Effective Engagement and Communication between First-Line Police Supervisors and Police Officers

Effective Engagement and Communication between First-Line Police Supervisors and Police Officers

Brian Ellis (Sacramento Police Department, USA) and Anthony H. Normore (California State University Dominguez Hills, USA & International Academy of Public safety, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9970-0.ch025
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Leadership is the act of influencing others whereby power comes from things such as referent and reward bases and “have an ethical responsibility to attend to the needs and concerns of followers” (Northouse, 2010, p. 4). In this chapter, the authors highlight the extant literature on organizational leadership and its role in effective communication and engagement processes. The authors focus on first-line supervisors and the impact of communication and engagement on people under their supervision. Employee trait, state, and behavioral constructs coupled with the culture of emotional connection between police officers and the police organization are explored. Further, the authors examine the principles of empowerment including meaningfulness, competence, choice, and impact and its applicability to police leadership. The outcome of the relationship between effective leadership and employee engagement is directly linked to innovation, participation, teamwork, accountability, and the ability to face challenges. Conclusions and recommendations for future research are discussed.
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While there are many organizations studying the implications of employee engagement, minimal information exists in the study of employee engagement within police organizations. In western policing, the profession has seen many standards of performance, with regards to the training and readiness of their police forces in the field. Unfortunately, little is required to supervise this new workforce. In California for instance, while a police academy offers approximately 664 hours of instruction, only 80 hours of training is mandated to become a supervisor (www.post.ca.gov). To complicate the issue of training, the higher an officer promotes in a police organization, the less education is required. In a hierarchical setting such as police organizations, it remains essential that leaders within those organizations have the competency necessary to enhance performance, and make police organizations vibrant places where officers remain highly engaged to deliver great customer service. This occurs through the ability of leaders to understand what drives employees to do excellent work, and how to better attach employees to organization values.

Like any other professional, police officers have signature strengths. Those strengths are seen as traits or interests that allow officers to flourish in some environments and become frustrated in others (Buckingham & Coffman, 1999; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). It becomes central for leaders to identify the needs of each individual, which may include their individual traits, behaviors, and work setting to maximize their abilities (Macey & Schneider, 2008). Furthermore, police leaders must be effective at utilizing empowerment. Empowerment stems from understanding and proper application of the numerous sources of empowerment: meaningfulness, where employees attach themselves to the work itself by understanding how the work makes a difference; competence, the ability to become proficient at a job, where one feels they have mastery of a role or task; choice, or the ability for one to do work in a fashion that compliments them; and impact, which is knowing that the work they complete is making a difference (Yukl & Becker, 2006). Finally, for police leaders to deliver the next generation of best practices, they need an understanding of all who are positively impacted by an engaged employee. Within this context, the authors argue that there are positive impacts for the police employee, the organization, and the public they serve and protect. We further argue that engagement and communication lead police employees to improved teamwork, creativity and innovation, accountability, and the ability to more effectively deal with any potential organizational adversity (Lakshmi, 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Engagement: Emotional connection an employee feels toward his or her employment organization, which tends to influence his or her behaviors and level of effort in work related activities. The more engagement an employee has with his or her company, the more effort they put forth.

Empowerment: Sharing information, rewards, and power with employees so that they can take initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve service and performance. Empowerment is based on the idea that giving employees skills, resources, authority, opportunity, motivation, as well holding them responsible and accountable for outcomes of their actions, will contribute to their competence and satisfaction.

Communication: The process of exchanging information, both verbal and non-verbal, within an organization. An organization may consist of employees from different parts of the society. In order to unite the activities of all employees, communication is crucial. Communicating necessary information to the entire workforce becomes necessary.

First-Line Police Supervisor: Produces the police departmental product/service to the citizens of the community. Usually a sergeant who accomplishes this task by having direct contact with the officers he or she supervises to ensure accountability and performance objectives. Because of the first-line supervisor's close interaction with the patrol officers, they are the key element in identifying and reducing potential misconduct incidents within police organizations.

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