Police Leaders in the New Community Problem-Solving Era

Police Leaders in the New Community Problem-Solving Era

Author: Michael J. Jenkins and John DeCarlo
Publisher: Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2015. 220p.
Reviewer: Rosalyn Bocker Parks | September 2015

Michael J. Jenkins and John DeCarlo’s Police Leaders in the New Community Problem-Solving Era offers a glimpse inside urban policing today, and insight into potential avenues for future change. This work offers mixed-methods original research into four urban police departments and suggests a new policing paradigm — one centered on police-community partnership and the use of the problem solving method to address crime and disorder problems.

This work begins with a brief yet comprehensive review of the history of policing, some of the most prominent paradigms in the field, and an examination of the most recent era in policing — an era of community problem-solving (CPS). This summary spans historical eras of policing, including the pre-police phase, the political era of policing, the reform era, and the overlapping ideas of community policing, problem-solving policing, and broken windows policing encompassed in CPS.

A prominent feature of Police Leaders in the New Community Problem-Solving Era is the series of detailed case studies highlighting four urban centers and their police departments. Brief overviews and then deeper case studies offer insights into the histories of and organizational change within the Newark Police Department, the Boston Police Department, the Milwaukee Police Department and the Police Department. These case studies allow for a review of the similarities and contrasts among these organizations as they adapted to the new CPS era.

The magnitude of organizational change is assessed for each of these departments as they move to a new policing paradigm. The elements of police organization strategies for each of the four departments are evaluated in ten areas: legitimacy, function, organizational structure, administrative processes, external relationship, demand entrance, demand management, tactics, technology, and outcomes. Though all four departments have areas still needing improvement, each has made progress from where they were towards the CPS model. While the Newark Police Department had just a low-medium magnitude of change towards the CPS model, the Boston Police Department, the Milwaukee Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department have all experienced medium-high magnitudes of change.

Jenkins and DeCarlo conclude their work with a discussion of the importance of effective police leadership and organization change and a review of the CPS model and its characteristics and challenges. One limitation of the CPS model is the very demanding organizational changes that are necessary for police departments to adopt in order to comply with the model. For some, this is simply a bridge too far.

Bureaucratic police department structures are ironically both necessary to and a drawback to the adoption of the CPS model. Bureaucratic organizational structures allow for police leaders to implement fundamental changes in how a department operates. But these changes necessitate widespread acceptance from members at all levels of the police department and leadership that is both persuasive and collaborative. While this potential weakness in the model is noted by the authors, the concern remains that it is the paradoxical necessity of bureaucratic leadership in departments where bureaucratic policing has, if not caused, then at least contributed to the deterioration of police-community relationships in the first place.

While enacting these changes may be difficult, Jenkins and DeCarlo emphasize the necessity of facing these changes and challenges proactively. Engaging and accessible, another vital strength of Police Leaders in the New Community Problem-Solving Era is its appeal to varied audiences, from police managers to students, and from academic researchers to policymakers.

In a climate of strained community-police relations and economic downsizing, the Community Problem-Solving model offers possibly viable strategies for police departments looking to leverage cutting edge technologies and evidence-based best practices in and with their communities.

Rosalyn Bocker Parks, PhD is a Research Associate at the Rutgers University Police Institute

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