Determining the link between causal events such as resource, personnel, and equipment shortages, and the effects on officer morale within a police department is paramount to resolving stress and conflict within the precinct and restoring a balanced and harmonious work environment. Examining the situation with profundity allows the researcher to identify each of the variables, establish a cause and effect, and chart an effective stratagem for relieving the situation. Then, by utilizing the information gleaned from the various survey instruments used, a working hypothesis can be constructed which will ultimately serve as a solution to the problem at hand.
The first step in the process of collecting the information that will identify poor morale as the main problem within the jurisdiction is to interview the police chief himself. The term “poor morale” is a common English term with imprecise meanings or definitions to each individual who uses it. Therefore, the initial step is to ask, what does the Police Chief mean by poor morale? The range of meaning for the term ‘poor morale’ could be anything from slovenliness, untimely reports, late shift check-ins, or even something as serious as outright subordination. It is for this reason that an exact determination must be made as to what the problem can be exactly defined as being.
By determining what it is that the police chief perceives as being poor morale within his department, the task of measuring the different variables becomes clearer to the researcher. The determination of the effect is then mitigated by the determination of the cause. The concern over the poor morale expressed by the police chief will have an underlying cause that initiated it. Determination of this cause is the second step; according to the police chief, the problem of poor officer morale in the jurisdiction seems to stem from three principle factors, the first of which is the lack of sufficient available personnel to cover the shifts and territory of the precinct in a manner that does not require officers pulling numerous double shifts or overtime, as well as covering multiple duties normally assigned to specialists in their fields. The second issue is the lack of resources and shortages in certain needed office and field equipment are forcing officers to make due or do without in order to perform their duties. An example of this could be a single holding cell that is inadequate to provide secure containment of those arrested leading to overcrowding, fights, or other potentially hazardous situations. The third issue is the lack of proper or outdated equipment necessary for officers to perform their duties in a timely and thorough manner. When patrol cars are sitting in the shop awaiting repairs, they cannot be used for patrols.
"Conceptualization is the process by which researchers define what they are attempting to study as precisely as possible (University of Wisconsin)." In other words, researchers are attempting to discover what the exact nature of the problem is in its most precise definition. In the case of the police chief and the officers in his jurisdiction, the police chief believes that the problem seems to lie with officer morale. In actual fact, the real question to ask now is, what is causing the low morale among the officers, as the poor morale is not the cause of the problem, but rather the effect of the problem.
Once the process of conceptualization has been completed, the next step in the process is operationalization. Operationalization refers to the process of figuring out how to measure the concepts that are being investigated by the researcher. In other words, in order to operationalize something, researchers need to determine exactly how they are going to measure the variables (Babbie & Maxfield, 2015).
Operationalization consists of three steps.
· "Formulating Concepts into Variables
· Formulating Variables into Measures
· Formulate Instruments for the Measures (University of Virginia’s College at Wise, 2015)"
Having completed the aggregate data analysis, the researcher then needs to determine how best to measure these variables in order to ascertain the most effective research instrument to be used to conduct said measurements. In order to complete a full review of the variables, the researcher may be required to utilize multiple research instruments designed to coordinate the information in an effort to provide a more comprehensive assessment. An example of this may be the use of a general questionnaire for each officer to fill out, followed by personal interviews, as well as a general observation and assessment of the working environment and interactions of the police force with each other and the public in general. Once this has been completed, the instruments that were used can be finalized. The instruments may be individually, or in concert, comprised of survey questions, actual observations, ride-a longs, interviews or raw data or other fact gathering means.
A survey that could be used in this situation could be comprised of the following questions.
1. What do you personally see as the biggest issue within your precinct?
- a. Lack of personnel
- b. Lack of resources
- c. Lack of equipment
- d. All of the above.
- e. Other (please explain)
2. Why do you think this?
3. How would you solve this problem?
4. What can the precinct do to mitigate the problem?
5. Please add any extra comments that you think would help in the understanding and/or resolution of the problem.
A survey such as this could be instrumental in determining what the exact nature of the problem is, and, by involving the survey taker in the mitigation process, create an atmosphere that will be conducive to interagency cooperation.
The solution to the problem of the lack of resources, personnel and equipment within the police precinct and officer morale within the department can ultimately be found by implementing the information received from survey instruments and other operationalization tools. Researchers can then use this information to first identify the variables of the situation, demonstrate the cause and effect of actions, and create a blueprint that will bring about a workable resolution. By finding resolutions to the problems of lack of resources, as well as personnel and equipment shortages, the stress and conflict that is entrenched within the police department can be relieved.
Babbie, E., Maxfield, M. (2015). Foundations of Criminal Justice Research. Research Methods for use in Criminal Justice and Criminology. Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
University of Virginia’s College at Wise. (2015). an Overview of Research Design: 8. Operationalization. Taken from https://people.uvawise.edu/pww8y/Resources/MERes/ResDesign/Operationalization.html