Criminal Justice Library
Clinging to the familiar:
     Tradition-bound middle management

Operational Mid-Level Management for Police (2nd ed.).
By John L. Coleman.
Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, 1995.
$85.95 (hb); $47.95 (pb).

By Michael A. Cushing
This management manual updates a work by the same author that originally appeared in 1988. After reading this book and many other police management books written since 1988, one realizes the profound change in the role expected of mid-level police supervisors. Alternate policing strategies, such as problem-oriented and community-oriented policing, have introduced new management styles that are somewhat different from the traditional method previously used in American law enforcement. This book addresses the more traditional style of management.

The book is directed toward what the author calls an operational manager: a second-line leader, a recognized and important member of a department’s hierarchical staff. Coleman says that this manager shares an interrelationship with line functions through operational responsibilities but has a noticeable tilt toward managerial philosophy and concepts. The basic responsibility of an operational police manager is to direct the behavior of subordinate personnel toward efficient and effective accomplishment of the department’s overall goals and operations.

Coleman believes that leadership qualities can be learned. After citing various forms of leadership styles found in most management texts, Coleman asserts that the best style of leadership for a police mid-level manager is a combination of the autocratic, democratic and laissez-faire styles. He also states that the traits and characteristics of persuasiveness, intelligence, flexibility and good judgment are all necessary to be a good leader. Though he writes that these are achieved through heredity, they can be learned or developed.

One point in the book that is also mentioned with increasing frequency in other management texts is the perceived change in those entering today’s work force. Police work is no different. Coleman recognizes that an organization’s principal and most costly resource is the employee. Yet the operational manager must contend with a different type of worker than the ones who entered the work force years ago, perhaps even when the manager entered policing. Coleman states that today’s employees seem less committed to an organization’s ultimate goal than in past years. “The ‘do as I say and not as I do’ adage is no longer effective in the management of people, he notes. Motivation, according to Coleman, is a self-generated concept. The book’s discussion of this subject, is somewhat limited. Coleman believes that managerial actions result in responsive behavior instead of worker motivation.

The text is very confusing in the way it alternates discussion between what the author distinguishes as management and leadership concepts. While other texts go to great lengths to describe the differences between the two, Coleman uses them so interchangeably that one would believe them to be synonymous.

He also discusses the survival skills needed by an operational manager. Recognizing that as one ascends the organizational ladder there are fewer positions open in the organization, Coleman underscores the importance of networking to achieve these increasing limited openings. He acknowledges that the open, honest sharing of ideas and perceptions may become a detriment to advancement. This is practical advice for success in a traditional management style, but is at odds with many modern theories being promoted along with newer policing styles.

In recent years, the position of what the author calls an operational mid-level manager has changed. The adoption of problem-oriented and community-oriented policing strategies has put mid-level administrators in a role where the sole ability to relay orders from a higher authority is no longer indicative of being successful.

In examining the failures some jurisdictions have had in implementing new strategies, non-commitment by mid-level supervisors has frequently been cited as a major cause. Mid-level police supervisors in such departments must develop skills not found in a traditional supervisory style. A mid-level manager looking to succeed in an organization that is committed to one of the less traditional forms of policing would be better served with a less traditional text.

(Michael A. Cushing is a lieutenant with the Chicago Police Department. He is the co-author of “The Impact of Shift Work on Police Officers” [Police Executive Research Forum].)


     An eye-opening analysis of what police can & should
     be doing about drugs

Police Antidrug Tactics:
New Approaches and Applications.
By Deborah Lamm Weisel.
Washington, D.C.: Police Executive Research Forum, 1996.
124 pp., plus appendices.

By Mark C. Bach
This report recaps the results of a nationwide survey, originally conducted in late 1992, that was designed to reveal anti-drug tactics used by state and local police. The study, originally funded by the National Institute of Justice and now published in book form by the Police Executive Research Forum, gathered responses from 387 agencies, and showed the use of more than 140 tactics loosely grouped here into 14 topical areas.

The author sent the survey instrument to both the patrol and investigative units of a given agency to see how tactics differed among the police groups. Not surprisingly, the investigative units are more likely to show some consistency in the methods used, with 27 specific tactics being used by over 75 percent of the investigative respondents. Patrol responses showed only 10 tactics used by a similar high percentage. In addition, patrol units across the nation tended to use a broader variety of techniques, some of them quite innovative, while investigators focused on more “tried and true” methods.

Weisel grouped the various methods into 13 “police action” categories and one “community involvement” grouping. She notes that seldom-used methods might be indicators of new and innovative programs (therefore not used by many agencies) and subject to greater use in the future.

The bulk of the book is devoted to a good overview of the tactics that the author considered innovative or effective. While not every program can be carried out in every agency, the text offers an overview of the process and cites an agency that has used the procedure. Certainly among these listings there should be one new opportunity not currently in practice in a reader’s own agency.

Two drawbacks to this publication are the dated information and the lack of details requested from the original survey. By keeping the survey short, the author risked having methods without clearly defined terms being included or excluded from the results. For instance, according to the results, 3 percent to 4 percent of the patrol respondents don’t use the plain-view doctrine or search-incidental-to-arrest as a tactic. My guess is that these respondents don’t consider these tactics part of an anti-drug effort, but would recognize the impact of the methods in their day-to-day operation. Similarly, according to the survey 31 percent of patrol units don’t use search warrants.

Perhaps these results are due to the participants not understanding the intended definition of the survey terms, or perhaps these were indeed valid responses. In addition, lots of changes have occurred since 1992 in the police field, both in the adoption of community-based policing and in anti-drug efforts. While thoughtful analysis is necessary and requires time, an updated survey might show some interesting contrasts from 1992.

While not meant as a drug-enforcement primer, the book creates a foundation of current police practices and can open a community’s eyes to what their police agencies can and should be doing to lower their citizens’ exposure to drugs.

(Mark C. Bach is a sergeant with the Tempe, Ariz., Police Department, where he is administrator of the Office of Management and Budget.)

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Published in Law Enforcement News
Nov. 15, 1996.
© 1996, LEN Inc.