One of the things that police department are facing is the challenge of performance assessment. In order to clearly understand the context of effective policing, performance have to be measured and determine the areas in the organization that contributes to success. Unlike private organizations, police departments cannot use profit margins to demonstrate effectiveness (Reisig, 1997). There are several factors that need to be considered in order to say that the organization is performing on the right direction. In a police information technology department for example, there are strategies that works and some does not. It is crucial that police departments have a strong technology infrastructure to enable information sharing, which will allow the police department in effectively delivering service. Technology plays an essential role in all police department functions. The Bureau of Justice Statistics under the US Department of Justice released a survey report about the functions of technology in law enforcement. Records management, crime investigation and information sharing (Roberts, 2011).
Given the importance of technology in effectively performing police functions. It constitutes the idea that the organization should carefully assess strategies pertaining to the use of technology to close the gap that hinders successful accomplishments. Before implementing any particular strategies, organization evaluation is necessary. Identifying the strength and weaknesses of the police department would allow them to create a better strategy plan. Pinpointing the cause of the problem would help police executives to initiate more effective programs and management strategy. This paper will reflect on the strength and weaknesses of the police department particularly the information technology department. This SWOT analysis entails better understanding of the organizational threats and determination of opportunities.
In the early years of policing, the organization has very simple concept of strength. First, is the police were widely integrated into communities and they enjoy the benefits of getting the support of the citizens, particularly those with strong political interest. Secondly, the support of the citizens allowed the organization to provide useful services. However, the continued growth of technology changed the way police functions. Their service structure have also evolved from a simple service oriented public agency into a more complex structured public service agency (Kelling and Moore, 1988, p. 4). In the current era, these strengths have changed and the police department became a much stronger public institution. In order to accurately map the strengths of police department, Porter's generic framework theories should be used because it is not industry dependent.
The strengths can be placed in either of the two categories namely cost and differentiation. Cost leadership refers to the organization adopting a strategy in which they produce and operate on a much lower cost compared to other organization. Differentiation on the other hand is a strategy in which the organization produce services that have unique attributes that set them apart from other organizations. In terms of police department strength on cost, the organization is not totally constrained by budget limitation. The Arlington police department for example allocates 59% of its budget on operation's division, which include programs, technological integration and equipment upgrade. Arlington police department is just one of the many police department that follows the same cost distribution on budgets not lower than $54 million (Scott, 2008). Another strength is the capability of the police department to generate its own revenue from grants and fees from ancillary services. This capability allows police department to support technological development particularly on equipment and software being used in their day to day operations.
Differentiation is another strength strategy of police departments because they can provide unique services to the community apart from the usual initiation of law and order. Technology is one marketing tool that provides opportunity to the organization in order for them to connect more to the community they serve. Having technology on their side, police departments were able to gain more access to external data, confidential information that will help resolve several cases and faster response to emergencies. Police departments also have several partnerships with various government and non-profit organizations. This strength allows the organization to deliver unique services to the community such as assisting immigrants to find jobs and putting abused children to social service facilities. Such affiliation and partnership justifies the reason for police stations to have an available technological tool to maintain communication with their partners. Last on the list of police department strengths is that the organization has a strong political ties since that it is a public agency. Having strong political grounds as an organization provides stability, which would establish the progressive direction of the police department.
However, despite the strengths that the police department has, the organization is also constantly challenged by weaknesses. Police departments are technologically blind to innovation explained by hesitation to upgrade operating systems and equipment that can run complex programs. The weakness of holding back the implementation of technological advancement initiatives are partially blamed from the lack of data analytics capabilities and funding (Kerrigan, 2011. Another weakness in the organization is the subcultural prevalence. There is a common and dangerous subculture that people in police department's poses and it constitutes significant risk to their well-being. That subculture is the officers self perception of invincibility. Some police personnel acts in such a way that they feel they can handle everything and come out of it without a scratch. Such mindset hinders the organization to change their people's initiatives towards innovation. Since the people in the organization are more dependent on their personal strengths, they most of the time forget to consult other resources or verify details before initiating actions. Finally, the biggest weakness that police department commonly have is being out-dated, old and lack of qualified specialists to handle new record system.
However, there are opportunities that the organization can leverage on to be able to pursue technological progress and organizational improvement. First, is the implementation of a better criminal records system, which can be initiated using improved equipment and software. Secondly, electronic white boards can also be used during meetings because electronic boards can scan notes and keep it for future references. These two things can improve data management in police departments. In terms of funding source for inovating the technological areas of the organization, police departments can maximize revenue potential of their services and seek more grants. Internal benchmarking would also improve the organization by learning from other organizations the police department would be able to set their own expectations and initiatives. Further, having an internal benchmarking will lay-out the direction for reorganizing the people to eliminate the negative subculture and find the best people that will work on the new technologies.
Threats are inevitable in any organization, they are the sort of external influences that create an impact to the organization as a whole. Economic threats would influence public agency budgets, any instances of economic instability would mean budget cuts that would hinder improvement programs. The increasing computer crimes are becoming difficult to proliferate because of the absence of qualified personnel to handle the job. The constant turn overs of new officers create an environment in which the people in the organization is subject to adjustments on management strategies. This threat has a direct effect on any plan for improvements and innovation projects because of differences in management principles and initiatives.
Kelling, G. L., & Moore, M. H. (1988). The Evolving Strategy of Policing. Perspectives in Policing.
Kerrigan, H. (2011, May). Data-Driven Policing. GOVERNING: State government news on politics, management & finance. Retrieved September 23, 2012, from http://www.governing.com/topics/public-justice-safety/Data-driven-Policing.html
Reisig, M. D. (n.d.). Measureing Performance in the Era of Community Policing. Michigan State University | School of Criminal Justice | Home. Retrieved September 23, 2012, from http://www.cj.msu.edu/~outreach/cp/measperf2.html
Roberts, D. J. (n.d.). Technology Is Playing an Expanding Role in Policing. The Police Chief The Professional Voice of Law Enforcement. Retrieved September 23, 2012, from http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display&issue_id=12011&category_ID=4
Scott, M. D. (2011). Distribution of Department Budgets. Arlington Virginia Police Department Report.