or some time, the corporate world has been moving toward more democratic processes in the workplace as companies strive to improve their competitiveness tapping the knowledge, talents, and creativity of their employees. Driven by global competition, technology, information, and compressed production timelines, private enterprise is placing unprecedented stock in human capital. In many respects, the means of production have shifted into the hands of workers, particularly knowledge-workers.1 In the process, organizational hierarchies have tended to flatten, as autonomous work teams replace managerial levels. Scientific management theories have gradually given way to more participative approaches that stress employee empowerment and job involvement.
Participative management techniques have reaped great benefits for industry in terms of productivity, quality, and worker satisfaction, but such power-sharing arrangements seem to have found little acceptance in law enforcement circles. At a time when the police have been tasked with implementing proactive, community-oriented approaches to crime, employee empowerment may offer significant advantages over traditional top-down police administration.
Shared leadership is known by many names: participative management, employee empowerment, job involvement, participative decision-making, dispersed leadership, open-book management, or industrial democracy. The practices of total quality management (TQM) and quality circles (QC) fall under the umbrella of shared leadership as well. The basic concept involves any power-sharing arrangement in which workplace influence is shared among individuals who are otherwise hierarchical unequals.2 Such arrangements may entail various employee involvement schemes resulting in codetermination of working conditions, problem solving, and decision making.
Shared leadership is, in fact, an old idea. It traces its lineage to Elton Mayo's Hawthorne studies of the Western Electric Plant during the 1920s and 1930s. Worker job involvement became an important aspect of those studies. The idea of job involvement is grounded in the humanist traditions of organizational psychology. Numerous researchers came to the conclusion that work is an important aspect of self-identify and a key element of human motivation and creativity.3
Shared leadership attained renewed interest in the 1980s and 1990s in response to the success Japanese industry seemed to be having with empowerment strategies such as TQM and QC. As American companies steadily became less competitive with respect to labor costs, human assets took on renewed significance in terms of information processing, innovation, and adaptive learning.
Participative leadership approaches take many forms and can run the gamut from informal suggestion systems to direct involvement at the policy and administrative level. Research in both the private and public sectors suggests a wide array of potential benefits of employee involvement in workplace decision making, including improved job satisfaction, commitment, productivity, organizational citizenship behavior, labor-management relations, and overall organizational performance.4
Shared Leadership and Police
Police administration gravitated toward a military orientation during a period of intense reform early in the 20th century. A paramilitary police model evolved in response to widespread corruption and political interference that threatened the credibility of U.S. police. In a drive to instill discipline, leaders seized upon authoritarian hierarchy as a bulwark against both political cooptation and low-level corruption. The scientific and bureaucratic management principles of Frederick Taylor and Max Weber were in vogue and found welcome application in the drive to professionalize law enforcement.
Even today, this management philosophy persists, perhaps understandably. After all, control-oriented supervision did succeed in bringing a degree of professionalism to police in the U.S. Many administrators remain protective of this progress and are suspicious of calls for officer autonomy and empowerment. In the face of continued scandals and charges of inequity, police administrators tend to maintain an almost phobic preoccupation with accountability and conformity. But control-oriented approaches fail to recognize that police work is, and always has been, highly discretionary.
Controlling Police Discretion
The basic paradox of police hierarchy is that discretionary authority tends to be greatest at the bottom of the police organization. This is where patrol officers apply laws, policy, and regulations to situations that do not fit neatly into the rulebook. Further, these discretionary choices are made in the field, removed from the direct scrutiny of management.5 It may be somewhat self-deceptive to place a great deal of faith in authoritarian management styles.
Consequently, in addition to accountability measures, police managers should consider methodologies that use the power of employee commitment, organizational culture, peer norms, and values to shape behavior and build motivation.6 Further authoritarian management can be questioned in connection with the contemporary police mission and workforce.
An Evolving Mission
A number of observers have lamented the apparent disjuncture between historically autocratic police management approaches and the requirements of community policing.7 These critics argue that, by and large, police organizations remain highly centralized in their decision making, structurally vertical, rule bound, and mired in power relationships.
For instance, a 2002 national survey of police departments revealed that although 70 percent of agencies had decentralized some operations in support of community policing, only 22 percent had reduced bureaucratic hierarchy or pushed authority and decision making down in the organization to any significant degree.8 This problem is not confined to the United States. A five-year study of police in Australia and New Zealand found that officers felt their organizations were not supportive of them and did not exhibit trust, respect, or recognition of their experience and knowledge in decision-making processes.9 Community-oriented policing calls for more inclusive decision making processes in order to foster frontline problem solving and commitment.
