Challenges for the Contemporary Police Chief
Police chiefs, regardless of the size of their service area, its composition, or its resources, face multiple challenges in meeting the goal of maintaining law and order while actively engaging the larger community in the effort not only to reduce crime, but to create positive relationships between law enforcement and the citizenry. According to Swanson, Territo, and Taylor (2004), the police chief in any jurisdiction essentially wears two different hats: on the one hand, this individual is a public official who interacts directly with superiors in city government such as the mayor and city council, while on the other hand, he or she is a bureaucratic administrator who is ultimately responsible for overseeing of supervising the activities of a substantial number of often diverse subordinates. Added to this is the fact that the contemporary police chief is increasingly responsive to and held accountable by the general public and the media for activities that may not necessarily be under his or her control (Swanson, et al, 2004). Certainly, a police chief would benefit from taking collegiate criminal justice administration courses and while an extensive background in active law enforcement is certainly necessary, actors in this key position should also possess undergraduate or graduate level degrees in the criminal justice field or in business administration.
A criminal justice administration course or program targeting the needs of police departments and police chiefs should incorporate information regarding budgetary matters, media relations, communications, supervision, sexual harassment, community policing, and multiculturalism (Swanson, et al, 2004). Such courses should be practically oriented and while police chiefs would certainly benefit from understanding the various theoretical and causal explanations of crime and deviance, their role is administrative in nature and it is the tools of the successful administrator that are most necessary in such programs.
If such an actor participated in a criminal justice administration course focused on budgeting issues, it is highly likely that the police chief will be better prepared to make the case on behalf of his or her department’s financial needs. He or she will have improved understanding of how budgets are structured, how resources are allocated, and how functioning as an advocate on behalf of law enforcement can ultimately result in improved resource access. Learning more about the budgetary processes occurring at the city level can empower a police chief to become more efficient in garnering the resources needed for departmental efficacy.
Taking a course covering the issue of sexual harassment in police departments it is likely that a police chief would receive only limited information. Such a course would undoubtedly address multiple areas of discriminatory practice. Because sexual harassment is such a significant problem, this kind of programming should devote more time to the subject and should include panel discussions, guest lecturers, and other instructional modalities that depict how police chiefs successfully cope with a problem that is unfortunately all too common in the law enforcement field (Swanson, et al, 2004).
This essay has attempted to identify the ways in which today’s police department chiefs are being challenged to deal with a myriad assortment of issues that make the job more complex than ever before. It has also identified some but hardly all of the benefits of college level criminal justice programming with special focus on budgeting and sexual harassment. Swanson, et al (2004) make the case that to be effective, a police chief today must possess multiple administrative skills and competencies. It is not sufficient to move through the ranks or to benefit from political patronage with respect to this role. The most effective contemporary police chiefs are professionals whose experience, knowledge, and educational credentials combine to ensure that he or she will be capable of effectively leading a force of police officers.
Swanson, C.R., Territo, L., & Taylor, R.W. (2004). Police
Administration: Structures, Processes, & Behavior.
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.