It is quite common knowledge that change is inevitable, permeating all aspects of human existence – from the physical, the macro-social to the personal. Police work is no exception. As society changes, the institution of the police force needs to recognize, respond and adapt to these. Change is becoming an increasingly important part of the police officer’s working life (More and Miller, 2007) which more often than not, places exceptional demands on supervisors.
Aspects of change that need to be addressed include social values, the level of technology and its innovations, the evolving nature of the law, and the formation and performance of police unions. Each of these has varying impacts yet technological change appears to be at present the most significant in the process. It is also important to note that this is not a uniform phenomenon, and might differ from one agency to another.
At the level of the first-line supervisor, s/he is deeply involved in the change process, func¬tioning as the primary interpreter of new policies, and serving as the focal point of relationships with line personnel (More and Miller, p. 214). Change is introduced as the result of the planning process, taking into consideration possible outcomes of their implementation.
Acceptance of change may be because of availability of choice presented to the officers, the opportunity to improve working conditions, proper notification of employees concerned, and satisfaction of their existing needs (though this might not be the satisfaction of all their needs, but rather merely the most pressing ones). More and Miller (2007) illustrate that officers’ resistance towards change usually involves a negative economic impact, the lack of stability, altered social relationships (i. e. etween officers and subordinates, among fellow officers), a profound change in existing habits and traditions, a perceived restricted or eliminated discretion, and a fundamentally unpopular decision.
Moreover, such resistance can be expressed in a manner either rational or emotional. The former is generally dealt through objective means subjecting resistance to logical argumentation, while the latter requires more from the supervisor in expending effort to try and overcome resistance, showing genuine concern for the well-being of personnel.
The best tool to combat resistance lies within the power of the supervisor – gathering all necessary information relating to proposed changes and possible consequences, in order to formulate sound policies and sufficiently prepare how to overcome any probable resistance – wisely complemented by involving other officers in the process.
To further lessen resistance one could seriously consider effectively developing officers’ communication skills to facilitate more efficient and open communication lines between officers and personnel without unnecessary disruption to the line of command, and utilizing the clout and influence of their informal leaders. It is important for the supervising officer to get the message through to the various personnel under his/her command, for them to understand and subsequently accept, the merits (if not the necessity) of such changes, to improve police efficiency and the force’s effectiveness on the job.