Similarly, the current trend toward intelligence-based policing emphasizes problem-oriented strategies to interdict crime and terrorism through proactive intelligence gathering, information analysis, and data-driven resource allocation. In other words, intelligence-based policing stresses timely interpretation of data and adaptive, even innovative, responses by employees. Police organizations are coming to the same conclusions as their civilian counterparts: mission success is increasingly dependent upon frontline human resources.
An Evolving Workforce
Workforce trends and labor union issues are also pressuring for a reassessment of traditional police management practices. Today's law enforcement officers and civilian employees are far more knowledgeable and sophisticated than at any time in the history of policing. Certainly, educational and training standards have risen, generational differences are creating new challenges, and police unions are asserting themselves in new ways.
Workers of the new millennium are better educated, technologically savvy, and adept problem solvers; they are both team players and more likely to question authority.10 Managing these new employees requires less directing and more coaching and consultation. Unions are also changing the landscape for policing in ways that call for new management approaches.
Unions in the private sector have been on the decline, but public-sector unionism is growing, particularly among police.11 Although police unions are local and individual in character and may vary widely, national umbrella organizations tend to advocate adversarial tactics that rely on formal, legal redress of grievances. Police unions have also become increasingly political, endorsing and actively campaigning for candidates at the local, state, and federal level.12
Researchers have found that police unions can strongly influence the police role. Unions tend to emphasize law enforcement functions over service delivery. They have also experienced considerable success in preserving officer discretionary authority.13 Some researchers and union officials point out that buy-in from unions is essential to community policing initiatives, as they hold considerable veto power.14
Shared Leadership in the Broken Arrow
Some police agencies have experimented with various aspects of employee participation. One such agency is the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Police Department (BAPD). The BAPD employs 164 full-time employees and provides a full spectrum of police services to a metropolitan community of 91,000 in northeastern Oklahoma. Since 2003 the agency has had participative management in the form of a cross-functional steering committee called the Leadership Team.
The BAPD Leadership Team was conceived as a way of incorporating frontline personnel into the important decision-making processes of the department. Comprising 12 individuals representing the labor union (the Fraternal Order of Police, or FOP), management, and most of the divisions, units, ranks, and functions in the department, the Leadership Team's bylaws established it as an independent body, with authority to effect change and make binding decisions on a wide range of policy issues, working conditions, and strategic matters. Sworn and nonsworn members of the team are selected by a variety of methods, including direct appointment by the department administration and open election by peers.
Membership on the Leadership Team was never based on rank; and the team's composition has become more representative of the lower echelons of the department. Notably, the chief's office is not represented on the team and all decisions are made democratically. The chief of police retains control of the team's agenda, but once an issue is referred to it, its decisions are considered final and binding on all concerned.
Leadership Team Takes Form
The first two years of the BAPD Leadership Team were a whirlwind of activity, as it took on a series of difficult issues. Essentially, the team created new policy on how the agency recruits, hires, evaluates, disciplines, rewards, and promotes its people, and how it uses force, drives its cars, trains its officers, and protects their wellbeing. The team took on nearly every issue that typically causes problems for police agencies. Additionally, the team improved process, streamlined procedures, and aided in problem resolution.
At first, the team required expert training for the job it was to undertake. Consequently, specialists in organizational dynamics from the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa were retained to conduct training in team interactions and communications. This comprehensive training phase was crucial to team development and was later cited by members as integral to its productivity and overall success.
Police departments are generally good at implementing programs but often fail to adequately assess outcomes. In the case of the BAPD Leadership Team, the determination was made to do a thorough assessment of the program. The agency needed to know whether its experiment with shared leadership was worth the investment in time, money, manpower, and energy. The administration also wanted to know what outcomes, if any, might be observable with respect to workforce motivation, labor-management relations, and productivity. Researchers from the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa conducted the assessment.
Shared Leadership Outcomes
University researchers were fortunate to have data from a previous BAPD employee survey dating from 2002, prior to the adoption of participative management practices by the agency. This original survey was conducted by the police labor union to assess officer opinions on a wide spectrum of managerial issues. Researchers then replicated this survey verbatim in 2005 and added questions assessing employee organizational commitment, perceptions of organizational support, and the performance of the Leadership Team. In this way, it was possible to conduct an item-for-item comparison between the 2002 and 2005 surveys. Essentially, the idea was to compare the two surveys in a pretest-posttest fashion, with participative management practices as the intervention.
