There are many police management styles. While some of them can be classified or clubbed into a well defined management or leadership style, others are considered a blend or are undefined. It is difficult to generalize because every police department may have its own unique approach. Then there are influencers of certain leaders or officers in senior positions who often redefine the rules of management. Here is a sneak peek into some police management styles that have been popular in the past and are still prevalent today.
The oldest of all police management styles is the military management style. A police force or a department is run exactly as a military outfit or regiment. The chief of police will be the absolute head and will have all the power to make decisions. No one else will have any power unless that is granted by the code. So the commissioner can have a lieutenant or assistant who would have fewer powers than the commissioner and then as the ranks go down, the powers become scarce till the ranks where there is no subordinate and thus no power.
This is not entirely bureaucratic in nature because the absolute power of the chief or captain, whatever may be the case, will veto everything else. Everyone has to fall in line in this type of police management. There is no room for questioning or dissent. Opinions of various officers are also not cared for, unless they are specific to a case and purely technical.
Bureaucratic management is very common in police forces, especially in the management levels. Those who work on the field or are on patrol, detectives and other ranks that deal with crime directly will not have bureaucracy among themselves but right from the lowest desk rank to the highest ranked officer, there will be a hierarchy that will operate under stringent rules. In most cases, police management styles are either militaristic or bureaucratic.
Democratic management style is uncommon in police departments but you would find them in small forces. Small town police departments or a force that is too small will often have democratic management styles. The chiefs of such departments often don’t have the acumen to become authoritative and also the community involvement is much stronger in such small towns and regions which make democracy a necessity in police management styles.