public demands for closer relationships) are consistently ranked highest in importance. Goals concerning crime fighting, crime information gathering, and patrol efficiency follow. Goals reflecting the internal structures of the agencies (chain of command, empowering patrol officers, decentralization, internal communications, supervision, culture) are perceived as less important. However, the internal structure goals are rated significantly higher in importance in agencies manifesting the maximal implementation variants of the community policing model than in those employing minimal implementations; of course, the extent of structural changes was one of the criteria for group membership. Maximal implementers were also more likely to emphasize the development of patrol officer job skills and! the reduction of controls on sworn personnel than minimal implementers, although the latter relationship was not a significant one. Reducing police misconduct is also a significantly more important goal for maximal implementers. Smaller agencies appear to be more concerned with misconduct than larger ones, but this difference is not statistically significant. Police departments, accredited agencies and maximal implementers also appear to be more amenable to changing their missions than their respective counterparts, but these rather large observed differences were not statistically significant. Perhaps most significant here is that all of the goals recorded averages well into the somewhat important range, with the exception of shorten the chain of command. Decentralize operational decisions, loosening needless controls, and providing better supervision were the only other goals to score less than 3.50. Although maximal implementers rated the internal structure goals higher in! importance than the minimal implementers, these were still! not among their highest rated goals.

The changes in policies and procedures associated with the adoption community policing are displayed in Table 3. Responses in the "other" category usually referred to information collected elsewhere in the questionnaire. One respondent made reference to a "citizens' police academy." The overall frequency with which policies were changed or added was low, particularly in light of the range of goals recorded above. Changes in internal affairs procedures and citizen complaint procedures were relatively rare, although sheriff's offices reported changes in the latter much more frequently than police departments (this difference was not statistically significant). Shift assignments were affected in a majority of the cases, and dispatch policies and shift rotation procedures were affected in a third of the cases. These changes indicate significant impacts on manpower allocation and deployment schemes. However, the most frequently reported change was in the area! of training programs (81.8 percent), the only policy area other than shift assignments changed or added by a majority of all agencies. For minimal implementers, the area of training programs was the only one cited by a majority of the agencies. This may be evidence that the law enforcement establishment believes the community policing model simply requires changing the police officer. This emphasis on the development of a new breed of police officer is also supported by the frequency of changes in selection criteria (21.6 percent; significantly greater in smaller agencies than in larger), and patrol officer evaluation criteria (30.7 percent). A separate analysis of those respondents who had reported a change in training policies indicated that they were more likely to also report changes in evaluation criteria than those reporting no changes in training policies (34.7 percent to 12.5 percent); these were also more likely to report changes in promotion criteria (13.9 percent t! o 6.3 percent) and selection criteria (25 percent to 6.3 pe! rcent). Given the low frequency with which changes were made in other policy areas, this may also reflect a "patrol officer change strategy" at work.

The personnel strategy is supported by the fact that the maximal implementers recorded significantly greater impacts than the minimal implementers in the areas of training, selection criteria, and promotion criteria, and a larger if not a significantly different impact in patrol evaluation criteria. This indicates that structural decentralization entails an even greater emphasis on the realignment of human resource management systems. The goal of empowering patrol personnel was also associated with adoption of the maximal model, and this goal is clearly related to structural decentralization and obviously calls for adjustments in human resource management systems. However, it is clear that the human resource systems of police organizations are major targets of their community policing efforts. The law enforcement establishment appears to be relying on the personnel change strategy to implement community policing, and when structural changes are made, this reliance necessari! ly increases.

The responsibilities and duties of patrol officers are summarized in Table 4. Proposing solutions to community problems and conducting random patrol and business checks emerge as the most common duties. In Table 2, community relations goals and crime fighting goals emerged as the highest rated. This manifests an elemental problem in the community policing model-the successful merging of the reactive, 911 emergency response mode, and the proactive, community problem-solving mode. Accredited agencies are less likely to abandon the random patrol function than unaccredited agencies. This relationship does not extend to large versus small agencies, even though size and accreditation are positively related. Despite the support recorded by the goals of decentralizing decision making, solving community problems, and empowering patrol officers, relatively few agencies give patrol officers responsibility for setting patrol goals and objectives. This frequency increases by 50 percent,! however, when this duty is expressed as "developing strategic plans based on community problems or issues." The chief executives apparently prefer less formal expressions of patrol officer empowerment. The wide range of duties undertaken by patrol officers is also clearly evident in these data. Twelve of the 15 categories recorded majorities. However, the most striking finding is that patrol officer duties do not vary significantly with level of implementation, particularly in light of the fact that minimal implementation models often do not directly involve patrol officers. Curiously, patrol officers in minimal implementation agencies are significantly more likely to engage in crime prevention activities, which is a nontraditional, proactive policing function often associated with community oriented policing.

