Every organization has a unique industrial culture, made up of various behaviors and values. The new members learn the behaviors and values upon which the culture is based through socialization. The organizational values are based on the goals of the organization, and expectations of the employees. Over time, the culture of an organization can change, improving and adapting to the external environment. However such changes appear over time and may prove difficult as organizational cultures have many aspects. According to Hofstede (1980) cultural dimension theory, an organizational culture is made up of power distance, uncertainty, avoidance, individualism, masculinity and orientation.
This paper focus on understanding the dynamics of police culture, and how this culture has led to the development, and increase of internal police bullying. The police force is among the most critical organizations in a city. A country cannot function without a police force. This is the foundation of both personal and national security. Understanding the dynamic that are leading to various cases of internal bullying on the WA police force is important to ensure that the force regains in proper public standing and remains productive.
Applying Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, who researched the various ways in which an organization’s development of culture could be influenced. The police force is one of the richest cultures in any area. This is one of the organizations that for a long time, despite various challenges and environmental changes, has remained much the same. Recent concerns about employee misbehavior and strained relationships between the police officers have caused great concern among police leaders. Demands for organizational change and improvement in values and behavior of officers charged with the responsibility of securing citizens have increased greatly.
Hofstede indicated that changes in values could only begin with changes in personal and organizational behavior. Behavior changes can only be effected by understanding the five dimensions of organization culture, in this case the police culture and effecting changes in each one. The organizational values are based on these five pillars which need to be changed.
Power distance, according to Cockcroft (2013), refers to the social distance between various individuals. The police force, like any other organization comprises of individuals who belong to different classes both socially and economically. In an attempt to become equal players, level the playing field, officers can form groups terrorizing and excluding others from their own. This is a common culture among officers, with officers from higher social and economic classes bearing the worst brunt of it.
Few officers from high social classes join the force, and the past such officers have often been treated specially. They are given the best cases and assignments, and often promoted much faster than other officers in an attempt to create good relationships with their economical and financially endowed families. This tradition in turn created great animosity between officers which has existed beyond generations, (Crank 1998).
Recent research into the police force show that, the organization `has a high power distance score indicating that many individuals feel that there still exists favoritism based on the different socio-economic status of young recruits and officers. Furthermore, majority of the officers feel that there is s a great distance between bosses and working officers, and also between the different departments within the police force.
The concern for distance must change; all officers must be made to fell equal between departments and also between the different social classes represented.
The future for police officers and members of the police is highly uncertain. Whereas there are various ways through which officers can deal with such uncertainty such as religion changes and beliefs; conditions of working are still such that officers can rarely plan their futures. Relationships, personal and otherwise are hard to manage because their work and schedules are often difficult to manage.
Rituals and behavior of police officers often reflect the uncertainty that the officers face . Friendships are only managed within the department, with officers sometimes working side by side for years and having only what may be considered as artificial relationships. Crank (1998) showed that Rituals such as carrying of saints and engaging in specific actions before leaving for work are most common among police officers than any other career. Whereas some of the rituals are rational, majority are not rational.
Orientation of young officers falls in this category, with many being subjected to extreme bullying to create hard core officers. Groups of officers believe that when officers are properly oriented, treated fairly, they often fail or even lose their lives when left exposed during their first months. To create an efficient and reliable officer, young officers must be exposed to harsh environments from home. This tradition has transformed from harmless pranks to extreme cases of bullying that have caused increased psychological problems and resignation among officers.
Creating a stable future for officers may be difficult; however, ensuring that they are comfortable and satisfied in the present would be an ideal place to start.
Collectivism defines the collective goals of the ream, which are often in conflict with the individual goals and dreams. Each organization has its own goals which employees are working towards. However, when such goals are not structured in such a way that employees goals are also considered, conflict arises between the two.
The police force culture is such that it promoted individualism, every officer is more concerned with hisown safety rather than safety of others. This culture needs to change, small offices, have high collectivism. Loftus (2009) stated that Activities in which officers engage in such as team building, after work drinks and picnics have served to create stronger emotional bonds among the officers. On the other hand the officers in the city rarely interact unless when working together, where much of the time officers are more concerned with ensuring they leave work in one piece. This has promoted individualism, where officers do not care about each other’s emotional states.
The bullying has thrived in this culture, where officers are less willing to report bullies or even help others who face bullying whether based on race, sex or even economic status. partners are less willing to stand up for each other, as this may affect how they are viewed by other officers as well as force them to become involved in each others’ lives.
Organizational cultures in today’s modern world are fast changing from predominantly male, into a more equalized culture. However, the police has remained a culture that is predominantly male decades after female officers began joining the force. The females are often faced with an environment that does not cater to them, or include them. In some cases female officers go as far as changing in the same rooms as their male counterparts and working under difficult conditions. They are also faced with the highest rate of bullying, and the biggest resignation rate.
Conditions under which female officers have been working are improving following demands by the society. The force is being forced to make changes to accommodate the female officers. However, these changes are not only slow; in some cases they are not enough. Cockcroft (2013) stated that Male officers still view female officers some who are better than them as much lower and less efficient than they are. Attitudes and behaviors of male officers towards their female counterparts need to be effectively and permanently change. Gender orientation in this organizational culture must become more equalized.
This refers to the socialization of the new employee’s into the culture of the organization. The duration it takes to integrate fully a new employee into the organization often effects on the culture that continues to grow. According to many experts, the process of integration needs to change before any behaviors, attitudes and values of the organization can change. Long term orientation gives a chance for the introduction of new cultures and behaviors into the organization.
In a long term orientation employees need to take time to learn the new culture, and during the learning process they can influence, make changes and adapt to new external needs. Such a culture shows great variation over time, as employees learn new ways, and are introduced to new behaviors. Paoline (2001) advised that over time, such a culture can easily be completely transformed because the changes take place one at a time.