In addition, researchers conducted interviews with Leadership Team members as well as employees not directly associated with the team. These employees were both sworn and nonsworn, management and rank and file, union and nonunion. They were queried on a variety of issues relating to the performance of the Leadership Team, their reactions to the new participative approaches, and their feelings about their relationship with the organization and the administration.
The results of the quantitative comparison revealed dramatic improvement on nearly all indicators between 2002 and 2005. Figure 1 displays these changes for an array of criteria affecting employee relations. All variables, such as handling of discipline, promotions, hiring, recognition, rewards and incentives, showed statistically significant improvement.
Various motivational factors showed similar unilateral improvement between 2002 and 2005. These factors included the BAPD mission, pride in the agency, trust of supervisors, employee input, and relations with the community. Other positive trends included dramatic improvement in communications across all levels of theorganization and improved opportunities for training and personal development. Interestingly, officers exhibited more positive attitudes toward the department's community policing mission in 2005 than they did in 2002. Figure 2 depicts these motivational changes.
In addition, figure 3 depicts a near reversal of formerly negative employee assessments of management. Officers were asked whether managers were inclined to place department needs over their personal agendas, that is, the perceived organizational altruism of managers. In 2002 officers were very likely to ascribe egotistical motivations to the actions of management, particularly as rank increased, an inverse correlation. In 2005 this trend was erased and replaced with positive assessments of the department's upper ranks, equal to or even superior to that of first line supervisors. This may be an indication that employees see participative leadership as an expression of trust between upper management and line officers.
Shared Leadership and Organizational Commitment
The assessment of the BAPD workforce found high levels of organizational commitment in the agency as well as positive levels of participation and perceived support. Further, a positive correlation was found between all these factors. That is, respondents who scored high on items related to their ability to participate also tended to view the organization as supportive and exhibited a high degree of affective commitment to the department. The researchers believed that the ability to participate in decision making tends to elicit a reciprocal response from employees whereby they feel more supported by and attached to their organization.15
This hypothesis was further supported by employee interviews, in which recurrent themes were detected from both officers and civilians at all ranks. The opportunity to participate in important organizational decisions was seen as an expression of trust, which tended to build loyalty to the department and its initiatives. Some expressed the feeling that participation equated to a degree of ownership in the organization and its goals.
Organizational commitment is an important factor in the police workforce. In the public sector there is relatively little opportunity for providing employee incentives beyond the base salary. Public enterprise generally lacks the ability to offer monetary rewards in the form of raises, bonuses, or profit sharing. Consequently, public managers must rely on affective factors, such as pride, duty, and commitment to instill a positive work ethic in employees. Unions, civil service protections, and the inherent discretionary nature of police work tend to insulate police officers from both sanctions and incentives. If police officers choose to work hard, they do so out of their individual work ethic and group norms. This can have important ramifications for police initiatives and productivity.
Shared Leadership and Productivity
Some of the literature on participation suggests that empowerment may translate into increased productivity.16 Archival data, in and of itself, will not establish this link, since many factors may affect discretionary police productivity. Nevertheless, for discussion purposes, certain discretionary indicators were examined for the BAPD case study. These included arrest and citation rates, field interviews, and investigation clearance rates.
Arrest and citation rates tend to be highly discretionary and indicative of proactive enforcement practices.17 Similarly, field interview reports are a proactive, discretionary tactic officers employ during citizen contacts where they have detected suspicious activity of one kind or another.18On the investigative side, BAPD case clearance rates were compared over a five-year period on the assumption that case clearance may generally indicate investigative diligence.
Examination of five years of BAPD archival data yielded some interesting statistics with regard to productivity. Calendar year 2004, the first full year of shared leadership within the BAPD, was compared with the mean value of the preceding four years. This analysis revealed that arrests of all types increased 24 percent in 2004, traffic citations rose 6 percent, field interview reports were up 51 percent, and BAPD detectives cleared 34 percent more cases than in preceding years. What is remarkable about these statistics is that Broken Arrow's UCR crime rate actually dropped 5 percent for part 1 crimes in 2004.
After the department implemented participative management, a number of critical indicators of proactive, discretionary police action increased in comparison with previous years. When asked about this phenomenon, several employees referred to the "happy chicken syndrome," which is a way of saying that satisfied workers produce better work. It is also noteworthy that citizen complaints dropped 56 percent in 2004 versus the mean of the preceding four years.
Shared Leadership and Labor Relations
An important question associated with participative management is whether it contributes to improved relations between labor and management. Research in fields outside law enforcement suggests that such outcomes might be possible.19 Since the police union's own questionnaire, which assessed union member attitudes toward a wide array of workplace issues, was used for both surveys, any statistically significant difference between the two would be indicative of a change in labor-management relations.