The elements of the adopted community policing models are summarized in Table 5. Bicycle patrols appear to be a component of virtually all community oriented policing programs. This element alone would limit the definition of community policing to the adoption of a new technology that can support community policing efforts, directed patrol strategies, or the traditional random patrol function. Channels for coordinating activities with other government agencies, citizen groups, and other divisions within the agency also appear to be widespread, particularly coordination with local schools. Police functions not traditionally related to crime fighting, such as ordinance enforcement, code enforcement, and truancy enforcement, also appear to be integral parts of a majority of the programs. Formal structures for citizen review of police activities and the implementation of an internal investigative function appear to be less widespread. Larger agencies are more likely to have bot! h than smaller agencies, and accredited agencies are more likely to have an internal affairs division. The vast majority of agencies schedule regular meetings with citizen groups, particularly accredited and larger agencies. Almost three quarters of the agencies survey their citizens regarding their satisfaction with police services, and 40 percent publish a newsletter. Clearly, these methods of securing citizen input are preferred over formal citizen review boards. The capacity to measure patrol outcomes and evaluate police programs also appears to be relatively rare. Larger agencies are much more likely to evaluate than smaller agencies, and accredited agencies and those with maximal implementations are more likely to monitor outcomes.

(Table Omitted)

Captioned as: Table 2

(Table Omitted)

Captioned as: Table 3

(Table Omitted)

Captioned as: Table 4

(Table Omitted)

Captioned as: Table 5

Data on resistance to adoption from the point of view of the chief executive are summarized in Table 6. Overall, law enforcement unions and patrol officers are ranked as the sources of strongest resistance, followed closely by first-line supervisors. However, these averages still fall on the supportive side of the scale. Perceived supervisor resistance exceeds patrol officer resistance in large agencies and accredited agencies, as well as in maximal implementation agencies. In the latter case, this may be evidence of at least the perception of real structural change that threatens the role of middle management. However, the difference in ranking is due to the reduction of resistance on the part of patrol officers in agencies with maximal implementations rather than a large increase in the level of supervisor resistance in those agencies. Overall, in fact, the various agency types manifested a similar pattern, and analysis identified no statistically significant relationship! s between any of agency variables and perceived resistance in any of the identified groups. Curiously, the chief executives of maximal implementation agencies tended to report lower levels of perceived resistance than those from minimal implementation agencies, but, once again, these differences were not significant. The resistance of patrol officers can be understood in light of the wide ranging duties they are asked to assume under most community policing models, as well as the fact that most programs appear to focus on remaking the patrol officer.

(Table Omitted)

Captioned as: Table 6

(Table Omitted)

Captioned as: Table 7

The data regarding perceptions of operational problems associated with adoption are displayed in Table 7. Funding and service demands emerge as the highest ranked problem areas overall, but service quality does not appear to be suffering as a result. Smaller agencies and police departments reported significantly greater problems with unreal expectations associated with adoption than did their counterparts, but these were not rated as severe. Problems with managerial styles were also consistently reported, although these, too, were not ranked as severe problems. Funding problems, paperwork problems, and problems with patrol supervision were more serious in maximal implementation agencies than in minimal implementation agencies, but, once again, these differences were not statistically significant. Planning capacity was among the lowest rated problems areas, although in Table 5 program evaluation capacity and measurement of patrol outcomes were not widespread. One could specu! late that if real structural change were occurring, planning capacity would be strained. It would also appear that law enforcement executives have little interest in the application of structured analysis to their programs.

None of the three agency type variables emerged as a major determinant of any of the seven program areas examined. Data on the race and sex of the chief executive officer did not manifest the variance required for meaningful analysis. The executive's years of education, years in office, years with the agency, and years in law enforcement were not significantly related to level of implementation. The executives were asked to identify what they perceived to be the top five training needs associated with community policing. Fifty-five identified one or more needs. It was often difficult to group idiosyncratic titles of training modules, but the most frequent areas identified were: problem-solving techniques (28 citations); cultural diversity (19); interpersonal communication (14); community relations/mobilizing community involvement (10); "basic" community oriented policing (8). These reflect the primary goals of community engagement and problem solving cited above, ! as well as the idea that community policing simply entails the retraining of the patrol officer.