Shorter orientations on the other hand are built on strong traditions which for years have not changed. Changes in the industry may take place but the culture remains rooted on traditions with new employees being given little or any chance for change. Crank (1998) indicated that The police force is based on this orientation. The work environment required employees, new recruits and officers to become oriented very fast. Employees are not given a chance to make changes, and few if any changes have been made to the traditions.
Although the WA police force is large, officers are oriented quickly and its traditions are deeply rooted. More than one recruit have indicated that the process of orientation is not only difficult but that the bullying has been active for years, with minimal or no effort being made to change this. The number of officers who have decamped from the force without completing the exit questionnaires is an indication of the nature of the orientation process and changes must be made to this. Management needs to take concerns of the new officers seriously, even during the exit interviews. Whether localized or otherwise, the issues presented need to be taken seriously not just for the sake of current officers, but also future recruits.
Organization change in the culture in WA police force needs to be well managed. There is no culture that can change haphazardly. Haphazard changes are what cause an organization to deteriorate rather than improve. The vision and values of the police force require be re-evaluating and restructuring to hold firm the organization and this can only be done through making proper transition that will make the changes last and be sustainable.
There are many demands for change in the police culture. The public, media and even the government is making an outcry for specific changes in the behavior of officers. There are temptations by management to implement changes, without being intentional about the changes. Officers need to see the importance of such changes, understand why the changes must be made and therefore be able to stand behind the changes being implemented. Intentional change can be made by:
- Ensuring that the entire force is kept in the steps of change. All officers need to be educated and followed up to ensure that the changes are effective. It is of great importance to remember that the police departments are differentiated and therefore there is a need to understand how each of the changes will impact on specific departments.
- Department heads and supervisors need to be given a forum through which they can provide feedback on the process of change, and helped to deal with the various challenges that they will encounter during the process of change.
- The management needs to be sensitive enough to understand that the changes to a strong tradition among the officers will be difficult to the officers. Understanding the emotions and challenges that the officers are facing, and empathizing with the same is important to ensure that the officers are able to transition easily, (Loftus 2009).
The changes being implemented din the police force are likely to be met with increased criticism and are also likely to develop conflict. Management and leaders need to ensure that the change is completely supported by even the lowest level officers. Each officer, supervisor and leader of the departments needs to understand that the change is not for the benefit of the department but will also ensure that they work better and grow within their careers.
- Changes cannot just be announced as has been the tradition, with chiefs announcing changes to the media rather than explaining and collecting the views if their officers. All officers should be made aware of the changes and the importance of the same.
- Senior officers need to support the process of change so that they can motivate their teams to take part in the process of change. Department chiefs need to be at the forefront of supporting the change.
- WA police force in its entirety, all staff need a new mission or vision to work towards achieving . Officers need to feel that the change is not targeting them personally but rather the entire force needs to change.
For a long time, communication between police leaders and staff has been poor. Many officers claim to hear news of changes and other matters over media announcements and memos. Interactions with leaders is poor, (Chan 1997). For the changes being implemented to be successful, managers need to keep open doors, so that officers can report their challenges and issues, and receive support on the same.
- With advances in technology, it is tempting to interact through emails and phone calls. However, changes even small ones should be communicated face to face. Managers need to face employees and share required information.
- Before implementing the change, a system must be developed to make employees aware that change is coming so that when the announcement comes, they are better prepared to handle change. Early announcements also provide an opportunity for the leaders to determine how officers will react to particular changes and also receive feedback on how best to implement these changes.
- Some officers especially those who have just joined the force will be more receptive to change, willing to take immediate steps and embrace the change. On the other hand, older officers maybe slower and sometimes set in tradition. The process of introducing change needs to take place the needs of all these officers.
- Managing the change for the officers will be based on the positive attitude of supervisors. Supervisors and police leaders have been in the force longest and are the most influential in their departments, (Chan 1997). The changes may not be easy for them but is they approach the same with a positive attitude their own workforce is likely to do the same.
WA police force has come under attack for visible cracks within the organizations culture. What leaders and managers need to understand is that not the entire culture is wrong and requires change. There is a need to uphold the good aspects of the culture. The change introduced should be small, and one at a time. Too many changes may cause lack of motivation and burn out among the already overwhelmed officers. Like in any organization, transitions will be difficult and strategies nee d to be developed to deal with the challenges that the changes will bring.
- Whereas the need for change is immediate, the behavior of officers cannot be expected to be immediate. For a while, officers will continue to resign because they are being bullied the change maybe slow but with time the effects will begin to show. The important thing is to acknowledge even the small changes.
- WA has a variety of employees and in an organization this large there will definitely be various reactions to the process of change. Police leaders and political authorities need to acknowledge that the process of change will be different for each individual, each department and each division.
Chan, J. B. L. (1997). Changing Police Culture: Policing In A Multicultural Society. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Cockcroft, T. (2013). Police Culture Themes And Concepts. Abingdon, Oxon, Routledge. Http://Site.Ebrary.Com/Id/10631058.
Crank, J. P. (1998). Understanding Police Culture. Cincinnati, Oh, Anderson Pub.
HOFSTEDE, G. H. (1980). Culture’s consequences: international differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, Calif, Sage Publications.
Loftus, B. (2009). Police Culture In A Changing World. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Paoline, E. A. (2001). Rethinking Police Culture Officers’ Occupational Attitudes. New York, Lfb Scholarly Pub. Llc. Http://Search.Ebscohost.Com/Login.Aspx?Direct=True&Scope=Site&Db=Nlebk&Db=Nlabk&An=74289.
WA – Western Australia