The County Sheriff’s Leadership and Management Decisions in the Local Budget Process Revisited
The article revisits the research by LaFrance and Placide and confirms the participation of elected sheriffs in the leadership rather than the management of their system. The article takes the view, which is deduced from the research and analysis that, elected sheriffs would corporate with the legislative assembly for the solution of budgetary deficits and or problems. This serves to illuminate the critical issues incident to the introduction of election of sheriffs as opposed to appointment of Sheriffs. The article propounds a number of reasons that support the election rather than the appointment of sheriffs. It runs short of declaring the election system better than the appointment system. However, the critical contribution of the research to practice could be seen in light of the solutions it suggests for the management and guidance of the police departments. As the authors postulate, the idea of election of sheriffs is not as bad as it sounds. The research exposes some of the advantages that would be derived from an election system and seeks to convince the audience of the possibility of practicing the same. Perhaps to gain a more facilitated understanding of the same it is important to discuss some of the benefits of electing sheriffs as discussed in the article.
Foremost, the idea of accountability and the effect of an electoral system crops up. In the previous set up, sheriffs were held to account by the appointing authority. Consequently, the sheriffs found themselves not only accountable but subordinate to the legislature and other organs which in one way or another had a hand in the appointment of sheriffs. This created an element of accountability by sheriffs to Parliament and other appointing authorities. Consequently, Parliament and the other bodies became almost too powerful than was necessary. The election of sheriffs has occasioned a radical shift in terms of accountability. Sheriffs who have had to play political roles have now gained some degree of independence and only remain accountable to the electorate. In addition, the authors note that they would work together with their elected peers such as members of the Counties to find solutions rather than merely be implementers of solutions that have already been devised. The long and short of it has been the improved delivery of services.
Secondly, within the United States of America, decentralization of polices through the county systems is gaining currency. The nation has adopted a system that attempts to decentralize policy making decisions as well as policy implementation decisions. To that extent, empowering the sheriff by giving the positions resources and accountability directly conferred by the citizens is seen as a step in the right direction. As the authors seem to suggest, the sheriff would be more independent and accountable to the people if elected by the people rather than by a group or an institution. In the long run, the approach is seen as an enhancement of the decentralized approach to management and operation of government and governance. Thirdly, the election of sheriffs though a political process is seen as a reduction of political influence on law enforcement. As it stands, political influence is present in the sense that the appointing authority has political power and can abuse the same to compromise the appointed officer to toe the line and work within the desired status quo. This would be dispensed with by the introduction of elections. The basis is that the police commissioners at the county level will derive their mandate from the electorate and hence feel unobligated to the political forces. This will provide a reprieve to law enforcement from political influence. This is essential for the efficient and effective administration of law enforcement activities. In addition, this will give the force the professional and autonomous face it requires. With this approach in place, commissioners will be able to discharge their duties with the independence of mind and character and will not have to seek for consent of the political players.
However, that is not to suggest that the police service will now work in isolation. In fact, that informs the crux of the research. As gathered in the research, the elected police officers equally appreciate the role of other players and the need for corporation. As the research by LaFrance and Placide suggests, officers would definitely consult and seek for the help of the county assembly for solutions on the budget crisis. This perhaps emanates from the symbiotic relationship of bodies in the operation of public functions. As it is noted, the veterans in the system would more likely prefer corporation as compared to the newly elected sheriffs. This can be interpreted to mean the veterans appreciate the symbiotic nature of public functional bodies and the fact that working in isolation can only be counterproductive. In that context, it is the contention of the paper that the research contributes to the practice of electoral systems in the police service the manner in which nascent and developing structures need to be structured and implemented. Therefore, it is this papers’ position that electoral systems in the police service be embraced and entertained. In the long run, it would lead to the reduction of the power of the legislature at the county level, the provision of continuity and stability and the creation of transformative and transparent leadership within the police service.
However, an apparent disconnect exists between practice and research which must be appreciated and rightly taken into consideration. Disconnect can be explained perhaps in the academic approach that research assumes which basically lacks in the practice. For starters, it must be appreciated that research is based on a scientific approach that assumes a methodology acceptable in the scientific world. Research relies on a number of assumptions for simplification and to facilitate analysis the subject of interest and research findings. However, most of those assumptions do not hold in real life thus creating disconnect between research and practice. This needs to be examined in the context of the deviation from what happens in practice and what the research is able to give. In the long run, the research should be as near an illustration and postulation of what happens in the ground hence a true presentation of the practice.
The research needs to be appreciated for its advocacy and informational role. The authors explain in detail the benefits inherent in the electoral systems in the police service. The fact that the practice is gaining currency even in the United Kingdom gives it the international and progressive character important for its implementation. The electoral system seeks to reduce the excess powers of the legislature, create accountability to the people of the sheriffs and enable transparency of the police service to the people. However, this must not be interpreted as an attempt to insulate the police from the ever necessary accountability to government, their need to practice professionalism and good governance and the need to uphold the spirit of the laws in the day to day management. It needs to be entertained in the context of decentralization and devolution of functions, responsibilities and resources from the government to the private and other public entities. This approach equally falls in line with the spirit of democracy that attempts to input the participation of the ordinary citizen to the greatest extent possible. In the long run, the purpose of the system is to enable efficient and effective operation of the police service. The good news from the rolled out programs as confirmed by the research is the attitude and approach taken by the elected sheriffs. The fact that they would seek to leverage the budget deficits and its effect including negotiation with the legislature points to a symbiotic understanding that is needed for the realization of the organizational objectives. After all the insulation from accountability to other organs of government does not necessarily dispense with the need to cooperate and work together for the solution of the germane citizens’ concerns and issues. In addition, the research brings forth the leadership attitude in the elected sheriffs. As the authors have observed, the elected sheriffs see themselves as leaders rather than managers. This is because from the election point of view they are expected to offer leadership and not management.
Goldsmith, A. (2005). Police reform and the problem of trust. Theoretical Criminology , 7(1), 443-470.
LaFrance, C. T. (2011). The county sheriff's leadership and management decisions in the local budget process revisited. International Journal of Police Science and Management, 1-13.