Participation and Work Enrichment

  • Hans Toch
  • J. Douglas Grant


Police departments are paramilitary organizations. This means that police wear uniforms and are marched to and from classes during training. they receive orders that pass through chains of command. “In theory,” write Eck and Spelman (1987a), “all the important policy decisions were made at the top. Line officers could legitimately make no decisions on their own, except perhaps the decision to quit the force” (pp. 22–23). Eck and Spelman (1987a) further point out that the tasks traditionally assigned to police were simple tasks, offering “limited opportunities for meaningful work, responsibility, and feedback” (p. 25).


Police Officer Police Department Police Work Enforcement Policy Meaningful Work 
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  1. 1.
    Contemporaneous observers saw police as innately lazy and corruption-prone. Walker (1977) notes that “if one were to believe a 1915 investigation of the Chicago police, patrolmen spent most of their time in saloons” (p. 10).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Enemies of police discretion have similarly objected to the fact that rank and file officers can make policy, which should be a managerial responsibility. Davis (1975) writes that “the worst part of the answer to the question of who makes police policy is that professional people with specialized training seldom participate… if most policy is made by patrolmen, and if all higher officers are excluded, most policy is made by those with substantially less than 12.4 years in school” (pp. 43–44). Davis felt that the solution lies in well-formulated rules. He argued that where rules are instituted, “the quality of enforcement policy will improve because it will be made by top officers instead of patrolmen. The top officers obviously have skills and broad understanding that patrolmen typically lack. Under the present system the high officers seldom participate in making enforcement policy and are often uninformed of what it is (p. 113). Davis echoes Fred Taylor’s concerns with the role of science. One of his arguments for rules is that “the quality of enforcement policy will be improved because the preparation of rules will lead to appropriate investigations and studies by qualified personnel, including specialists with suitable professional training. No longer will it be made primarily by the offhand guesswork of patrolmen” (Davis, 1975, p 113).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Persons who draw attention to this possibility do not necessarily predict its occurrence.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The controversy predates the advent of the police car. Graper (1921) mentions that “when regular patrol service was first established it was customary to assign men to patrol in pairs. This policy was followed because it was deemed unsafe for one policeman to patrol alone” (p. 131). The one-man versus two-man patrol-car controversy was intensely waged following World War II. O. W. Wilson (1952) complained at the time that “in order to enjoy the companionship of a brother officer during routine patrol and the comfort of his presence in hazardous situations, some patrolmen are eager to prove that one-man patrol-car operation is unduly hazardous” (p. 85). Wilson saw sociability as leading to inefficiency and corruption. He wrote that “the officer patrolling alone…is more likely to give his undivided attention to police duties. The presence of a second officer results in time spent in non-police activities; two officers are more likely than one officer to be involved in small delinquencies and infraction of the rules” (p. 83). The argument for one-person cars resurfaced in New York City in 1990. In an editorial (September 24, 1990) the New York Times complained that “the city’s strong police union argues that one-officer cars are unsafe” in the face of evidence to the contrary. The editorial concluded that “because using one-officer cars is a sensible way to free up officers now for reassignment to foot patrol, it warrants the Commissioner’s urgent attention.”Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Toch
    • 1
  • J. Douglas Grant
    • 2
  1. 1.State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.Social Action Research CenterNicasioUSA

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