Shaping the Police Workforce: a state-of-the-art literature review

Garth den Heyer, Jonathan Mendel

    Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)
    563 Downloads (Pure)


    Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to review the evidence about the factors shaping the police workforce, commissioned by the Scottish Police Authority and Scottish Institute for Policing Research.

    Design/methodology/approach: The paper uses the theory of strategic fit to assess the available evidence relating to reshaping the police workforce and brings together the most relevant recent reviews of police organisations and empirical studies on these issues. The use of the theory enabled the strategies that have been adopted by police agencies in recent years to be evaluated in relation to the current political and economic environment.

    Findings: The authors find that here is considerable uncertainty and while there has been previous discussion on the benefits of larger or smaller forces there is not robust evidence that a particular force size is optimal for either efficacy or efficiency, although very small forces may struggle in some ways. There is also mixed evidence about whether increasing police organisation resourcing to allow more officers to be employed reduces crime levels, and there is a relative lack of evidence about the impact this has on the other areas of community life in which police are involved.

    Research limitations/implications: There are major weaknesses in research relating to police organisational reform: there is no accepted theory of police reform, no accepted method as to how such a reform should be evaluated nor have there been any comparative studies of earlier police civilianisation programs (Braithwaite, Westbrook and Ledema, 2005).

    Originality/value: Previous work on this topic often focuses on which organisational structure – whether in terms of workforce mix or size – is most efficient or effective. This research takes an alternative perspective and argues for a shift in the research agenda to take account of the friction involved in processes of organisational change, both in order to build a stronger research understanding of these important aspects of change and to more effectively inform policy. The paper provides a basis for the development of theories for understanding police reform in general – and workforce restructuring in particular – alongside appropriate methods for researching it.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)165-178
    Number of pages15
    JournalPolicing: An International Journal
    Issue number2
    Early online date8 Apr 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2018


    • Economic crisis
    • Effectiveness
    • Policing
    • Restructure

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
    • Public Administration
    • Law


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