The results of this analysis did indeed reveal change in unionized police officer attitudes on a variety of factors in 2005. Officer opinions of management, organizational communications, employee relations, motivation, participation, support, and commitment all improved significantly. All mean values reached well into the positive range and exhibited a near ceiling effect in some areas. This was in stark contrast to the 2002 data.
Further, hierarchical multivariate regression analyses suggest that this change was at least partially due to the agency's shared leadership philosophy.20 Unionized employee involvement in decision making apparently enhanced their sense of support from, and commitment to, the organization.
This conclusion was supported by interview data with BAPD administration and labor officials. Common themes emerging from these interviews included comments about role reversal, improved communications and dialogue, and win-win mindsets as well as frequent references to the big picture in decision making. Union representatives expressed the sentiment that actual participation on the Leadership Team, beyond mere awareness of its existence, tended to foster trust in the administration. For their part, managers indicated that their Leadership Team experience caused them to be more aware of union priorities and concerns. It is also noteworthy that during this same period no union grievances of any kind were filed, an anomaly for the agency (nor have any been filed since inception of participative management, a period of nearly three years). Lessons Learned
Probably the most difficult aspect of undertaking a participative approach to management is for senior executives to make the personal commitment to accept the decisions of others. Police leaders are capable, gifted warriors, adept at surviving both the street and the political arena. To expect that once on top they should turn around and relinquish a good portion of their power is perhaps asking too much. Yet this is precisely what must happen if officer empowerment is to have any real meaning.
It was critical to the success of the BAPD shared leadership philosophy that the chief's office totally supports all Leadership Team decisions. In keeping with the ground rules, only issues that violated labor laws or city regulations or unduly exposed the agency to civil liability would not be accepted. Instances in which senior managers doubted a Leadership Team decision on other grounds, yet lent their support regardless, became milestones of trust and confidence for the agency. In the end, such decisions were usually vindicated because they proved to be sound choices based on the firsthand knowledge and insights of those closest to the work.
It was also important that the team be given real issues to deal with. Trivial busywork would have been seen as a facade by all concerned. Ironically, as reciprocal trust was established, efforts to diffuse power in the BAPD tended to strengthen the authority and legitimacy of the chief's office.
The initial results of the Broken Arrow Police Department case study in shared leadership are encouraging. The degree to which similar outcomes might be expected in larger or differently situated police agencies is as yet unexplored. At the very least, the present study extends the current body of research on employee participation to the law enforcement field.
An unintended outcome of the BAPD Leadership Team experiment has been the degree to which the program grooms future leaders. In effect, the team has become a crucible of leadership in which rank-and-file employees take on far greater authority much sooner in their careers than they otherwise might. A disproportionate number of Leadership Team graduates have gone on to test for and achieve promotion, assume leadership positions in the union, or obtain informal leadership status among their peers. With regard to external issues, Leadership Team grads have consistently become more engaged in city and community issues generally.
The communications and interpersonal skills individuals learn and apply in the process of making collaborative, department-wide decisions has a maturing affect on those involved. The leadership skills they take with them when they leave the team pay dividends for them personally and for their department.
Shared Leadership and Community Policing
The community-oriented policing (COP) paradigm has been dogged generally by inconsistent commitment from rank-and-file patrol officers. Community policing proponents tend to place the nexus of the problem at the apparent disconnect between traditional hierarchical police management and the COP imperative for line officer empowerment. The other major obstacle for COP involves getting beat officer buy-in for a more holistic problem-solving approach to police work. Employee empowerment may be a useful strategy on both counts.
Whether through formal structures such as a Leadership Team or more informal approaches, employee inclusion has the potential to improve decision making, foster ownership, and overcome line officer resistance to community policing and change in general. This was demonstrated in the BAPD case by both quantitative and qualitative data that indicated employee internalization of the department's community policing mission following implementation of empowering strategies. It seems that participation provides officers with greater latitude and authority, while commitment fosters greater acceptance of agency goals, including COP.
Morale and Organizations
As reported here, the research suggests that participative police administration can help make employees feel more valued and supported by their organization, more committed to its objectives, can cultivate better labor-management relations, and may even promote greater productivity. It also suggests that inclusion promotes communication at all levels and helps bridge the traditional schism between management and line officers. But even if inclusion and empowerment did nothing more than raise morale it would be worth the investment. Morale is a simple concept but an important one that we police leaders sometimes overlook. Whether through shared leadership or other strategies, police administrators would do well to attend to the affective and intangible qualities that define morale in their organizations. ■