Model Police Departments

Unknown-1Model Police Departments: An idea whose time has come?

In 1966, under President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and “War on Poverty,” legislation led to the create of more than 150 five-year-long model cities experiments to develop new antipoverty programs and alternative forms of municipal government.

The program was scuttled after our nation moved to the right after experiencing urban riots in the late 1960s. The program succeeded in fostering a new generation of black leaders but ended in 1974. (More info HERE.)

At the time, I was greatly interested in moving the program forward to include police in the “alternative forms of municipal government.” When I came to Madison, Wisc. I still had the idea that there could be model police departments; places where both Peter Senge’s concept of a “learning organization” as well as the “teaching organization,” could be moved into that of a “teaching organization.” To a certain extent we did that in Madison as one of our mission’s was to “provide leadership to the police profession.” Along that line we hosted many three-day seminars for police leaders from other cities in which we described what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how what we were doing was effective. During this time we also put together the Quality Leadership Workbook which was used both internally and externally to train police leaders. (See The New Quality Leadership Workbook for Police).

I suggest we think about the idea of organizational modeling through teaching police departments. Without a federal mandate (which is probably unrealistic) our 16,000 local police departments are literally on their own to improve.

Sure, they can look to the recommendations of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, but HOW to begin to make improvements in a police department and then sustain those improvements is another matter best illustrated by police departments today that most accurately reflect what the Task Force was trying to do.

Adding to this would be more police-academic relationships in which police would come to the university and university teachers and researchers would come and work within the police as a clinical experience. The goal would be to foster police research and evaluation of various methods of policing and their effectiveness. (See my blog, “A Plea for Police-Academic Relationships”).

imagesIt’s going to take a lot of work, commitment, patience, and persistence to bring about the changes that are needed in order for police to effectively emerge from the present crisis in which they find themselves. Developing Model Police Departments that are committed to teaching and helping their colleagues throughout the profession would be a good start — one of the items in that “black box.”