Written by Arthur G. Sharp
The Hartford, CT Police seem like magnets for bad publicity and endless criticism from city political and civic leaders and citizens. Officers and administrators alike have to believe that they are working under some dark, permanent public relations cloud. To get out from under it, the department switched in late-summer 2003 from the traditional (paraprofessional) police model to the community oriented model.
Such a switch represents a growing trend among law enforcement agencies, as indicated by a recent author-conducted survey. We invited 100 law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to share their views on the importance of selecting the right policing model for individual jurisdictions or switching from one to the other when circumstances dictate a change. Sixty-eight responded.
The survey focused on three basic models of policing: Professional (aka paramilitary), Community (aka COP, or problem-oriented), and COMPSTAT (aka SARA, ie, Scan, Analyze, Respond, Assess). A fourth model emerged as a result of the survey: a hybrid model. And, some departments have created their own models, which are treated as hybrids for purposes of this article.
As the survey revealed, Hartford is by no means the first LEA to switch models, nor will it be the last. LEA administrators are constantly assessing the models in place in their jurisdictions, and changing theirs if they see the need. In fact, 51% acknowledged that they have switched from one model to another recently. They do not do so lightly, though.
“The type of management usually is decided by the chief administrator, but most use a combination of several, rather than strictly one,” Chief Jerry Hubbs of American Falls, ID, Police Department declared. Some respondents would argue that it is the chief administrator who generally chooses the model. “To change from one model to another can be difficult and requires much effort. We usually stick to what we have been trained with.” That is not always the case, as the survey revealed that there is an escalating trend from traditional models to community policy.
Many respondents reported that they have switched models recently, primarily to community policing, for a variety of reasons. That is not surprising, as this model emerged as the most popular according to the survey results. But, it is not without its faults—and neither are the other models.
There are skeptics inside and outside the law enforcement community regarding the value of police models. The general response among outsiders asked about police models, based on an admittedly nonscientific straw poll conducted by the author among randomly selected citizens, resulted roughly in an attitude of “I don’t care what model my local police department uses as long as they show up when I need them and do their job efficiently and civilly.” There is even a bit of that attitude among law enforcement professionals.
For example, 15% of the respondents—albeit a decided minority—suggested that the basic models of policing are more public relations oriented than they are an actual management technique. Another 15% were not sure. And there were some respondents who saw a link between models chosen and external influences like grants.
Exactly half the respondents allowed that the procurement of grants might be affected adversely because of the model a particular LEA uses. For example, they said, agencies that use CompStat or Paraprofessional models might not receive certain grants because they do not follow the community policing model. Drawbacks and skepticism aside, the focus on the choice and implementation of models, particularly community policing, is a subject of vast interest to LEA administrators.
Colonel Tim Hazlette (ret), former director of the Kentucky State Police, noted that “State police agencies were the first community policing practitioners, according to applying the list of characteristics identified [with the model].” Simply defined, he said, “Community policing is applying rural policing practice and philosophy in an urban setting.” But, he warned, the model has to be used judiciously.
One of the concerns voiced by community policing advocates is that some administrators use it in a piecemeal fashion. For instance, some might assign a community-oriented or school liaison police officer—or even a division within a department—to work closely with neighborhood groups in select parts of a community.
That is not an acceptable practice, according to a majority of the respondents. But, they could not clearly determine any model that could be an “acceptable practice.” Overall, their responses revealed some ambivalence as to whether any model can be considered the most effective.
Granted, 76% of the respondents suggested that there is such a thing as a true community oriented law enforcement agency. But, they suggested, just saying, “Yeah, we have a community policing model in place does not make it so.”
As 97% of the respondents noted, simply assigning a few officers to community policing does not mean that the department can claim it is following the true COP model. Then again, they suggested, not all departments that claim to be operating under a community policing model have to have a 100% commitment to be effective.
According to 67% of the respondents, combining models might work well for multi-specialty units within an agency, for instance community policing for patrol officers and paraprofessional for SWAT. To that, Hazlette demurred.
