The Police Intelligence and Professional Standards (PIPS) remains one of the units under the Operations Department of the Ghana Police Service (GPS). This unit receives formal complaints couched in the form of petitions from members of the general public. Generally, these petitions are made by aggrieved petitioners against police officers whose professional conducts, the petitioners believe, are at variance with best practices and procedures governing functions and operations of the Ghana Police Service.
However, the doors of PIPS are not open to civilians or members of the general public alone; it is extended to other police officers who believe they have been treated unfairly by their colleagues or superiors in the course of duty. That is, the aggrieved police officers believe the actions, behaviours or conducts of the implied colleagues and superiors contravene significant considerations in the Acts and Codes governing police functions and operations within the country.
Having worked in the Police Intelligence and Professional Standards unit over the past fourteen (14) years; and having handled variety of complaints from diverse petitioners, this writer deemed it exigent to share some of the identified leadership qualities, customer relations and ethical standards that could enhance the performance of police officers, improve on the relationship between police officers and the general public; and increase the reputation of the Ghana Police Service across the globe; while improving on the existing internal relations, including respect and integrity among staff of the police service. Since the police service remains an institution among a comity of global institutions and corporate bodies, the attributes discussed in this paper are applicable to all institutions across the globe.
It is often said the police is a social friend. It implies the police is perceived as a friend to society. However, the level of co-operation and respect that a police officer could command or gain from society is predicated on the treatment meted out to the members of society. Thus, police officers earn considerable respect and co-operation from the general public when police officers treat them with dignity and respect.
As pointed out by one of the senior officers in the Ghana Police Service, the police officer becomes a member of the civilian population upon retirement; and would require the co-operation and assistance of the civilian population in diverse ways during retirement. Therefore, it is imperative to handle and treat complaints of the civilian population with circumspection during active service.
Customer Relations as Essential Working Tool
As part of their requirements, police officers are tasked to be knowledgeable in the use of firearms and other weapons; knowledgeable in reading to suspects their rights; and to be able to drive a police car at top speed.
However, in addition to the foregoing, police officers are tasked to learn, practice and provide exceptional customer service to the general public. Effective customer service tends to court active co-operation of members of the general public, vice versa. As pointed out by Ray (2021a), when police officers pretend to serve the civilian population, the latter tend to reciprocate.
Generally, police officers are trained to be attentive to people, listen to their complaints and assess their emotional states. When these professional requirements are well-executed, police officers are able to develop a rapport with individuals who could provide reliable information to facilitate their day-to-day operations, including useful information towards apprehension of criminals; and to extract confessions from perpetrators. Similar to related professions, police officers tend to be emphatic, helpful and develop strong listening skills when their training regimen is well-inculcated in them; and effectively applied on the job.
Community policing remains one of the novelties introduced to shore up performance of the police service in the area of effective service delivery to the general public. Basically, community policing complements and facilitates the functions and operations of the police service by serving as the eyes and ears of the police in the streets and various communities. This notwithstanding, information elicited requires careful consideration and due diligence before actions are taken since the information may be subjective.
When police officers treat members of the general public as if they were customers and remain calm in the face of crises, they end up avoiding lawsuits, suspensions and dismissals or career-ending incidents. For instance, a police officer may be saddled with a lawsuit for applying excessive force on suspects. In various workplaces, receptionists, clerks and individuals in other positions are expected to treat their customers and clients with respect; and not to be angry and scream at the customers when they inquire about prices. Police officers enlisted in the police service are no exception to the foregoing situations.
Protocols related to customer service in grocery stores, financial institutions; and in other organisations are expected to be followed by police officers in their day-to-day engagements with the general public. In essence, customer service protocols within the Ghana Police Service must synchronise with those of customer service-savvy professionals in other organisations.
Sufficient skills in customer service enable police officers to learn, understand and appreciate the difference between treating each person like a customer and apprehending violent predators. Moreover, sufficient training enables police officers to know when it is appropriate to defend themselves, especially when a gun is pointed at them by a member of the general public.
In the world of business, effective marketing strategies are believed to culminate in better customer service. Notable among these strategies include knowing your customers (KYCs); and understanding their culture and needs.