Who is adopting community policing in Florida? Everyone! What are they adopting? The range of goals identified by the chief executives of the agencies would lead one to believe they are adopting something for everyone. No single, definitive model of community policing emerged from this research. The most common model adopted by local law enforcement agencies in Florida entailed the restructuring of the patrol function and the geographic decentralization of patrol operations to substations. The second most frequently adopted variant was the simple addition of specialized community policing units to the existing patrol function. The model adopted was not related to agency size, although the research literature implies that community policing would entail greater structural and procedural changes for larger agencies. Police agencies and sheriff's offices exhibited similar adoption patterns, despite the fact that the chief executives of the latter are elected. We had speculated! that elected officials might be more amenable to closer relationships with the community, but sheriff's offices may have been more decentralized to begin with, and hence, would not have adopted the more structurally pervasive models at a greater rate than police departments. Neither were adoption patterns associated with the accreditation status of the agency The accreditation movement focuses on the professionalism of the law enforcement organization, and we had posited that a commitment to bureaucratic processes and administrative systems could potentially conflict with the values of police officer empowerment and devolution of command.

Our results, then, confirmed the ambiguity and elasticity of the community policing concept, which are well documented in the research literature and often presented as strengths of the concept. Some theorists have characterized community policing as a "philosophy" of policing with no attendant structural or procedural elements. Others hold that structural decentralization and the adoption of organic organizational forms are essential elements of the concept. We presented the respondents with nine models of community policing, each of which entailed varying degrees of structural change and geographic decentralization. We had asked them to indicate which model most accurately described the approach of their agencies, and the bi-modal distribution described above emerged. In an effort to identify the actual impacts of community policing on the policies, procedures, and operations of the adopting agencies, we divided our sample into two groups based on the organizati! onal pervasiveness of the model adopted. Minimal implementers merely adopted a philosophy or added specialized units to their existing service delivery structure; maximal implementers reported some geographic decentralization of operations, and/or restructuring of their overall patrol operations or the operations of the entire agency. If real organizational change is associated with the implementation of community policing, maximal implementers should report more extensive organizational impacts than minimal implementers.

Once again, implementation group membership was not associated with any of the three agency type variables. Maximal implementers rated the community policing program goals related to the internal structure of the organization as more important than the minimal implementers. However, this difference in the relative importance of goals was not reflected in differences in impacts on existing policies and procedures, or on patrol officers duties, or on the substantive elements of the community policing programs. In fact, both groups rated all of the listed goals as important, and the maximal implementers rated all but one higher than the minimal implementers (the five internal structure goals were among only nine rated higher that were statistically significant). The incidence of impacts was low for most policies and procedures in both groups. Training programs emerged as the most frequently affected policy area (the only one recording a majority among the minimal implementers,! and one of two recording a majority among the maximal implementers). Both groups appeared to be adding community policing duties to traditional patrol duties. For example, a vast majority of patrol officers in both groups continued to provide random patrol in addition to proposing solutions to community problems.

How is it that agencies implementing community policing models entailing varying degrees of structural change can manifest so few differences in program substance, patrol duties, and impacts on operational policies and procedures? It may be due to the fact that the majority of these agencies are seeking to implement community policing by changing the officer rather than the organization. The maximal implementers reported dramatically more frequent impacts on training programs, promotional criteria, and selection criteria than the minimal implementers, and we found evidence that both groups are relying on a patrol officer change strategy to implement their versions of community policing. There were also some indications that some respondents may have exaggerated the extent of structural change associated with their models. In two cases observed in closer detail, the degree of reported decentralization may have been overstated: one that reported decentralization to substation! s had actually implemented storefront operations that did not house command responsibilities. Another that reported decentralization had actually shortened a very long chain-of-command at the very top when two assistant chiefs and three deputy chiefs became three assistant chiefs, followed by the majors, lieutenants, and sergeants. Alternatively, following Meyer and Rowan (1983), decentralization may be viewed as an attempt to further buffer the formal organization from the potential environmental threats associated with community policing as police officers take ownership of community problems. Field operations and the formal organization are so loosely coupled that geographical decentralization can occur without disrupting the formal policies and bureaucratic systems that define the latter. We have suggested that the failure of past innovations indicates that such an arrangement does not bode well for the long-range prospects of community policing.