He said that, “As for community policing, it too has become unnecessarily complicated. I believe that you must adopt the whole philosophy and make it part of the police workday for everyone, not just a special unit.” That view aside, community policing remains the preferred model among the survey respondents.
Of the respondents, 56% noted that their departments employ the COP model. The second-most popular is the hybrid model at 26%. The least popular are professional (12%) and CompStat (6%). Significantly, though, 94% of the respondents indicated that whatever models they are following currently are effective.
Only 3% said that they would prefer models other than those they are currently following. But, that 3% does not plan to change, primarily because their communities are not open to it or it would not be politically expedient. That is not necessarily a negative thing, though. It shows that LEA administrators are responsive to outside influences.
However, such influences do not prevent some LEAs from changing. Changing models, especially to meet changing circumstances, is not uncommon among LEA administrators. After all, there is a need to find a model that works—but that model in neither static nor universal.
Chief Gary Dias of the East Providence, RI Police Department made that clear when he observed that, “I believe the successful manager has to be flexible and employ management strategies that best address the problems or issues at hand.”
As he intimated, conditions do change for LEA administrators, and they must be responsive. That means staying on top of changes and adapting to them, even if it means switching models, regardless of the size of an agency.
One of the keys to a successful change is to make sure the department members are on board with it. According to Sheriff Robbie Atkins, Allen County, KS Sheriff’s Department, “A sheriff needs to have a particular model in mind when he sets up his department. But, in a small department, you have to be flexible enough to change when the need arises.”
Although Allen was referring specifically to his agency, his viewpoint applied to LEAs in general. “If a sheriff does not have any idea on how he wants to set up his department, he may not have a very effective department. The department has to have a direction in which to go, and the personnel need to have some idea what type of department they are working in, even if it has to change. Most individuals accept change if it is explained to them.”
Chief Jon Zumwalt of the North Charleston, SC Police Department equated change with flexibility. “We use community, customer-based research, along with statistics, to identify public safety programs and short-term enforcement,” he said. “We are combining policing and problem-oriented policing along with statistics-driven enforcement in a paramilitary culture to provide police service.” Other administrators consider flexibility a necessity if an LEA is to operate efficiently.
“The management style needed must be flexible [in selecting a model],” noted Captain Ed Chin, of the Charleston, SC, Police Department. “The various components of the jurisdiction, such as public officials, community groups, business, and our budgets must be allowed for to adjust our delivery of service.”
Based on various respondents’ comments, it is apparent that LEA administrators do not take lightly their choices of police models or the philosophies behind them. Significantly, 97% of the respondents said that administrators should take the time to study the advantages and disadvantages of each model in order to determine which one might work most effectively in their individual communities.
Hazlette averred that “Identifying a model or style of policing is critical, whether it be one of the three styles identified by James Q. Wilson or the models that have evolved in the past three decades. Without a philosophy, police agencies are destined to wander aimlessly.” The question is, though, when to establish that philosophy and its concomitant model.
There are several factors involved in the timing of philosophy and model choices. Suggestions abounded from 81% of the respondents that questions about the choices should be a major part of the interviewing process. However, Chief Dennis Veach of the Carthage, MO Police Department noted that “The interviewers are not usually knowledgeable enough to discuss the models.”
Sometimes, top administrators are hired based on known commodities. One example is Chief Paul Tiernan, of the Teaneck, NJ Police Department. Tiernan, a 25-year veteran of the department, was chosen in June 2003 to head the 101-member agency based in large part on his experience as a community policing advocate.
He did not have to go through a review board since Teaneck is a civil service community. “However,” he pointed out, “the Town Manager, who makes the administrative appointments, and the Town Council, which sets policy, did take into account my community policing background when considering my appointment.”
At one point in his career, Tiernan headed the agency’s community policing bureau. After his appointment, he expressed a desire to reinstate a program in which top-ranking department members and patrol officers meet twice a year with residents from the six different sections of town.
