Edward Brown, M.S.
Ask any police chief
about the morale in his department and he will say it is good, but it can be
better. In some departments, morale
may be in the toilet, but conventional wisdom says to keep even bad news
positive. The challenge is to create a work environment conducive to officer
enrichment and retention (Brown 1998).
question is, “How does one maintain the enthusiasm officers have when they
graduate from the police academy?”
become disenchanted early in their careers.
An independent study conducted by the National Institute of Ethics found
that the average time when an officer becomes involved in unethical activities
is 7.2 years. Two inferences can be made from this study:
1. Veteran officers are more susceptible to corruption than
their younger counterparts. This number
indicates when misconduct was initially identified.
2. Morale and integrity share a common space. Many of the reasons departments suffer from
low morale are the same reasons that cause unethical activity, i.e. low
compensation, lack of appreciation, apathy, inadequate leadership, etc. If there is some corollary between morale and
corruption then what is the answer to decreasing its occurrence?
Can a case be made that the more an officer is encouraged to
develop himself, the less he is inclined to participate in unethical and unproductive acts? And if a structure is in place that not only provides the tools for self-development, but increases productivity, would this be beneficial for society? Human nature suggests that we take pride in
people and things we help create and cultivate.
It would make sense that if a system is in place to develop officers to
be better individuals, they would maintain job enthusiasm, develop advanced operational strategies, and provide stellar customer service to the public. At least, by delving into the psyche of police personnel and their motivation, we take away some of the excuses for the "Black eye" police departments suffer for unethical and unproductive behavior. Maybe a thief is a thief, under any circumstances. But, could we dig a little deeper into discovering what other professions are doing to improve employee productivity? Have our ongoing problems been already solved by other industries?
The study of employee motivation has evolved over the last
60 years. Early researchers believed
that money was the motivation for employee morale. As challenges persisted that did not solve
the dilemma, new theories emerged. The
most popular theory being the “Hierarchy of Needs” postulated by eminent
psychologist Abraham Maslow. Maslow contended that man is a wanting
animal. As soon as one need has been
satisfied, another one moves in to take its place. Consequently, human beings are constantly
striving to realize their full potential or “self-actualize.”
There is no one theory that assumes to represent all
employee motivation. Dr. Angela M. Bowey
in her article, “Motivation at Work: A key issue in remuneration,” talked about
a prevailing idea called the “Contingency Theory.” Under this theory,
management would not focus on one element of employee motivation, but would be
open to the myriad of motivational factors in a department including pay, time
off, and career development.
Furthermore, what might work for one department might not work for
another. This is a step in the right
direction for employee driven professions like law enforcement.
With the increased rate of violence in society, particularly
during economic upheaval, and departments struggling to increase personnel,
many department heads do not know quantifiably what the morale is within their
police departments. Major corporations are embracing the benefits of morale and
motivation training for employees. They
do not see this as merely as a nice thing to do, but have reasoned that it is
good for business.
Employees in a cross-section of companies realize the
benefits of motivational training and extol its benefits. Angela Nurse, a former employee for a
Miami-based computerized payroll service said, “Every now and then we need a
shot in the arm…we are barraged on a constant basis with rejection, after which
you get depressed and frustrated.
Motivational training helps you get refocused. On-going positive input is necessary for
people to be successful in any field.
You want to emulate the patterns for success.”
Adrienne Booker, a customer service representative in
Atlanta said, “Working with the public can be stressful and motivational
training gives us the challenge to endure and resolve future problems. The training left us on a high note and
encouraged us to move forward. It is
essential that one absorbs that kind of positive energy from time to time.”
Many companies utilize motivational speakers to begin
meetings. Marilyn Harper, a regional
human resource manager in Cleveland, Ohio said, “We traditionally bring in
motivational speakers to set the tone for our meetings. For example, in sales, we bring in a speaker
to kick-off a sales campaign to encourage employees to be top-notch.”
Legal departments have also gotten into the act. Tawanda Bazile, a paralegal in the business
practice and government relations branch of an aerospace and engineering company
said that as part of their Total Quality Management (TQM) Program “Our primary
goal is to gain total customer achievement including how we relate to each
other within our company as well as our external customer base. I believe motivational training helped our
new employees increase communication.”
The challenges that confront law enforcement in the new
economy are not insurmountable. Agencies
must commit to the idea that the development of its employees is its prime
objective. Motivational training must
follow this idea for implementation.
psychologist and business professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario,
in an article by Ross Laver entitled, “Why Leadership Matters” said; “we see
leadership as the ability to intellectually stimulate subordinates, to help them
approach problems in new ways and to think about what’s going to benefit the
organization in the long term.”
with high morale make for a win-win situation.
Management benefits by having its goals realized, which enhances public
confidence in its police department.
Individual police officers do not fall prey to the evils of domestic
violence, drug and alcoholic abuse, stress, and suicide. Society benefits by being protected by
officers who feel good about the job and not merely earning a paycheck.
training that outlines the methodology for personal growth has been proven
among corporate personnel to enrich employee development. Companies and agencies benefit in this
training by encouraging personnel to help find solutions to ongoing problems. People support what they create! The difference between an employee who views
himself as “semi-retired” versus a “go-getter” is the level of trust he has in
Police motivational training should serve
as a necessary component within mandatory curriculum. If it turns into a temporary remedy for
long-term solutions, then the results will be short-lived. The challenges in law enforcement are the
result of gradual evolution and the solutions to these challenges are also
For police motivational training to work, it must be built within the preexisting system. Recruit and in-service training are the venues currently in place that can support the curriculum. A police motivational section would be housed within the police academy staffed by psychological services personnel working in tandem with an academy staff member who specializes in employee motivation. In short, police motivational services would be a hybrid between psychological services and the police academy. Resources from both sectors would be used to offset any budgetary concerns.
Brown, E.S. (1998 May). Police motivational training: The
new frontier. Law & Order Magazine, 63-65.
* This article was originally published in the May 1998 issue of Law & Order magazine by Edward Brown. Research and data deemed outdated and irrelevant were deleted from this revised version.