The potential for real geographic decentralization and command devolution may also be limited by resource constraints. Maximal implementers reported more problems with funding than minimal implementers, as well as more frequent problems with supervision. This may be due less to resistance from supervisors who fear being made superfluous than to the perceived unmet need to provide greater levels of on site supervision with increased decentralization. However, perceived resistance from supervisors did exceed resistance from officers among maximal implementers. Although this result was not statistically significant, it may indicate that supervisors short-circuit the implementation of supportive policies and procedures because they oppose decentralization and command devolution. In any case, except for changes in training programs, the models featuring restructuring and/or geographic decentralization were not accompanied by any widespread realignment of existing operational pol! icies and procedures.

Although this research examined only a limited number of possible factors determining the adoption of community policing, the initial conclusion here is that implementation occurs in the context of local history and political culture, and these can be highly idiosyncratic. This view is reflected in the comments of an early respondent to the survey who did not complete the questionnaire, but rather appended a two page letter explaining that his agency had been operating in a community policing mode for quite some time. Their approach, however, reflected the agency's ongoing response to the particular needs of the citizens of the jurisdiction rather than the conscious adoption of any of the options listed in the questionnaire. For this respondent, community policing represented the capacity to respond to those needs. This view reflects Shaw's (1993) contention that community policing programs should be judged on their capacity to produce organizational forms and processes tha! t provide for continual innovation in the operation of law enforcement service delivery systems-that is, forms that harness the creative potential of the agency's internal constituency to respond to the enunciated needs of its external constituency.

From this perspective, one would expect to observe some structural decentralization, the empowerment of patrol officers to use discretion in service delivery, and an openness to information from the environment. Researchers have identified decentralization of the command structure as an essential element of community policing (Skolnick and Fyfe, 1995; Bayley, 1994a; Kelling and Moore, 1991). Two-thirds of our respondents characterized their models as entailing some restructuring and/or decentralization, but we have indicated that the extent may have been exaggerated and restructuring is not accompanied by the realignment of operational policies and procedures. In regard to the empowerment issue, patrol officers were often charged with responsibility for developing solutions to community problems, but less often allowed to set patrol goals and objectives. Patrol officers may be empowered to engage the community, but the organization will continue to engage its personnel thro! ugh existing bureaucratic mechanisms. The overall approach seems to entail changing the officer before changing operational policies, administrative procedures, and command hierarchy.

Empowerment and openness must proceed hand in hand in order to ensure accountability (Trojanowicz and Bucqueroux, 1990). Some respondents reported concern regarding potential police misconduct, but very few appear to be amenable to the idea of formal citizen oversight. Many programs feature regular meetings with citizen groups, mobilization of citizen groups, citizen satisfaction surveys, and community newsletters. In about half the cases, patrol officers are responsible for forwarding citizen complaints, but existing citizen complaint procedures were affected by only about 20 percent of the community policing programs. Restructuring and decentralization were widely reported, and these imply the devolution of discretionary decision making to the police officer; however, if police officer empowerment is occurring, law enforcement executives seem reluctant to open their agencies to the community oversight necessary to provide for accountability. Patrol accountability emerged ! as one of the lowest rated problem areas for both the minimal and maximal implementers.

The responding agencies are eager, however, to coordinate their efforts to address community problems with other relevant public agencies. Bayley (1994a) observed that this coordination function can serve to empower the local law enforcement agency as a "one-stop-shopping" mega-store for public services. Efforts to empower patrol officers are also limited by the fact that these, and additional duties associated with community policing, are apparently being added to their traditional 911 emergency response and crime fighting activities. The collection of information from the community appears to reflect the need for intelligence to support crime fighting, as suggested by Buerger (1994), as much as it does the desire to identify community problems and service preferences. The reduction of crime rates and the collection of crime information emerged as among the most highly rated goals of the community policing programs. Random patrol activities and business checks on! the one hand, and proposing solutions to community problems on the other, were the three most frequently cited duties of patrol officers. This may explain why the greatest level of resistance to the adoption of community policing has come from sworn personnel and their unions.

