Police Organization Continuity and Change: Into the Twenty-first Century

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 23 August 2011



(2011), "Police Organization Continuity and Change: Into the Twenty-first Century", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 34 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/pijpsm.2011.18134caa.003



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Police Organization Continuity and Change: Into the Twenty-first Century

Police Organization Continuity and Change: Into the Twenty-first Century

Article Type: Perspectives on policing From: Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, Volume 34, Issue 3

Stephen Mastrofski and James Willis,Crime and Justice,Vol. 39,2010,pp. 55-144

Policing, as an institution, has often been seen as resistant to change. Stagnant bureaucracies, typecast officer roles, and rote order maintenance comprise the superficial understanding of police operations. Conversely, there are endemic changes observed in the police industry, such as officer characteristics, the tools the police use to ply their trade, and in special enforcement roles officers are now being tasked to perform. With such fundamental and sweeping changes afoot, one would expect to see policing follow suit in practice. However, this expected change has yet to be realized in most organizations, as Mastrofski and Willis suggest.

The modern-day police officer looks fundamentally different from his earlier counterpart. The typical officer of the majority of the twentieth century was typically a white male possessing a high school education. Subsequent court decisions and changes in hiring practices have led to more diverse police force in the twenty-first century. So, too, have the tools of policing developed. Most officers now have an array of high-tech information sources available through their department dispatcher, if not at their fingertips. These changes have yet to produce noticeable variation in police functioning, however. Even though headway has been made towards a more diverse police force, white males still make up a majority of police officers (although it is now more common to possess some post-secondary education). While information technology has greatly improved, the core compliment of police tools is largely unchanged from the latter part of the twentieth century.

Mastrofski and Willis also address potential agents of change and continuity largely unexamined by the policing organizational literature. The effect of community organizations and professional associations is one such area, and as these organizations become larger and better organized, so too they posit may their effect on police organizations. It is easier to observe the effect of structural factors in large departments, but the authors content that such effects have yet to be examined within smaller departments; those that make up the vast majority of police agencies.

Mastrofski and Willis highlight two grand reform movements that are expected to change the police organization in the coming century: community policing and terrorist-oriented policing. The former emphasizes the close community-officer contact and empowers local individuals to help guide and participate in the maintenance of public safety. As such, organizations practicing community policing could be expected to further decentralize and adopt community-responsive local leadership. On the contrary, the latter would suggest a more centralized organizational model whereby the need for intelligence and resource sharing would lead to a stronger, more centralized organization. In light of these movements, policing organizations remain largely unchanged. Agencies have managed to adopt the hallmark principles of community policing and terrorist-oriented policing as peripheral job functions while the core structure remains intransigent.

Derek M. CohenUniversity of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

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