Sessions related to effective customer service training within the police service tend to provide officers with useful information about the demographics of the areas they patrol; or the areas that remain within their jurisdiction. Evidence suggests, the belief systems in some cultures tend to impact adversely on effective functioning of the police in some areas. Nonetheless, this challenge is not peculiar to Ghana; it is extended to many countries across the globe, including advanced countries such as the United States of America (USA); as affirmed by the United States Justice Department (as cited in Ray, 2021a).
It is likely for racial tensions to be escalated when the police are perceived as applying excessive force within some areas or localities. However, riot and even more violent reactions could be prevented if the police are trained to understand reactions of some communities to heavy-handed police tactics. In the 21st century, duties of the police are not restricted to apprehending criminals; they are extended to include the expectations to be more proactive and strive toward crime prevention; while establishing relations with the general public (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies as cited in Ray, 2021a).
The forgoing implies modern policing transcends basic knowledge about shooting a gun and frisking suspects to include attentive listening to people and watching intently for patterns. It also affirms the need for police officers to be proactive towards crime prevention rather than react to wrongdoers and situations.
Theoretical underpinnings of modern policing stress the need for police officers to be on the look-out for cues and patterns that have the potential to degenerate into crime. Examples of these cues include changing demographics in areas; changing demographics of gangs who gather in street corners or specific locations. To ensure effective gauging of imminent threats, police officers are furnished with a set of guidelines on which they could base their findings. Problem-solving constitutes an integral part of modern police training.
To enhance their problem-solving skills and prowess, police officers are trained to apply critical-thinking skills to emerge with solutions to community crises or challenges. Identifying various ways through which crimes could be circumvented before they spiral out-of-control takes a centre stage in modern police practices. Thus, the focus is no longer on the reactive approach.
That is, the emphasis is no longer on cleaning up after identified criminals. One of the essential features of the police is being up-close witnesses to community issues and challenges. To this end, the police are constantly entreated to be creative and to emerge with solutions that would be beneficial to the entire nation through the various communities they serve.
Integration of ethics remains one of the top priorities in police training. Further, the police are trained to uphold the Constitution. As a result, the training is extended to include knowledge about the rights of citizens. Generally, police training programmes are structured to incorporate five moral standards.
These moral standards are expected to guide the police to uphold the rights of citizens in the course of their respective duties. Further, the police are tasked to ensure fair access to protection to each person; they are tasked to ensure they achieve their objective with little or no harm to citizens. Moreover, the police are urged to refrain from excessive enforcement; work as part of a team within the criminal justice system; and to maintain objective and impartial outlook towards their jurisdictions.
Training in effective problem-solving techniques within the police service is extended to senior officers in leadership positions. Thus, senior officers’ training is designed to include modules that enhance their technical abilities; enable them to be more responsive to the lifestyle and emotional needs of other officers; and to employ critical-thinking skills in the creation of positive work environment for all police officers. Police training at the leadership level includes essential topics such as innovative problem-solving techniques, career planning, media relations, organisational development and diversity, among others.
The nature and work of the police profession are believed to be demanding and stressful. However, to some members of society, the police remain heroes; and to others, the police are villains or enemies. These perceptions notwithstanding, challenges saddled with police officers are dependent on the task assigned. Being a police officer implies communicating and functioning at top levels while dealing with stress related to dangerous situations, multiple assignments and irregular work schedules. For officers engaged in assignments characterised by high risks including drug enforcement, constant relocation becomes a reality. These officers tend to remain under constant scrutiny from members of the general public and their superiors.
The police profession is one that is characterised by emotional, mental and physical focus. The profession requires officers to adjust to life-threatening situations at a short notice; and to stay alert during work-shifts. Similar to the occurrence in other organisations, irregular work schedules within the police service render the balance between job demands and family life quite challenging or difficult to maintain.
The police are exposed to diverse adventures in the line of duty including tragic events, personal danger and exposure to human danger at its worst. The nature of the work exposes police officers to people with different cultural backgrounds. To this end, good social skills are described as a bonus for police officers; while it is imperative for them to win the trust of the general public. To achieve this objective, police officers are envisaged to be proficient in their communications, even when working under significant stress.
Tactical communication practice has been identified as an effective way to win favour in tough situations. Tactical communication underscores the need for police officers to interact with people in a language that is non-confrontational; and without losing control over the situation. Police protocols for communicating with various sections of the population, especially sections of the population with special needs are largely influenced by the success of the tactical communication technique. Adaption and implementation of this technique may be inevitable when police officers find themselves on the margin between life and death while on patrol.