It does not appear that the essential elements of community policing as described in the research literature are finding their way into the Florida programs. Walker (1992) contends that community policing programs have been plagued by poor planning and weak implementation. The measurement of patrol outcomes and a formal program evaluation capacity were not elements of the Florida programs, although both were more prevalent in agencies that were maximal implementers. At the same time, planning capacity was among the lowest rated problem areas. Apparently, these agencies have neither the capacity nor the willingness to evaluate the relative success of their programs. Is the general public being asked, once again, to accept community policing as a good faith effort of the police establishment to reform policing? This good faith effort is evidenced by the fact that all of the goals of the community policing programs are rated as at least somewhat important with the exception of! shortening the chain of command. If community policing is all things, then what is it? Bicycle patrols emerged from this study as a universal technology of community policing. Bicycles may simply be a more efficient way to deliver traditional patrol service in downtown areas and public housing projects, and bicycle patrols also facilitate intelligence gathering to support crime fighting. As a symbol of community policing, bicycle patrols characterize it as a simple repackaging of traditional policing in new technological clothes. Some of these findings may be attributed to the relative newness of the majority of the programs; over half had been operational for less than four years. Policy changes may not have been completed, resistance may not have crystalized, and problems may not have had time to make themselves manifest. However, analysis yielded no relationships between date of adoption and level of implementation. Although this was not an explicit goal of the research, l! ittle promise of evolutionary reform was identified. The re! lative newness of the majority of the programs may also be evidence that in some cases the community policing model was adopted simply to take advantage of the $30 billion crime bill passed by the Congress in 1994, which virtually mandated the development of a community policing plan by local law enforcement agencies. Funding problems was the highest ranked operational problem associated with adoption, and increasing resources was ranked higher as a goal than providing better supervision, lessening controls on sworn officers, changing department's culture, decentralization of operational decision making, and shortening the chain of command, and almost as high as empowering patrol personnel, and developing patrol officer job skills. It is unlikely that federal funds to add new officers can sustain the momentum of the community policing movement, and any cosmetic changes made by local law enforcement agencies in pursuit of these funds will fade away (leaving additional fiscal bu! rdens on the local governments that must fully fund the new positions after three years). No funding source can simply mandate the "metamorphosis of management systems" necessary to support innovation in the delivery of public services called for by Olsen (1997).


Community policing is a lot of things, and all the agencies polled here are adopting at least one of them. No agency, however, has affected existing operational policies and administrative procedures across the board, and even those professing structural change and geographic decentralization seem to focus on changing the officer rather than the organization. The substance of the typical community policing program in Florida seems to center on changing the attitudes and behaviors of the patrol officer in order that he or she can more effectively engage the public and collect information on community problems and service preferences, as well as criminal intelligence, and steer citizens to public agencies offering relevant services. This is accompanied by some geographic decentralization of the patrol function, but there is less evidence of the devolution of decision making authority. Thus, the organizational impacts of community policing have been minimal. Personnel policies! have been changed in order to develop and support new attitudes and behaviors on the part of patrol officers. This is necessary in order to make the officers more amenable to assuming additional duties, as well as more competent to carry them out. The public is polled, but kept at arm's length from the formal organization. Hence, the changes in operational policies and administrative systems, the devolution of decision making and authority, and the engaging of the community that would signal reinvention were not observed. What was observed was a repackaging of policing in terms of the remaking of the patrol officer and additions to the basic patrol service package.

The results of this research support the characterization of the local law enforcement agency as one of Meyer and Rowan's (1983) institutionalized organizations. We witnessed the implementation of an ambiguous technology through an organizational structure better suited to the operationalization of known cause and effect relationships. The formal structure of the organization is decoupled from the realities of day to day operations, and this makes it possible to change the technologies at the bottom without disturbing the top. There is also the promise of future reform and the highlighting of good faith efforts, but the community is kept at bay despite whatever good faith efforts it may manifest. Community policing emerges as a ritual in the ceremony that is police management-a ceremony apparently designed to shield the organization from the formal evaluation of its technologies in order to protect the organization's flow of resources.

Klockars (1991) contends that the promise of community policing may be ephemeral given the social anomie that characterizes many urban communities; the police are helpless to serve communities that do not really exist. But the penetration of these urban areas by a better bureaucracy wielding new bureaucratic tools-particularly a bureaucracy housing the coercive power of the state-can only serve to exacerbate social alienation. The community policing movement is reaching out to the public through newsletters and surveys, as well as through the efforts of community oriented patrol officers with little formal discretion to meet its enunciated needs. The power of the empowered patrol officer is constrained by the maintenance of accountability to an extended chain of command and its administrative systems. A real community policing would call for citizens engaging their police agencies politically, rather than the agencies engaging the public bureaucratically. This approach woul! d also provide oversight of officers who were truly empowered to meet community needs. Certainly, none of this was observed in this study.