The community policing model has been in place in Teaneck since the end of 1994. Tiernan noted that it has changed a bit since that time, which is an indication of the flexibility required in selecting, implementing, and tweaking with a model.
“We have altered our focus a bit since 9/11,” he reported. “We have gone to a more directed patrol model in order to serve the diverse portions of our 40,000 citizens. In fact, we just received a $100,000 COPS grant to support our directed patrols.” Tiernan emphasized that the department may revert to a full community policing program as needs dictate.
“Our current model is working well, though, even with the changes,” he concluded. Teaneck’s situation is proof positive that models can be amended as circumstances fluctuate, and that precedent can play a significant role in the selection of an administrator and the model implemented, especially from a political standpoint.
That can have positive or negative ramifications, however. Case in point: Hartford, CT. When Marquis was hired in 2000, the administration at that time favored his approach to policing. Marquis did not advocate a community policing model initially, in part because the department needed a chief who was willing to discipline its members. That, according to the administration which hired him, was a top priority.
Marquis did what he was requested to. According to the November 1, 2003, Hartford Courant, between 2000 and 2003, “…he opened more than 300 disciplinary cases against more than 200 officers.” Moreover, “he dismissed or forced the resignation of 27.” He did what he was hired to do. But, times changed and so did the city’s political administration.
The city manager form of government reverted to a strong mayor form. The mayor who hired Marquis left office, and the new mayor, Eddie Perez, did not take kindly to Marquis’ style. One of his first priorities was to initiate a move to force Marquis out. Critics disagreed with Perez, suggesting that neither he nor his administrators understood the nature of police work or which model would best serve the citizens of Hartford.
Here was a classic case of philosophy and models becoming a political football, which is often a factor in choosing or changing both. The choice ultimately depends to some extent on who in a community defines “police work” and who is affected by that definition.
“A critical question that must be resolved by the CEO and the staff—and then conveyed to the rank and file—is ‘What defines police work?’” Hazlette continued. “For years we believed it only involved arresting someone or issuing a citation.” Yet, he noted, “Research indicates that policing is much more than law enforcement.”
There is no doubt that Hazlette’s remarks carry an element of truth that is recognized by his peers. LEAs have to take into account a wide range of factors when they make decisions regarding which model will work best for a given community at a particular time.
Some of the factors the respondents pointed to included the importance of discipline and professional integrity to department members and outsiders, the rank-and-file’s morale level, the quality of services provided to citizens, and administrators’ political know-how and abilities to foster strong public relations. Of particular importance to some respondents is the rank-and-file’s understanding and acceptance of a model.
In general, the rank-and-file members of LEAs do care to some extent about the philosophies and models employed by their agencies. According to the breakdown of the survey, 74% do, 12% do not, and the remaining 14% said “some will, some won’t.”
Captain Harry Van Vliet of the Ulster County, NY Sheriff’s Department pointed to the necessity of getting the rank-and-file on board when he said, “Police management’s belief in the police model selected is important to its success and acceptance by the rank-and-file.
Conversely, rank-and file-acceptance is an important element for the model’s implementation.” He is not alone in that perspective. Whitney Shipley, a planner with the Sioux City, IA Police Department, highlighted the importance of getting the rank-and-file on board. “I believe that the working environment a particular model creates within a department and the extent to which it creates effective working relationships among staff is where the true power of any model lies,” she explained.
The department operates under a multi-pronged model comprising Neighborhood Network, Community Education, volunteer, victim assistance, and school liaison programs, and a Community Action Support Team (CAST). The latter component has been in place since 1994, with positive results—but it has been incorporated into a more comprehensive program, Community Team Policing.
“Under the old system,” Shipley explained, “we had nine districts in the city, with one CAST officer assigned to each district. But, some problems fell through the cracks for various reasons. So, in April 2001, Chief [William] McCarthy devised a new program, which we call Community Team Policing.”
Now, instead of one officer per district, there is one team per district. Each unit comprises nine officers and a supervising sergeant—which is 8% of the department’s 126 sworn officers, who serve a population of 85,013 citizens. The CAST officers are still active, but as members of each team.
