The introduction of new public management in the police service: its impact on the role of the Police Sergeant Supervisor

Butterfield, Reginald A. (2001) The introduction of new public management in the police service: its impact on the role of the Police Sergeant Supervisor. (PhD thesis), Kingston University,


The purpose of this thesis was to identify what effect the Introduction of New Public Management (NPM) in the police service has had on the role of the police sergeant supervisor. The study has investigated the role of the uniform police sergeant at five locations within the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), London, England in two stages. The main source of data was detailed face-to-face interviews with the sergeants and their accompanying role-set members. This was augmented by limited participant observation and examination of supporting organisational documents. The study discusses the results at three levels: (i) the reaction of the MPS in response to NPM; (ii) the impact of the changes within the MPS on the rote of the sergeant supervisor; and (iii) the value of role-set analysis in contextual studies. The organisational changes within the MPS followed the patterns expressed within much of the literature. The identified changes were: changes to the structure including elements of devolution; a nominal reduction in the layers of management; the lntroduction of increased accountability through performance manaqement systems; and attempts to create a new culture of service and customer focus. Interestingly the degree of control exerted from the centre on local activities appeared to have increased rather than decreased as one might expect given the ethos of NPM. This high degree of control was predominantly achieved through the use. of centralist performance measures, particularly those under the control and direction of central government. None of the literature examines the impact of NPM on the supervisor role or service delivery. The majority hypothesises on the likely impact and to a large degree this study supported those hypothesis. The impact on the role of the sergeant was found to be significant in the following respect: increased workload; increased responsibility; greater accountability; reduced autonomy; insufficient training to meet the new demands; insufficient organisational support; and reduced levels of performance. Although not a specific part of the study symptoms of stress and a high level of work absence were noted. The success in identifying the various expectations of the role-set actors and the subsequent supervisor responses vindicates the literature that proffered the use of role-set analysis in examining roles. The use of face-to-face interviews within a series of role-sets enabled the study to look at the role of the sergeant in a contextual and holistic manner. In doing so it resulted in a richness of data that could not be obtained using questionnaires. This approach was particularly suited to an ill-defined role such as that of the sergeant supervisor. In using this approach we argue that it has identified activities and influences that would not have been identified from single participant observation or discussion. It was instrumental in identifying the network effect and influence of the peer group sergeants. In a pseudo military, hierarchical, bureaucracy such as the police service one might expect the manager of the sergeant to play a major role in the definition of subordinate roles. Surprisingly this was not the case in this study. We identified that the peer group serçeants, to,gether with a lesser role played by subordinate constables, were the major determinates of the basket of activities attributed to the role of the sergeant supervisor. The findings reported here suggest that more studies of the impact of NPM on the actual service delivery are warranted. Currently the evidence points to the centralist control through performance management systems having a detrimental impact on the ability of supervisors to provide a service that meets the needs of the customer and the stated aims of NPM.

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