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Police Management Textbooks - Does Size Really Matter?

Police Management Textbooks - Does Size Really Matter?

Paul Patti / Testing Services

When you write promotional tests for police agencies based on the latest and greatest supervision and management textbooks, you sometimes shudder when one of your colleagues opens your office door and comes in with a package.

“Which 700+ page behemoth is it this time?” you ask.

You know the monster books I mean – where the authors are paid by their publishers not by the word or the chapter – but by the pound.

And – as you know – these books are not found on the bargain bin at your local Barnes and Noble. Police management textbooks commonly cost over $100, unless you find them used, where you are delighted to get a “bargain” in the $60 – $70 range.

When you crack open the book, what do you see? Probably hundreds of pages of the same material that has been hashed and rehashed by every police textbook author dozens of times over. Who doesn’t want to read another 50 pages on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, after all?

Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot to be said about these PMBs – “Police Management Bibles” – of course. They contain the collected wisdom of 200+ years of professional policing, after all. So, to be the best police management textbook, you’ve got to be one of the B-I-G-G-E-S-T, isn’t that the case?

Well, not always. I was very pleasantly surprised when recently two very small packages were placed on my desk. I picked them up, guessing their weight. Well under a pound. Maybe even half-a-pound. No police textbooks in there, I figured. Must be a mistake. “Maybe these are just the study guides?” I asked.

I opened the packages. I found two new police supervision and management textbooks – light on paper but definitely NOT light on ideas, readability and usefulness.

Police Leadership – by M.R. Haberfeld – is a delightful 240 pages describing modern police leadership problems, solutions and practical applications, relying heavily on career highlights of modern police leaders and outlining some of the high-profile and daunting problems they have faced. (Who in policing will ever forget Chief Charles Moose from Montgomery County, MD and the Maryland – Virginia sniper case?) This book doesn’t spend a lot of time rehashing theories of management and leadership – instead, it gets right to the jugular and tells you how you can apply these management concepts to your everyday job as a police supervisor and manager. “You want to know how to have a Relationship-Oriented Management Style? Here’s how,” is a typical chapter. Police Leadership is a quick read, holds modern and interesting subject matter, and is reasonably priced. This new textbook has already been used in some police promotional testing, and I’m sure will be chosen by a great many agencies in the future.

Performance-Based Management for Police Organizations – by Paul E. O’Connell and Frank Straub – is a just-off-the-presses 2007 textbook that is well under 200 pages, but packs a powerful punch in one specific area – the Compstat-style of police management. The book examines the Compstat experience in New York City and elsewhere in just enough detail, but then gets going with new information and criticisms, and the good and bad ways Compstat can been applied in small and large police agencies around the nation. For any agency even thinking about using any aspects of Compstat – this short and well-written textbook is a must. The last chapter is titled How to Develop a Performance-Based Management System, and is a no-nonsense practical guide, with computer reports included, if your agency is interested in getting started. This book should definitely be considered as a primary or secondary promotional textbook for any police agency interested in crime reduction and how it ties in to police manager performance. Let me emphasize – this is a great book, easy to read, no frills, and packing a lot of information into a compact and affordable 180 or so pages. I predict this book will do very well on the promotional textbook circuit for many years to come.

There is precedent for short and powerful, classic police textbooks – it’s time to pay homage to two old favorites that have been around for quite awhile – Problem Oriented Policing by Herman Goldstein; and Leadership, Ethics and Policing: Challenges for the 21st Century by Edwin Meese and P.J. Ortmeier. These both are short and well written and both have become common choices for police promotional testing over the years. I predict Police Leadership and Performance-Based Management for Police Organizations will do just as well – or even better – and will become standard reading on the police management promotional book shelf. You see, sometimes smaller is better.

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