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Factors Affecting Team Development in Small Police Agencies: Observations of a Team Trainer

NCJ Number
Campus Law Enforcement Journal Volume: 32 Issue: 4 Dated: July/August 2002 Pages: 28-34
Lewis G. Bender; .
Date Published
July 2002
7 pages
This article identifies and analyzes the factors that undermine the team development process in small police agencies.
The focus of this article is on a compilation of obstacles to team-building that involve the structure, communications processes, environment, and culture, as well as the tasks and rewards systems of the department. A "team" consists of people working together, striving for common goals" (Standley, 1993). In his 1981 book, Thomas Patten, Jr. identified four key elements for the existence of a team: a group that has a reason for working together; a group in which members need one another; a group committed to the concept of working together; and an identifiable group that is accountable. Although there is general agreement among researchers and practitioners about the definition and key elements of teams, there is little understanding or agreement about how to build a team. This article presents the observations of a team builder regarding team development in small and medium-size Midwestern police agencies. In discussing factors that impact team development in police departments, the article addresses organizational structure factors, including the vertical bifurcation of command, role and identity confusion for sergeants, and sergeants' autonomy. In considering the implications of structural factors for team intervention, the author discusses communications process factors, environment/culture factors, and tasks and rewards. In conclusion, the author recommends using the observations of team trainers as the building blocks for creating models and theoretical constructs that capture and explain the observed behaviors related to the successes and failures in team building. 19 references