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Police Management & Police Department Organization

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  • 0:02 Police Management
  • 1:19 Department Management Style
  • 3:28 Organizational Types
  • 6:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Dugger

Ashley is an attorney. She has taught and written various introductory law courses.

All businesses must be organized and managed, including police departments. This lesson explains police management and describes the different types of police department organization.

Police Management

Think of a local business, like your corner grocery store. How is that business run? How is it organized and managed? Who tells the staff what to do, and when to do it? Who supervises the different areas, like ordering, stocking, cashiering and accounting?

All businesses must be organized and managed, including police departments. For law enforcement agencies, this area is known as police management. Police management includes the administrative activities of coordinating, controlling and directing police resources, activities and personnel. Simply put, it's the everyday act of running the police department.

Keep in mind that police work involves many different duties and responsibilities, including patrolling, responding to calls, investigating complaints, conducting interviews and interrogations, performing searches, gathering evidence, documenting case files and testifying in court.

It takes a lot of coordination, and a lot of people, in order to fulfill these duties. Therefore, successful police management is key.

Department Management Style

Most experts agree that there's no best way to manage a police department. Different departments use different styles. A management style is the way an entity runs its business.

A police department's management style is largely dictated by the type of municipality it serves. For instance, police departments in small towns are usually run differently from those located in big cities.

Generally speaking, there are two main management styles: military and community policing. The military management style of policing uses a limited number of subordinates per supervisor, and a fixed hierarchy with a centralized command. This means that decisions are made at the top of the hierarchy and flow downward. There's one main person - a chief - who's responsible for police decisions. Because the hierarchy is fixed and all groups have a supervisor, everyone knows to whom they report. This style was the most popular through the 1980s.

However, in the 1970s, many experts started pushing for a more democratic management style that would better suit police interactions with the public. This resulted in the community policing movement. Community policing finally became popular in the 1990s and is based on solving community problems and forming community partnerships. Now, citizens could have a say in the policing decisions of their communities.

For example, let's say a particular neighborhood faces a drug-dealing problem. The local police department might invite citizens to a neighborhood meeting in order to educate them on how to keep themselves safe and to obtain ideas on how to best abate the problem. In turn, the neighbors will provide the police with important information, such as what type of drugs are being dealt and what time of day the dealers are most likely to be present. You can see how this management style is helpful to the neighbors and to the police.

Organizational Types

Now let's take a look at the different police organizational types. An organizational type refers to the way an entity is structured, or ordered.

Police departments typically use one of four basic organizational types. The four types are line, line and staff, functional, and matrix. Let's take a brief look at each type.

The line organization uses a simple chain of command structure, where authority flows from the top to the bottom in a distinct line. This organizational type is the oldest structure. It's used mainly in small police departments that serve rural communities. It's hard to use this type of structure in large agencies, because the chain, or line, simply becomes too long to be efficient.

The line and staff organization resembles the line organization, but adds internal support roles. This organizational type is popular in medium-sized police departments, because the department can utilize the simple line structure while delegating administrative duties to other personnel. This is helpful when a department has recently grown, and when new duties or demands are placed on the police officers.

The functional organization is a modified line structure that delegates management authority to specialized units. The functional organization structure is used in larger police departments that use multiple units and sub-units. In these departments, officers are assigned to a specific detail. For example, an officer might be assigned to the traffic detail, or she might be assigned to the arson unit. She'll perform all sorts of police duties within her specialized unit.

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