Physical conditioning of police officers remains an important criterion. For this reason, police officers are tested for agility, vision and hearing. Beyond wrestling hardened criminals into handcuffs, modern policing has evolved to include the adaption of greater aptitude towards compassion, intelligence, communication and diplomacy, among others. Moreover, police officers with empathetic personalities and multitasking skills are needed to understand and appreciate perspectives of diverse groups of people in society.
Theoretical and Practical Perspectives on Leadership
It is often said, great leaders have the potential to make great events occur. The preceding statement is often applicable to individuals who initiate revolutions or win wars. Also, it applies to personalities who have the magic-wand to transform failing organisations to competitive and profitable ones. Aspiring to possess a snippet of great leader’s qualities is tantamount to the tendency to do exploits, even if on a small scale, in one’s workplace. Several definitions have been proffered to explain the concept of leadership.
For instance, Kruse (as cited in Burney, 2021) defined leadership as the social influence process which ensures the efforts of others are maximised toward the realisation of set goals. Thus, leadership serves as perfect means to an end. That is, it serves as a conduit towards the achievement of institutional goals.
Some theories propounded to explain the concept described leadership qualities as innate; while other theories hold the view that the characteristics and behaviours inherent in strong leaders could be learnt. Examples of leadership theories include power and influence, contingency, behavioural and trait theories. Advocates of the power and influence theories lay emphasis on the source of leader’s power.
Personal power is believed to be contingent on recognition as an expert; or the ability to win the admiration of others. Positional power focuses on title and authority. Here, the leader’s ability to influence others is dependent on the source of power. An example of positional power is transactional leadership.
The latter asserts, the leader’s ability to influence is determined by the belief that, followers act in accordance with instructions in order to obtain rewards, including regular pay cheques or bonuses. Transformational leaders assume leadership positions because others want to follow them. As a result, transformational leaders are often called charismatic.
The theory that attributes the effectiveness of certain leadership behaviours to the situation at hand is known as the contingency theory. Admittedly, not all leadership behaviours would be applicable in all situations. However, leadership styles within the armed forces are usually considered as good example and practical illustration of the contingency theory.
Under this theory, differences are identified between behaviours exhibited by effective tactical officers and successful strategic officers. Tactical officers are envisaged to be quick-thinking, decisive; and issue directives that could cost or save lives in split-seconds. On the contrary, strategic officers are envisaged to take more time, give extensive consideration to all factors in the decision-making process.
The behaviour of leaders in specific situations; or what leaders do, remains the focal point of behavioural theories. Advocates of this theory believe individuals could be trained to act or behave as leaders. Effective behaviours in this context are classified under diverse leadership styles, including those that are participative, task-oriented or people-oriented. In order to get the job done, task-oriented leaders focus their attention on the organisational structure and established procedures. Leaders that are people-oriented express concern for followers, rather than simply directing the followers as to what must be done. Participative leaders facilitate team work. Factors such as the characteristics of employees, the type of organisation; and project or task determine the effectiveness of each of the above-mentioned leadership styles.
Theories related to traits affirm some individuals are naturally born to be leaders. Individuals with strong leadership traits demonstrate adaptability, dominance, decisiveness and assertiveness. This theory ascribes to the fact that leadership traits are inherited; and not learnt.
Setting realistic goals are crucial to the realisation of institutional goals. This implies it may be a daunting task for the best organisational teams or groups of employees to work effectively towards the realisation of unrealistic and unattainable goals. This makes it imperative for leaders to ensure goals developed for implementation by staff, departments, teams and the institution in general are practical and achievable. Burney (2021) described leaders as the captains on ships steering their respective teams across the wavering waters of mediocrity to the islands of success, triumph and magnanimity.
Effective leaders tend to develop both personal and team goals in order to coach their teams towards increased productivity and production; decreased turnover; and higher revenues by ensuring set goals align with the corporate vision and mission. Organisational managers are believed to be distinct from organisational leaders. Generally, organisational leaders make provision for vision and goals whereas organisational managers concentrate on handling the details. While projecting the organisation, leaders are expected to set goals that align with the organisational values. Goals set for various teams, units and departments must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based. That is, the goals should be SMART.
