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Change Management Theories and Law Enforcement Change Management


No organization can avoid the need to change in the modern environment. Law enforcement organizations require additional attention from both scholars and managers because of the specifics such as managerial approaches interpersonal relationships. In addition, understanding of the internal culture is essential for enacting an adoption of new initiatives in this field. However, issues such as lack of resources and preceding policies can be a significant barrier. Managers in the filed have to adjust their strategies and focus on using traditional business tools applied in change management, for instance, Kotler’s model to facilitate successful alteration of process.

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Understanding change management is vital for a leader in any field because both businesses and governmental institutions are subjected to the environmental impact that forces them to alter their approaches to operations. In this regard, law enforcement requires additional attention because institutions in it are subjected to specific hierarchical relations and are exceptionally resistant to changes, which provides a need to develop new leadership strategies. This paper will focus on reviewing change management in law enforcement as well as personal experience with the topic in question.

Theory of Change Management

Ensuring the connection between the external environment of the industry in which the company operates, strategy for development stated by the executives, and consumer expectations is an essential aspect of operations for any organization, which implies enacting occasional changes in process and workflow. Hornestein (2015) argues that managers and executives have to possess the skills necessary to manage change in contemporary organizations. The author contends that project-based initiatives help create and leverage change in companies, which should be applied together with effective leadership. Prior research on the topic suggests that the administration has a significant impact on the success of change initiatives (Hornestein, 2015). Therefore, the primary implication of these findings suggests that executives have to focus on creating strategies and approaches to introducing alterations and implementing them into the daily workflow of an organization.

In this regard, leadership has a central role in managing change. Neves and Schyns (2018) wrote an article focusing on the disruptive impact of improper leadership approaches that affect companies as a whole and change initiatives in particular. This category of executives can include people aiming to over-supervise their subordinates or those who enact harmful practices. However, Neves and Schyns (2018) argue that the context and follower’s perception matter because during the change process employees may view adequate leaders as toxic or improper. The authors provide an example of changing the daily tasks of a staff member that can be seen by individuals as disruptive if they do not understand the organizational context of these actions.

One example of change aspects that should be taken into account is employees with low motivation and social support from peers that can perceive alterations as ineffective and unnecessary. In addition, organizational culture or specific values of the leader can have a significant impact on the discussed process as well. Neves and Schyns (2018) state that “in an environment where change is more frequent, unpredictable and inevitable and where success rates of change are low, investigating the role of destructive leadership is an important and worthwhile endeavor” (p. 91). It is because this deamination will provide an understanding of the practices that should be avoided by managers to achieve success in their change initiatives.

While the importance of change management is researched and discussed by many, a lot of companies are unsuccessful at executing this in practice. Quinn and Quinn (2016) argue that the majority of companies approach the issue of managing change and leadership as separate matters, which leads to failure within both elements. Thus, it is essential to view these processes as interconnected and coordinate efforts to achieve desired outcomes. In addition, managers at all levels have to understand the importance of the connection between change management and leadership and use appropriate strategies to coordinate actions at different levels of a company (Quinn & Quinn, 2016). Providing accountability and support to leaders in different positions is vital for proper adoption of change.

Another aspect of change management and its intersection with leadership is resistance. While executives may be well aware of the need to implement new approaches to operations or use innovation to achieve better results, they are able to respond. Quinn and Quinn (2016) suggest using both tops down and bottom-up strategies, implying a need to examine daily operations to change the everyday experiences of employees and a necessity to develop structures and processes that correspond and support new initiatives. Therefore, based on the examined literature, one can argue that change management is a necessary component of development for any organization. In addition, leadership should apply appropriate strategies to enable the success of the initiatives.

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Law Enforcement Change Management

The leadership of law enforcement in the US had to adjust to changes on several occasions in the recent decade. Erciyes (2018) states that “70% of all change initiatives fail” (p. 52). While the author does not provide detailed data indicating success and failure rates of change management within law enforcement, it is evident that this aspect of management requires additional attention if all industries and governmental institutions. Erciyes (2018) offers a new framework for law enforcement organizations that allows implementing change more successfully. Firstly, it is necessary to examine the specifics of this filed that affect the ability to enact change. One aspect of managing change in this specific field is described by Erciyes (2018) as follows – “law enforcement organizations have a strict hierarchical management approach and the roles of subordinates in these organizations are mostly ignored” (p. 52). Thus, punishment or enforcement of regulations is usually applied by managers to ensure adherence to new processes, instead of more conventional strategies.

In addition, one should note that changes in this field can be facilitated by both positive and negative environmental impact. Erciyes (2018) describes two types of changes in law enforcement – sustaining or disruptive and argues that each requires a different management approach. The first one requires changes to correspond to the needs of the external environment and operate successfully while the second is a response to adverse events. Kotler’s eight-step model was used by many researchers, for instance, Degnegaard, Jacobs et al., and Cunningham and Kempling to enact change within the police or army institutions in Europe (as cited in Erciyes, 2018). Their findings suggest that understanding the culture, support, and communication were essential for these programs.

Examples of specific initiatives implemented by US law enforcement can provide a better overview of the topic and highlight challenges. An article by Carter and Phillips (2015) provides an insight into the major change initiatives implemented by leaders in the US law enforcement institutions. On example is intelligence-led policing that requires officers to use data for assessing facts in their decision-making process. Carter and Phillips’(2015) assessment suggests that while local and state authorities are aware of this approach, barriers such as policies, lack of personnel and training, and inability to apply intelligent decision-making are the key issues. Thus, one can conclude that insufficient resources are the primary aspects that affect management styles when approaching change adoption.