“CAST officers work tirelessly with citizens to provide education and resources to improve the safety and quality of life in Sioux City’s many neighborhoods,” Shipley said. Each district team meets at least once a month with a crime analyst, drug task officer, etc, to review stats for its specific district. And, each team also holds annual public meetings with the citizens in its districts. Shipley reports that the program, which incorporates elements from other models, is working well, and its philosophy is explained clearly to anyone who accesses the department’s website.
According to the website, “The Community Action Support Team operational philosophy is that of problem oriented policing. The team works to treat emergent community problems at their source, rather than continually treating and re-treating symptoms of the problem.” Inherent in this mission, it continues, “[are] education and partnership, educating residents in ways to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods.” A more detailed description of the program can be accessed online.
“I think our particular model works exceedingly well,” Shipley emphasized. “Not only because it directly impacts the community favorably, but rather because it improves the quality of relationships among staff. The improved communication and motivation that result from this is what affects the positive impact on our particular community.”
Sioux City’s model demonstrates that service to the citizens an LEA serves is paramount—but it is only one component. “The police model which will be most effective in any given community is dependent upon a variety of factors, for example personality of the community, crime rates, and the personality of the agency’s personnel and administration and experience,” said Sergeant Michael Hedlund, Office of Professional Standards, Grand Forks, ND, Police Department. “They all affect the model developed by an agency. What it comes down to is effectively and professionally regarding the needs of the community.”
His observation was borne out in the results of the survey. Only 24% of the respondents declared that the choice of a model is influenced solely by the top administrator’s preference. The remaining 76% stressed that other factors enter the choice, for instance civilian administrators’ and rank-and-file preferences, the diversity of the community’s population, recommendations from professional organizations such as CALEA, the agency’s history, mission, goals and objectives, and the opinions of the civilians in the area.
As Chief Dennis Veach, of the Carthage, MO Police Department commented, “If there isn’t support among several of these factors, there will not be success.” For example, Chief Jon Zumwalt, of the North Charleston, SC Police Department, reported that “We move from one to another model and exercise situational leadership as conditions and problems evolve.” Some change quickly; others do it gradually.
As Major Norman Caldwell of the Columbia, SC, Police Department, noted, “We moved from the professional model to establish a closer relationship with the community to enhance the ability to work together to improve quality of life and to prevent and solve crimes.” He did not cite a particular model to which the department is changing, though. “This department is moving closer to a hybrid of professional and community policing,” he concluded.
The transition away from the paraprofessional model is becoming pronounced. The model simply does not seem to satisfy the needs of LEA administrators. That is evident in their comments.
A summation of the reasons suggests that the paraprofessional model is losing favor, but that does not mean that other models are paradigms. After all, the respondents could not agree on which model works best in any given situation.
One thing on which they did reach a consensus is this: police administrators should take the time to study the advantages and disadvantages of each model in order to determine which one will work most effectively in their jurisdictions.
Some are not even sure that LEAs have to follow a particular model. According to 26% of the respondents LEAs can function effectively without resorting to one model. Conversely, 53% said they cannot. The rest were not sure. But, model or no model, they still have to deliver the service their “customers” expect.
Atkins elaborated on that point. His department comprises only seven sworn officers, who cover an area of approximately 1,000 square miles of the state. “In truth, I don’t have to worry about a particular model,” he said. “For one thing, I am too busy in the field to be concerned with a particular model. With such a small department, I have to work closely with my officers to make sure we provide coverage. That does not give me much time to worry about administration of a particular model.”
Having said that, though, Atkins stresses that the level of his effectiveness is not measured by the administrative model he employs. Rather, customer service is the yardstick.
“The people of Allen County elected me because they thought I was the best person for the job,” he said. “I feel compelled to satisfy that confidence. If I do not do the job they expect me to do, then they can take me out of office as easily as they put me in.”
