The Canadian Review of Policing Research (2004)

ISSN: 1710 6915


Tonita Murray, Associate Editor

Given the interest government has shown in police management and organization in the last decade, it is surprising neither have attracted much research attention. There have been perhaps a dozen major articles published during the 1990s. Notable among these are the studies of Bayley, Murphy and Weatheritt, edited by Anthony Doob in Thinking about Police Resources1 , McKenna and Evans2 on balancing Ontario police budgets, McDavid3 on the impact of regionalization on police services in the Halifax region, and Murphy’s4 study of the rationalization of Canadian public policing summarized in this journal.

Perhaps human resource management, budget planning, organizational restructuring, training or the development of police leaders are not regarded as appropriate research topics for criminologists. And indeed, some of the best research on policing management is found in the public administration rather than the criminological literature. But, nevertheless, such matters are important for criminologists, because management reform in policing over the last ten years has had a strong influence on those aspects of policing that criminologists would regard as more properly their preserve.

To take just one example, the postmodern theories of the commodification of policing and the responsibilization of communities to explain community policing and the growth of private security relied on macro analyses of government fiscal and social policies. As I have pointed out elsewhere5 , a finer examination of the business relations between governments and police, of police strategic plans, budgets, human resource policies, or organizational restructurings would have revealed that, in the pursuit of deficit reduction and cost effectiveness, the emphasis was most often on effectiveness not cost. Even before the renewed spending on security following the events of September 11, public policing appeared to have suffered least of any public service in all the brutal cost-cutting of the 1990s .

Criminologists would therefore do well to take greater interest in the management of policing because adaptation to the new public administration has had a significant impact on how policing is done. Police are now more accountable to the policy direction of governments than they have ever been, because governments are concentrating on performance and leaving the issue of conduct to the courts and external oversight bodies. And governments are able to insist on prescribed performance targets because they now have tight control of the purse strings.

Let me cite just three examples, although there are many more. The federal government now releases new money to the RCMP with conditions attached on how it will be spent and how it will be accounted for. In its turn, the Ontario government issues adequacy standards with resource implications and where the standards cannot be met, other arrangements are made, such as amalgamation of small, inadequate police services into larger more cost-effective ones. Another way of making resources go further while improving effectiveness is described in Inspector Carron’s article in this section. It shows how a rational approach to organizational restructuring in the Winnipeg Police Service is leading to improved police service delivery and new police buildings, while achieving cost savings. Each of these developments has affected the police role in one way or another.

There have also been significant developments in police human resource management. Apart from diversity and gender matters in police organizations, which have been reported on, among others, by Jain, Singh and Agocs6 , police services have developed new selection, promotion and evaluation approaches based on defined competencies and clear performance measures. While still in its infancy, as Coleman shows in his article in this section, there is at least awareness that the achievement of contemporary policing objectives is heavily dependent on rational human resource policies linked to strategic direction. Middleton-Hope, another researcher-police chief, also shows here a preoccupation with improving police performance in his study of the problem with so-called “gypsy cops”.

The quality of police leadership has been an enduring preoccupation in the last decade. Police chiefs are no longer just “top cops”, they are now regarded as chief executive officers of important public organizations with the responsibility for managing multi-million dollar budgets and the people, facilities and equipment that go with it. Today they are judged on their ability “to do more with less”, on their acumen in steering between conflicting and often contradictory demands, and on their success in leading strategic change. And now, the globalization of crime and policing has added another dimension to police leadership. This is explored by Corley in his article in this section. Based on his findings, he makes some suggestions for how the RCMP and other police organizations can improve their performance both locally and globally.

The responsibilities of police executives have grown and changed appreciably over the last ten years. It is surprising that the chiefs are generally coping so well since they have been trained as police officers not business managers, and have had very little experience outside their own domain. Some of the brightest and best, however, have become casualties in the struggle to reform organizations steeped in a conservative culture. As I explain in my article in this section, police executives have not been well-prepared for leading change and they must make their mistakes publicly, while leaders of other types of organizations do so privately.

The changes in policing management and organization are manifested in new police policies and operational practices and are visible on the streets. The study of policing management and organization therefore deserves scholarly attention. If nothing else, scholars may find viewing their particular aspect of policing through a management and organizational prism could shed new light on their theories and research. But more importantly, police management and organization should be researched because there is so much still to be learned.


1. Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, 1993.

2. Paul F. McKenna ad Donald G. Evans, “Balancing police budgets and decision making: an experiment in disentanglement”, Canadian Police Administration, Winter 1999, vol. 42, no.4.

3. James C. McDavid, “The impacts of amalgamation on police services in the Halifax Regional Municipality”, Canadian Police Administration, winter 2002, vol. 45, no. 4.

4. See the section entitled “Policy Theory and Policy”.

5. Tonita Murray, “Are the police destined for postmodern oblivion? A practitioner’s view of present and future policing in Canada”, Police Practice and Research, 2000, vol.1, no. 3, pp. 373-396.

6. Harish C. Jain, Parbudyal Singh and Carol Agocs, “Recruitment, selection and promotion of visible minorities and aboriginal police officers in selected Canadian police services”, Canadian Public Administration, Spring 2000, vol. 43, no.1.