Policing | Section 4

Fundamentals of Policing by Adam J. McKee

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Police Methods

Police agencies are not only defined by their styles, but also by their structures. According to Robert Langworthy, structure is “the framework on which a police organization arranges its resources to conduct its activities.” The following seven elements are the core dimensions of a police organization’s structure:

Vertical Differentiation: The nature of the hierarchy, including the number of command layers and the social distance between layers.

Occupational Differentiation: The extent to which the organization relies on employees with specialized occupational skills.

Functional Differentiation: The degree to which the organization divides its work into specialized functions. Nearly all police agencies have separate divisions for patrol, investigations, and administration. The further they divide these divisions into more specialized subunits, the more functionally differentiated they are.

Spatial Differentiation: The spread of the organization within its jurisdiction. Police agencies with a single headquarters facility are less spatially differentiated than those with precinct houses, substations, and other offices located within neighborhoods.

Administrative Intensity: The proportion of employees assigned to administrative support functions (like human resources or computing) as opposed to core tasks such as patrol or investigations.

Formalization: The extent to which an organization relies on formal written policies and procedures rather than informal guidelines such as tradition or friendship.

Centralization: The extent to which decisions within an organization are concentrated at the top of the hierarchy.

Key Terms

References and Further Reading


Modification History

File Created:  08/15/2018

Last Modified:  06/21/2019

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

Open Education Resource--Quality Master Source License


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