That fact contributes to Atkins’ conscientious approach to serving the county as effectively as possible. “No matter how you look at it,” he said, “the level of service, not the model I follow, is how the citizens of Allen County gauge my performance.” That is true for all LEA administrators in the final analysis, whether they are elected or appointed.
For one thing, 19% of the respondents suggested that police models are better suited to larger departments than smaller ones, compared to 63% who said they are not or it does not matter.
Similarly, 53% observed that the type of jurisdiction in which a particular agency operates influences whether it needs to follow a model or not. They specified factors such as rural versus urban, small community versus large community, and racial make-up of a community as considerations in which—if any—model an administrator selects.
A resounding 94% of the respondents said they believe that the efficient delivery of customer service is more important than which model a police department operates under. That idea came through clearly in the aforementioned reasons administrators offered for switching to the COP model, for instance.
Yet, there are some folks who wonder exactly what the definition of community policing is and how it relates to customer service. Look at the situation in Hartford, for example, which illustrates how differences over the choice of a model can adversely affect an entire city and jeopardize a law enforcement administrator’s career.
Marquis came under fire as chief of police almost as soon as he accepted his position in 2000. City officials and citizens simply could not agree with his choice of a model—paraprofessional, or his personal approach and philosophy to the way the department operated.
Some people wanted him to adopt a community policing model, which city council majority leader Elizabeth Horton-Sheff defined simply as “a philosophy. It is customer service.” He did not respond right away to demands for a change to another model, which upset other city officials.
Veronica Airey-Wilson, another city official, told a Hartford Courant reporter in July 2003 that “City Hall expected sweeping changes. It really hasn’t happened. That’s where the differences come in. We can’t get the chief to explain why not. It’s become a little frustrating.” Meanwhile, Marquis was unwilling to bend in his approach to administering the police department.
Marquis was quoted in the Courant as saying, “I’m not here to glad-hand anybody or sell the residents an image. I’m here to make sure we roll up our sleeves and make substantive changes to make life better for the people who live here.” That attitude did not sit well with some city residents or government officials. In fact, it put a deeper wedge between Marquis and the mayor—who was not the one who had hired him. Chief Bruce Marquis announced in November 2003 that he had accepted a new position as Chief of Police in Norfolk, VA.
The parties involved in the constant in-fighting between the police department and the city administration lost sight of one of the basic tenets of police models, such as everyone has to “be on board” with whatever model is in place.
As Chief John Skinner of the Port St. Lucie Police Department observed, “Community policing, professional, and COMPSTAT are all organizational methods in which the agency may operate, not necessarily being just one. Organizational culture is crucial to any organization’s success.”
Moreover, he said, “Wherever a chief wants to go, he or she must ensure that the political powers to be and the community supports and understands the chief’s vision for success.” In Hartford, it was apparent that was not the case.
Yet, as the survey respondents indicated, no LEA administrator can select and implement an effective administrative model without the cooperation of political officials, citizens, rank-and-file members, and other stakeholders. Recognizing that is a first step in an LEA administrator’s model selection process—and ultimate success.
After all, there is no one administrative model that works best in all situations. Rather, it is up to individual administrators to choose the models that best fit their particular jurisdictions—and then make their models work.
Changes in Policing Strategies
|AGENCY ||FROM ||TO|
|Albuquerque, NM ||Para Prof ||COP |
|Champaign, IL ||Para Prof ||COP|
|Bellingham, WA ||COP ||SARA|
|Grady County, OK ||No structure ||Hybrid|
|Kentucky State Police ||Para Prof ||COP/CompStat Hybrid|
|Ulster County, NY ||Para Prof ||COP|
|Puyallup, WA ||Para Prof ||CompStat|
|Des Moines, IA ||Para Prof ||COP|
|Honolulu, HI ||Para Prof ||COP|
|Tulsa County, OK ||Para Prof ||COP|
|Newberry County, SC ||Para Prof ||COP|
Arthur Sharp is a professional writer, educator and frequent contributor. He may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.