Goals set on SMART standards facilitate employees’ understanding and achievement of desired institutional outcomes. In addition to the team, unit and department goals, a leader that is well-rounded sets goals for himself. Notable among these personal goals is ensuring the corporate vision is instilled in every employee. It is likely for the staff of an organisation to go astray when changes in leadership occur, especially when the staff are not well-indoctrinated in the focus and vision of the institution they serve. This notwithstanding, successful leaders train staff to ensure continuity even in his absence from the implied organisation.
It is imperative for leaders to continually hone their skills, attend leadership workshops, take classes and read more books, in addition to other performance enhancing initiatives. Goals set by leaders should stay abreast of institutional policies and trends; and above all, be both influential and knowledgeable. However, an observed trend is, more often than not, some leaders tend to neglect the support required to ensure goals set are attainable. These goals may require planning and additional resources to make them attainable. Planning is central to setting and achieving institutional goals.
It is not uncommon to observe some leaders embroiled in too many set goals. Employees tend to be overloaded and become selective in terms of the types of goals to work on, when the set goals are too many and lack clearly defined priorities. To address this impasse, leaders need to focus on setting goals with a broader-view; and set them to suit the intended view accordingly. The mere influence of employees does not automatically inspire leadership in them; motivation is inspired through leadership by example.
To ensure results are inspired in employees, leaders need to demonstrate high standards of personal accountability. Just as walking the talk is crucial, motivation remains key to leadership influence on staff and others. Good leaders do not simply motivate others to get specific tasks performed through uttering of words. Rather, they adapt concise and deliberate self-demonstrated actions to inspire employees to deliver their best towards the attainment of SMART goals for their respective organisations.
The advent of technology has made it imperative for organisations to focus on the development of financial, technical and analytical skills of their employees. However, working with others to generate enough ideas; and to develop the requisite opportunities critical to the success of an institution and society at large transcend expertise in technical or financial skills. Extant research revealed relational skills are required to ensure employees contribute meaningfully to the long-term success of their organisations. These relational skills include, but not limited to coaching, conflict resolution, motivation and communication (Sperry as cited in Nordmeyer, 2021).
To assure progress, individuals gifted with relational skills pose questions, make clarifying statements and co-operate with others to present valid alternatives; and to make decision on an action plan. Some relational skills experts argue, the ability to guide and encourage other employees towards the achievement of optimal performance, in line with established standards remains the most essential of relational skills. Coaches strive to create collaborative relationships with employees; they work together to define performance objectives; and to share perspectives.
Coaches work with employees to agree on an action plan, consisting of identified steps to be taken by employees to achieve set goals and related time schedules. Coaches follow up with employees during work processes and provide the necessary guidance or resources or both. At the end of the process, coaches and employees make fair assessments to determine whether or not the outcomes have been successful; and to take corrective actions, if necessary.
It is possible for employees at some point to encounter situations in the workplace that render the implied employees uncomfortable. Moreover, an employee’s ability to determine whether or not certain behaviours are ethical becomes very challenging when other employees do not express concern about those behaviours.
Conflicts usually impair efficient and effective attainment of assigned objectives by leaders and employees. However, leaders and employees endowed with relational skills learn to resolve arguments, ease tension and prevent impasse. Persons endowed with relational skills come to the realisation that conflicts may emanate from emotional reactions to statements and events, misunderstandings and differences in values.
In their efforts to resolve issues, relational skills experts assemble the aggrieved or interested parties to gather and exchange information, clarify issues; and to make decisions. Further, they stress the overall objective and importance of the gathering to the best interest of members present, rather than create room for time to be spent on disagreement about facts.
A leader elicits strong motivational qualities by taking the necessary steps to first and foremost establish the world view of employees by asking open-ended questions. Thus, motivation is at play when individual teams’ productivity is contingent on the leader’s ability to inspire them. Further, motivation is at play when the leader takes steps to eliminate dissatisfaction among employees.
Leaders who motivate often propose realistic goals and suggest how to achieve agreed-to objectives after understanding the needs and experiences of others. These leaders co-operate with employees to prioritise their tasks, offer words of encouragement; and reinforce the underlying objectives on ongoing bases.
The technique through which knowledge and guidance are transferred within and outside an organisation is known as communication. Effective communication allows for successful interaction among peers and superiors; it facilitates appropriate response and reaction to statements of others; and ensures facts are effectively conveyed.
