The Canadian Review of Policing Research (2004)

ISSN: 1710 6915


Terry G. Coleman

Terry Coleman is the Chief of Police in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. He is currently working on a doctoral program. This article is a much abbreviated summary of the findings of his research. For a copy of the complete report please contact Terry G. Coleman, PMgr., MHRM., at 306.694.7630 or e-mail:


A major challenge in any organization is the creation of a culture in which everyone is working to the organizational strategy. Thus a strategic approach to human resource management in which human resource practices are linked to the organizational strategy and aligned with organizational goals and values is key to the effective implementation and management of culture change.1 This is as true for police services as for any other type of organization.

Contemporary policing2 , which is substantially different from traditional policing, focuses on quality client or customer service through continuous improvement, consultation, collaboration and total involvement. The organizational strategy of “community policing” is the police manifestation of Total Quality (TQ).3 However, the culture change in contemporary policing may be incomplete owing to a failure to appreciate that community policing is a transformation of culture that requires a strategic approach rather than the mere implementation of a program, or a series of programs. Community policing literature suggests that for the culture change to occur, strategic human resource management is necessary to enable and sustain contemporary policing.

The goals of this study were therefore to:

  • examine strategic human resource management;
  • explore the fundamentals of contemporary policing and its relationship with TQ and high-involvement quality-focused organizations; and
  • assess the status of strategic human resource management and the culture change in contemporary policing.


Canadian police services, police associations (unions), and police boards were asked to complete a mail-in questionnaire about the extent to which they strategically managed human resources and the extent to which they had moved to a contemporary policing culture. Responses were received from all provinces except Newfoundland, and represented services ranging in size from 12 officers to more than 3,000. The 64 responses [N=64], from 34 police services, 20 police associations, and 10 police boards, represented 48 different services [N=48], which was 63 per cent of the services surveyed and 66 per cent or 37,059 of Canadian police officers.

Major Findings

The findings of the study were organized in two parts:

  • Status of contemporary policing
  • Strategic human resource management

A. Status of Contemporary Policing

To what extent does a service exhibit the essential characteristics of TQ and community policing?

  1. A long-term perspective
    Overall, many police leaders did not appear to understand the significance of an organizational strategy of community policing, as opposed to community policing as a program(s), nor the necessary linkage to strategies such as human resource management. This suggests many of the services did not have a long-term perspective and, thus, did not have a commitment to contemporary policing.

  2. A focus on outcomes
    In general many police leaders did not understand that a focus on outcomes is a fundamental aspect of contemporary policing. Overall, measurement of outcomes linked to the organizational strategy of community policing was infrequent.

  3. Decentralization of authority
    In most services community policing was reported to be the responsibility of all police officers. Although, this suggests decentralization of authority and decision-making, further study is necessary to determine if real decentralization had occurred.

  4. Teams and teamwork
    Only 14 of 48 services had a formal recognition program and none were focused on teams and teamwork. This suggests contemporary policing was not yet an integrated part of the organizational culture.

  5. Relevant training or learning opportunities
    In many services technical and behavioural competencies were not linked to employee performance, training, development, and learning. This suggests these services might not have been strategically managing human resources to achieve the organizational goals of contemporary policing.

  6. Fact-based or data-based decisions to achieve customer/client satisfaction
    Over 50 per cent of the services did not make full use of data for decision making. This suggests community policing in many police services has yet to evolve.

B. Strategic Human Resource Management

The extent to which a police service had instituted strategic human resource management was assessed based on:

  1. Human resource management expertise
    Although strategic human-resource management specialists are necessary, many managers of human-resource functions were police officers untrained in the human-resource management. Many persons involved in the recruiting, hiring, and placement were not necessarily those who understood and practised community policing. This is a further indication that a strategic approach to human resource management and contemporary policing may have been absent.

  2. Staffing processes
    Despite the disadvantages of a closed personnel system, most services continued to staff internally for most police positions up to executives and chiefs of police. The majority of respondents were satisfied with their internal and external staffing processes. However, although their level of satisfaction may indicate their expectations have been met, their expectations may have been inappropriate considering many did not understand strategic human resource management and the concept of an organizational strategy.

  3. Organizational renewal and sustainability
    Although success in a technical, knowledge-based examination may not be an accurate predictor of future performance, and seniority rewards only time in a past position, most services reported seniority and the successful completion of a technical, knowledge-based examination were still part of promotion decisions. Even though studies have identified the need to replace retiring police officers with persons who have the necessary experience and competencies, in general, formal succession management was not established in most services. These indicators with respect to organizational renewal and sustainability suggest human resources may not be strategically managed in many services to ensure the necessary organizational capacity.