The conclusion here is that the general tenets of the reinvention movement may prove difficult to operationalize in specific substantive service areas. The required operational and structural changes cannot simply be mandated through legislation like the 1994 anticrime bill, or the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. Innovators must consider the political context, reform history, and technological issues in each service, and obstacles associated with each of these areas must be identified and acknowledged before they can be overcome. Of course, reinvention does not occur over night. Klockars (1991) recounts a police practitioner commenting that criticizing community policing is akin to criticizing the song selections of a singing dog-the important point is that the dog is singing! But this canine has sung before, and the captious might at least be somewhat mollified by a chorus of structured analysis and ongoing evaluation. This is a legitimate and necessary rol! e for professional bureaucracy, but it is one that law enforcement organizations apparently avoid.




The community policing issues and concepts in police organization described above guided the development of a questionnaire to examine the two issues in this study. First, what are Florida law enforcement agencies implementing under the rubric of community policing, and second how is it affecting the existing formal structure? The questionnaire was field tested with sworn managerial personnel from a police department and a sheriff's office. The questionnaire was mailed to the chief executive officers of the 116 local law enforcement agencies in the state with at least 50 sworn personnel. Bayley (1994b) has suggested that most small police departments employ some variant of community policing by default, in that the structure of small agencies is simpler and their policies and processes less formally defined. The initial mailing and a follow-up letter yielded a response rate of 77.6% (N = 90). Of the police departments 54 of 76 responded; of the sheriff's offices 27 of 40 re! sponded. Eight respondents did not identify their agency. The chief executive officer was asked to complete the questionnaire from his or her personal perspective.

All but one of the 90 chief executives indicated that their agencies employed a variant of community policing-- striking testimony to the elasticity of this "one size fits all" model. Equally striking was the median date of adoption-a fairly recent 1993. These results suggest that law enforcement executives have gradually accepted the "fact...that community policing is the only form of policing available for anyone who seeks to improve police operations, management, or relations with the public" (Eck and Rosenbaum, 1994, 4), and who can be against that? Any ambitions to identify determinants of adoption were quashed by the virtually unanimous implementation of some variant of community policing by this sample.

The respondents were also asked to identify: (a) the specific community policing variant adopted (ranging from the adoption of a community policing philosophy, to the implementation of special community policing units, to organization-wide implementations entailing geographic decentralization); (b) the effects that adoption had had on selected policies and procedures; (c) the elements of the adopted variant; (d) the operational activities of each agency's patrol personnel; (e) the relative strength of resistance to adoption from various potential sources; (f) the relative severity of various potential operational problems; (g) the goals of the community policing variant; (h) demographic and timeline information; and (i) perceptions of new training needs, and identification of agencies that had been influential in the community policing movement. Specifics regarding these dimensions are displayed in the tables that summarize the results.

This research explores the potential for differences in the above dimensions between police departments and sheriff's offices, large and small agencies, accredited and nonaccredited agencies, as well as differences associated with selected demographic variables. Sheriffs are usually elected officials in Florida, and they may be more amenable to closer ties with the community, or the electorate, than appointed police chiefs. One of the thrusts of community policing is to endow large agencies with some of the benefits of small agencies, and this would require greater structural change in the former. The law enforcement accreditation process prescribes the adoption of specific managerial processes and organizational mechanisms. Accredited agencies may be committed to bureaucratic appurtenances that may constrain their capacity to implement the community policing model. The respondents were also divided into two groups based on the organizational pervasiveness of the adopted va! riation of community policing (maximal implementers and minimal implementers, as described below), and differences between these groups are also examined. The goal of this research is to determine what is being implemented and by whom, and to identify impacts on organizational structure and operational policies. Perceived problems associated with implementation are also examined in order to gain additional insights into the nature of operational impacts.




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Author Affiliation:

Gerasimos A. Gianakis, University of Central Florida G. John Davis, III, St. Petersburg Police Department

Author Affiliation:

Gerasimos A. Gianakis is an assistant professor in the Public Administration Department at the University of Central Florida, where he teaches courses in organizational theory, budgeting, and financial management. His research on the organization of policing has appeared in the Journal of Criminal Justice, the American Journal of Criminal Justice, and the American Review of Public Administration. He was formerly a management analyst with the St. Petersburg, Florida, Police Department and a budget manager with St. Petersburg's Budget Department.

G. John Davis III is the chief of police for the City of St. Petersburg, Florida. He holds a doctoral degree in criminology from the Florida State University, and he is an adjunct professor with the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of South Florida, where he teaches courses in statistical applications in criminal justice and police management.

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