In most cases, skilled communicators carefully select the appropriate environment in which to communicate. Moreover, they make sure the relevant parties are present to listen. In addition to the foregoing, skilled communicators tend to share information and establish what others know in a straightforward manner. Skilled and effective communicators permit time for their audience to absorb information; check for audience’s understanding of the message decoded or communicated; respectfully respond to comments; establish goals; and plan for future communications.
Ethical Behaviour in the Workplace
Training programmes related to ethics are designed to equip employees with the understanding of where line is drawn between acceptable and unacceptable behaviours in the workplace. Development of critical-thinking skills that facilitate employees’ recognition of potential dilemmas remains key among the objectives of ethics training programmes. The organisation of workshops renders training in ethics more meaningful through the provision of practical illustrations and realistic scenarios.
The illustrations allow employees to remain restraint, especially when they are prevailed upon not to act. In other words, the realistic scenarios allow employees to connect the link between theory and practice related to ethical dilemmas; and to react appropriately when confronted with similar situations.
Engagement with and motivation of employees remain another objective of training in ethics. Workplace behaviours related to ethics are expected to be imbibed in the organisational culture. This underscores the need for training in ethics not to be unidirectional or one-sided since the change needed in organisational culture to inculcate ethical behaviours cannot be effected only through the delivery of lectures; active participation of employees is required to add weight to the training sessions; and for employees to appreciate the value in ethics. Organisation of workshops and requests for employees’ inputs help to address this phenomenon through active involvement.
It is possible for employees’ interests and areas of concern to differ from those of their superiors or management. Again, organisation of periodic workshops and offering of training materials help to identify and address these differences. Setting clear and realistic guidelines that could be followed by employees is another objective which attracts the attention of experts in ethics training.
During training programmes, it is not appropriate for too much or too little information to be presented. Besides, time frames and training materials should be carefully crafted to suit the targeted audience; while words are cautiously chosen. Issues related to ethics involve legal terminologies.
However, meanings ascribed to these legal terminologies tend to differ when the employees have no legal background; or when the employees are not lawyers. The inference is, documents on ethics should be written in a language that is clear and concise; and easy for everyone to comprehend.
It remains imperative for institutional leaders to always lead by examples; it is incumbent on the leaders to ensure they constantly demonstrate the messages contained in ethics training. Periodic review of the training in ethics is required to avoid staleness and complacency. Efforts by leaders to create fora for open dialogue with employees to ensure a direct connection is created between training contents and real employee experiences adds value to corporate efforts and projections.
Leaders are tasked to demonstrably affirm the relevance of ethical conduct in the workplace. Managers are expected to be knowledgeable in the translation of generic materials to specific job responsibilities; and to be knowledgeable in how to lead by example at all times. The foregoing should be the case even when managers are not aware that others are keeping close watch on them.
Most often, employees look to their superiors for guidance. Employees may not ask questions. However, they observe how their superiors respond to situations; and pattern their responses to situations in a similar manner. Generally, it is more likely than not for leaders who behave ethically to develop team of employees that behaves ethically, vice versa. Messages delivered during training sessions tend to resonate with employees when they are interactive and engaging.
Employees’ feedback to such training programmes would affirm their time was well-spent during the training sessions. The decision to maintain small class sizes during training sessions would allow for collaboration among participants; and to create room for questions and answers session. Employees may not be overwhelmed while institutional awareness would be heightened when guidelines are set to promote institutional values; and to reinforce ethical practices.
The discussion revealed the success of every institution is nucleated around variety of significant factors. Notable among these include strong customer relations, quality leadership and effective ethical behaviours.
All things being equal, courtesies extended to members of society by police officers and other professionals; and the agility, objectivity and fairness with which customer complaints and petitions are handled during active service years would speak volume of how the foregoing attributes would be reciprocated by the civilian population during retirement.
It is often said, one good turn, deserves another. If the preceding statement is a truism, then irrespective of the vocation (police officers and other professionals alike), the onus lies on everyone to be circumspect about the way he or she interacts with; and relates to members of the general public during active professional years; so as to facilitate integration; and positively influence the co-operation, commitment and support from other members of society during life after retirement.
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The writer is a Deputy Superintendent of Police, Third-in-Command Police Intelligence and Professional Standards (PIPS)