  4. Total compensation, rewards and recognition
    In general, services had not linked total compensation and rewards to the organizational strategy and, consequently, were not focused on rewarding behaviour congruent with the organizational strategy. The inference can be made that these services did not have a strategic approach to human resource management to achieve organizational goals.

  5. Competency-based human resource management (CB-HRM)
    CB-HRM enables an organization to ensure congruence of human resource processes with the organizational strategy. Although responses indicated many police leaders considered their services to be community policing organizations, many failed to realize this should therefore be their organizational strategy. The evidence also suggested the term “competency” is not fully understood by police leaders, and thus strategic competency-based human-resource management may not be fully appreciated and applied.

  6. Identification and determination of competencies
    Although behavioural competencies should be derived from the mission, vision, and values of the organization to be congruent with organizational strategy, this strategic linkage was rarely the case.

  7. Values-based competencies
    Values and ethics are critical in a police service. It is, therefore, of concern almost one third of services did not base staffing decisions on the congruence of the candidate’s personal values with the corporate values of the service.

  8. Competency reinforcement and development
    Although most services reportedly based periodic employee assessments or appraisals on appropriate behavioural competencies for the purpose of competency reinforcement and development, many of the same respondents did not understand the concepts of competencies or organizational strategy. Overall, a clear indication of a strategic and linked approach to competency development and reinforcement was not evident.

  9. Assessment of competency levels
    The most common means of assessing behavioural competencies was reportedly behavioural interviews conducted one-on-one or by a panel. Given the often low level of understanding of behavioural competencies, further study is necessary to determine if these interviews were indeed behavioural interviews. Many respondents did not understand what an assessment centre was.

  10. Education requirements for police officers
    Although overall respondents agreed post-secondary education was the relevant minimum for most positions, generally this had not been reflected in policies. The failure to change policies may indicate police leaders did not understand higher education levels of staff are a strategic advantage in the culture change to contemporary policing.

  11. Behavioural competencies for contemporary policing

    Respondents were asked to select the ten competencies they considered appropriate for community policing. Their selections did not coincide with competencies identified for high performance and organizational success. This suggests many police leaders may not understand the fundamentals of community policing, or may not understand behavioural competencies must be linked to the fundamentals.


Of particular interest was the finding that many police leaders did not seem to understand the fundamentals of contemporary policing, the concept of organizational strategy or the concept of linked human resource strategies. For a culture change to occur in which community policing is both successful and sustained, the philosophy of community policing must be operationalized as an organizational strategy impacting all strategies in the organization, including human resource strategies. Even when a service is managing human resources strategically, if the organizational strategy does not embrace the fundamentals of community policing, then the culture change to contemporary policing will not take place.

The absence in some services of any linkage between staffing processes, performance measurement, learning, and reward systems with the organizational strategy reportedly in place, even if that strategy is not community policing, suggests a failure to appreciate the necessity of having a clear human resource strategy to attain desired organizational goals. Additionally, the absence in many services of outcome-focused measurement systems and systems to encourage and support innovation, creativity, and continuous improvement does not bode well for a culture change in contemporary policing.

While the literature suggests strategic human-resource management will facilitate culture change, this study indicates many services did not strategically manage human resources and that the culture change to community policing in these police services was incomplete. However, the good news is a few of the services were starting to take steps to implement a strategic approach to human resource management and thus advancing the evolution of contemporary policing.


1. Donald L. Caruth, and Gail D. Handlogten, Staffing the Contemporary Organization: A Guide to Planning, Recruiting, and Selecting for Human Resource Professionals, 2nd. ed., Westport: 1997, Praeger; Marnie E. Green, “Beware and Prepare: The Government Workforce of the Future”, Public Personnel Management, 29.4 (2000): 435; Sandra Nutley, “Beyond systems: HRM audits in the public sector”, Human Resource Management Journal, 10.2 (2000): 21-38; Souque, Jean-Paul, Succession Planning and Leadership Development, diss., Conference Board of Canada, May 1998.

2. This study uses “contemporary policing” and “community policing” interchangeably.

3. “TQ” is used in this study for Total Quality; Total Quality Management; Total Quality Service; and high performance organizations in general.