Morale in law enforcement agencies is a vital component given the risky and dangerous ventures that officers engage in. officers serving in law enforcement agencies are more prone to work related stress due to work overload, critical incidences as well as their personal lives including their families. Motivating officers is one of the vital functions of command controls and other top ranking commanders so as to ensure that officers’ productivity and efficiency is achieved and to reduce the negative effects of work related stress.
Some of the means of improving morale and motivation in law enforcement agencies include command control during critical situations, use of reward, praise and recognition, effective communication and flexible schedule shifts. Morale and motivation are essential in ensuring efficiency, high productivity and creativity and also high retention rates. Introduction Morale is an important and essential principle in the military. Currently, the law enforcement agencies and departments are among the top stressful occupation which is associated with alcoholism, divorce, emotional and health problems as well as suicide.
Various stress causing factors have been identified within agencies of law enforcement and treatment enhanced for problems that are stress related. However, this department continues to be ranked among the most stressful. Motivation and morale are some of the means which various leaders are turning in their quest to reduce stress in law enforcement profession. According to Karl Von, a military theorist, morale and motivation are not synonymous as far as law enforcement occupation is concerned.
He argues that morale is not based on individual’s feelings, mood and perception. Karl defines morale as how a working group or unit feels about the various tasks it carries out. This definition is based on the argument that a person joins the military with an aim of working as a team and not individually and hence a person’s mood cannot affect a unit’s mood. This argument is viable because law enforcement officers work out as a group and not individually and hence motivation of a group is vital.
Low morale and motivation leads to low productivity and lowered efficiency levels (Finn, n. d). Morale and motivation in Law Enforcement As stated earlier, motivation and morale are important aspects in the military principles since they determine how tasks are performed by individuals as well as the working units. Improving the morale of officers has been found to be an effective tool of improving their efficiency as well as productivity, thus enhancing the overall performance of their departments.
There are different causes of low morale and low motivation in law enforcement units which include pressure from law enforcement tasks, general perception of the public for law enforcers, criminal justice operation systems, personal life of an officer and the organization of the law enforcement itself among others. To improve morale, these factors must be carefully assessed and their consequences analyzed (Fitch, n. d). There are different methods or ways of improving motivation and morale in the law enforcement occupation. Law enforcement careers are some of the most demanding jobs requiring an officer to be committed to his or her duties.
Work overload in law enforcement is one of the major causes of stress for officers which in turn lead to lower morale. Most law enforcement agencies have fixed shift schedules with rotations being done after every six to seven days. Such shift schedules arrangements cause stress to officers as well as their families thus reducing morale and motivation. Work overload leads to fatigue, inefficiencies and also pose health risks to individuals. Due to such overload, most officers are de-motivated and they are less committed to their tasks.
To cub this problem and improve morale and motivation, it is vital for leaders in law enforcement agencies to consult with the officers and to allow them decide on the frequencies of such shifts or rotation. The rotation schedule should be made flexible enough to allow changes at given intervals. Reconstruction of shift schedules and involvement of law enforcement officers would help in improving motivation and morale in these agencies (Finn, n. d). The second way of improving morale and motivation in law enforcement department is by giving command support after occurrence of critical incidents.
While carrying out their duties of law enforcement, officers are exposed to various dangers, some of which may lead to critical injuries. Top officers as well as other commanders in the law enforcement departments should make it their policy to visit injured officers who are injured in critical incidents. Such a policy has positive effects not only on the injured officer but also to other departments. By commanders and top officers visiting ailing or injured officers, this is seen as a means of commitment to the wellbeing of the employees or officers which in turn improves their morale and motivation.
The command level or top commanders may also offer support to the officer’s family members. This may also help improve public perception of the law enforcement agencies. Meeting the psychological needs of officers as well as those of their families during critical incidences improves morale and motivation (Foster, n. d). Use of rewards is also another way of improving morale and motivation of law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement departments value dedication and loyalty of their officers and as such, rewards have not been considered as a motivation factor.
However, officers are also interested in an agency’s commitment to them. Officers need to be recognized for tasks successfully accomplished and also wants to help in solving problems faced by their agencies. Most officers are well educated and others have professional experience ensuring that they are competent enough to help in running and solving an agency’s problems. Officers thus look for establishment of a mutual relationship where they can be recognized and respected. Recognition or rewards may be in terms of promotion, approval and respect. Reciprocity norm is used by officers in meeting their needs.
When officers feel that their work is recognized and rewarded, they become satisfied with law enforcement agencies. Job satisfaction is an important ingredient to motivation and improved morale (Gove, 2005). Job assignments also help in improving morale and motivation in law enforcement agencies. Most agencies do not match the capabilities of an officer with their jobs. Different officers have different capabilities to tackle different tasks within an agency. Assigning an officer a task that he or she is not fully competent or capable of performing well lowers his or her morale.
Once an officer performs a task unsatisfactorily, his morale is decreased and creativity is lost. Most law enforcement agencies believe that an officer can perform any task assigned to him. However, this is erroneous and as mentioned earlier, different officers are capable of handling different tasks. Matching job assignments with officers’ capabilities ensures that the officers are comfortable when performing their tasks and are contented. Good performance of tasks one is entrusted with is a motivating factor and when officers perform tasks they are best in, they are bound to perform them well which reduces stress at work place.
Job assignments are major sources of motivation and improved morale in law enforcement agencies. Other factors which can help increase morale and motivation in law enforcement agencies include effective communication, field training of officers and effective leadership (Fitch, n. d). Conclusion Law enforcement careers are among the most stressing, risky and demanding. Due to the nature of work carried ot by law enforcement officers, high levels of motivation and morale are required. Command control as well as top commanders should ensure that the line officers’ needs, i.e. psychological, physical and emotional are met.
Some of the ways of ensuring this is met is by offering flexible shift schedule, assigning job assignments which match the capabilities of officers and offering support and counseling during critical incidents. The top management should incorporate motivation and morale improvement strategies in their management functions to ensure that officers are always motivated thus productive. Reference: Finn, P. (n. d): Reducing Stress: An Organization-Centered Approach. Retrieved on 31st July 2009 from, http://www.fbi. gov/publications/leb/1997/aug975. htm.
Fitch, B. (n. d): Motivation: Rethinking the Supervisor’s Role. Retrieved on 31st July 2009 from, http://www. hendonpub. com/resources/articlearchive/details. aspx? ID=205337. Foster, R. E. (n. d): Morale: Whose Job is it anyway? Retrieved on 31st July 2009 from, http://www. pokerleadership. com/morale. html. Gove, T. G. (2005): Praise and recognition: the importance of social support in law enforcement. Retrieved on 31st July 2009 from, http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m2194/is_10_74/ai_n15966584/.