Over the years, many other initiatives, similar to the intelligence policing and those relating to other aspects of operations were proposed and failed subsequently due to improper management. Cohen (2017) argues that the events similar to the 1990 teenager shooting have been indicative of a change required in the law enforcement of the state and since then “police culture and value orientations changed little” (p. 105). Despite the efforts of the Department of Justice to implement best practices, the current culture that persists in law enforcement enables strong resistance to change. Therefore, the primary focus should be on altering the culture within these institutions to ensure that the new approaches remain valid over the years. Evidence provided by Cohen (2017) supports findings presented by Erciyes (2018) suggesting a need to use techniques and strategies applied in business to enable success. Thus, law enforcement experienced several significant change initiatives since the 1990s that did not affect the perception of employees regarding their work. This indicates a need for a more in-depth review of this issue.

The mentality of the law-enforcement employees differs from that of ordinary citizens because employees such as police officers have to encounter extreme danger in their daily work, which inevitably affects their resistance to changes. Sparr (2018) states that a leader’s impact on followers is crucial in this regard because it allows engaging the latter in the process of change. Arguably, in law enforcing this aspect is often neglected as leaders do not focus on the importance of explaining the need for proposed alterations to the employees. Both the hierarchy and dangers require a specific assessment to address the concerns of staff members prior to offering any modifications to the existing practices. For instance, the example of the use-of-force reporting system implemented in 1996 highlights the need for more in-depth assessments (Cohen, 2017). The employees of the Baltimore Police Department in which the system was used viewed it as unnecessary and preferred to ahead to prior policies instead of leveraging the new one. Inability to recognize this issue in time led to a waste of resources; however, it provides implications for future leaders in the field.

When new policies or processes contradict the established values or norms, resistance is inevitable. Despite the negative implication of this, managers should understand how to leverage the opportunity. Van den Brink and Benschop (2018) argue that based on the example of the Dutch police, the resistance to change prevalent in the field can be beneficial because it allows discussing and developing new values. This, in turn, related to the creation of a different organizational culture, which is vital for supporting the alterations in the long-term.

Therefore, over the last decade, the changes occurring in law enforcement fail to fulfill their initial goal. According to Cohen (2017), “attention to police culture has too often been missing from the organizational change equation, which explains, at least in part, why so many police reform efforts have failed” (p. 105). Leaders in the examined field emphasize the need to use specified frameworks and strategies that were developed based on the specifics of law enforcement since organizations within this field have a particular structure and hierarchy. The management style described by Erciyes (2018) requires change towards approaches applied by executives in the business to ensure the proper transition. One can conclude that leaders in law enforcement had to address change in recent years because of the need to implement new strategies for data analysis.

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Personal Experience

Personally, I have encountered change management on several occasions over the course of my work. In general, the primary issue was the resistance of employees based on their befits. For instance, on one occasion, a reporting process had to be altered to meet new standards, and the majority of workers at the institution did not believe they could implement the changes into the operations to adhere to the new rules by the set deadline. However, the manager was able to examine the issue and address these fears in time, which was a great example illustrating the role of leadership in change management. Additionally, this instance is a result of a bottom-up approach because the manager focused on changing the culture within the organization by impacting day-to-day actions. Thus, despite the evidence explored above that suggest that most law enforcement change initiatives fail, my past experience indicates that they are possible.

The changes described above relate to my past, current, and future career path because they outline the practices I will have to use to enable positive alterations. Thus, the examined information allows me to analyze my past experiences in the filed, similar to the one described above and determine the root causes of issues. In addition, in my future work, I will ensure to focus my attention on the culture of the law enforcement institution I work for because of the significant impact it has on the adoption of new practices. Thus, the aim will be to affect the culture and ensure that it supports the enacted changes.

My suggestions and recommendations correspond with those articulated in the examined literature. Law enforcement should use the tools and techniques used by executives in business; however, those should be adjusted to match the specifics of this environment. The hierarchy that predetermines the relationships within organizations and shortage of resources, as well as the implications of work, for instance, danger, should be considered when designing a strategy. From the managerial perspective, the primary suggestion is to review all levels of an organization and ensure that a leader responsible for the change is chosen at each state. In this way, the management of change can be carried out properly because of the top-down strategy that targets small groups.


Overall, change management has proven to be essential for managers in both business organizations and law enforcement institutions. However, despite the attention dedicated to this topic, most initiatives fail. In the field of law enforcement, this is attributed to insufficient resources and lack of understanding in regards to culture and operational specifics. Efforts similar to intelligence policing provide an understanding of the changes in managerial approaches taken by the executives. Ensuring a change in an organization’s culture is the only valid approach to enacting and managing change within law enforcement.


Carter, J. G. & Phillips, S. W. (2015). Intelligence-led policing and forces of organizational change in the United States. Policing & Society, 25(4), 333-357. Web.

Cohen, R. (2017). The force and the resistance: Why changing the police force is neither inevitable, nor impossible. University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change, 20(2), 105-122.

Erciyes, E. (2018). A new change management approach for a law enforcement organization. International Journal of Police Science & Management, 20(1), 52–65. Web.

Hornstein, H. (2015). The integration of project management and organizational change management is now a necessity. International Journal of Project Management, 33(2), 291-298. Web.

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Neves, P., & Schyns, B. (2018). With the bad comes what change? The interplay between destructive leadership and organizational change. Journal of Change Management, 18(2), 91-95. Web.

Sparr, J. L. (2018). Paradoxes in organizational change: The crucial role of leaders’ sensegiving. Journal of Change Management, 18(2), 162-180. Web.

Quinn, R. W., & Quinn, R. E. (2016). Change management and leadership development have to mesh. Web.

van den Brink, M., & Benschop, Y. (2018). Gender interventions in the Dutch police force: Resistance as a tool for change? Journal of Change Management, 18(3), 181-197. Web.

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