The Importance of Keeping Police Systems Open


There is no doubt that any of the existing organizational structures undergo evolutionary changes over time. Norms and working procedures that were relevant fifty years ago are becoming inexpedient and outdated in modern management practice. The organizations whose professional activities are directly related to the provision of daily services to the population, including police stations, are of primary importance to society in such changes. Employees in this industry regularly demonstrate practical skills in dealing with victims, criminals, or witnesses, which undoubtedly contributes to the development of police management theory. In other words, if the current administration of the law enforcement chain remained the same as it was a few decades ago, the police would lose its relevance in the face of private and loyal human rights companies. This means that there is an urgent need for police stations to include external factors in the organizational matrix, which has been the case in recent years. It is worth admitting that despite its seemingly closed nature and strict hierarchy, a modern police department is an open system. This essay will discuss in detail this thesis about the openness of the police system.

Background Information

Over the past few centuries, humankind has collected enough material to create systems theory in the context of organizational management. For this reason, it is safe to say that there are two ways in which the organic life of a group, company or state can happen: closed or open. First of all, it should be said that closed organizations are strictly isolated from the outside world (Allen, 2018). As can be seen, in such systems, all the elements are connected only to each other, and any bridges with environmental factors are absent, just as mechanical watches work: in a vacuum, without external influence. Even though this type of control was once widespread, in modern practice, it risks being unsuccessful and even harmful. In particular, this is justified by the strict conservatism of closed systems, since they do not exchange information: that is why they cannot develop and are uncompetitive. Moreover, closed systems are characterized by predetermination and predictability of development, along with a linear model of evolution.

The opposite situation is typical for open systems, among which the majority of existing business companies and organizational structures. Traditionally, any open system is characterized by complex interactions with the external environment: information, materials, or energy are exchanged (Weber & Waeger, 2017). This type of interaction allows the company to remain relevant to its time, as it studies consumer demands, focuses on market trends, and changes if external factors require it. It should be noted that open systems are not self-sufficient because, as a rule, the company dies without an external energy supply.

Why is The Police an Open System?

The fundamental point of this essay is that police structures have all the features of open systems. Indeed, this provision may be questionable, since the traditional image of the police is associated with isolation, the complexity of interaction, strict hierarchy, routine and mandatory discipline. In particular, “Open versus closed systems” (n.d.) discusses traditional forms of organizational management, showing that police stations are strictly disciplined, hierarchical and closed. However, it should be acknowledged that these characteristics of police departments are, for the most part, either outdated or not accurate enough to describe modern law enforcement agencies.

One of the main signs of the openness of police systems is the integration of the central mission of bodies and innovative management theories. If one looks at modern police stations, one can see a trend towards increasing the level of loyalty among citizens by developing qualitatively new models of governance (Novak et al., 2016). Such approaches are rarely limited to police officers only, but often include effective engagement with the public. This observation is reflected in Suve’s (2017) research on strategic models for the modern police force. In particular, the author points out that for any organization, including law enforcement agencies, there is an urgent need to share information and energy with the environment: without such sharing, the organization risks being irrelevant and degraded. Confirming the idea that police stations are open systems, the researcher writes about the structural features of management. In contrast to “Open versus closed systems,” Save points to the lack of clear boundaries between the stations and a well-established, regular relationship between them. This argument may be justified by examining the fundamental practice of a police officer. As a rule, professionals investigate a criminal or administrative offense through their department and only go to a crime laboratory, a morgue, or a financial department if necessary (Balko, 2019). In other words, there are more acts of interaction between the police officer and the perpetrator/victim/witnesses than between internal organizational units.

An interesting approach to assessing police belonging to a particular type of system is how to measure performance. McLay (2017) writes that historically established methods for assessing law enforcement performance demonstrate low levels of performance and loyalty to society’s demands. In particular, older models of assessment included determining the crime rate in the respective territories: if the crime rate was low, then the police work effectively. However, McLay contrasts this model with a more open form of assessment in which interviews with the public were added to traditional forms. Citizens, as target “clients” of police structures, form their own opinion about the work of professionals, which has a particular impact on the department. For example, if the public is concerned about the xenophobic views of some employees, management may decide to dismiss them.

Based on the above, and given the regular monitoring of police practice, it is not difficult to assert that law enforcement agencies are open administrative systems. It is essential to recognize that in today’s world, there are no guarantees of what humanity expects in the future. Research forecasts and hypotheses, in general, can reasonably accurately describe potential changes, but there is always the possibility of force majeure. This means that the primary purpose of any open system is to survive the uncertainty of the external environment. For example, Paulsen (2019) conducted a study that assessed the extent to which Norwegian police open systems are linked to the readiness of officers to change. The main scientific finding of the researcher was the proof that such systems increase the level of readiness of employees for the changes dictated by the external environment. Given this fact, it should be noted that the more flexible the police work schedule is, the more determined they are in the context of organizational change.

How Can The Openness of Police Stations Be Improved?

Improving the work of law enforcement systems to create greater openness requires a comprehensive approach. It would be misleading to think that the introduction of individual changes, such as several variations in uniforms, changes in working hours, or salary increases, would correct the current situation. On the contrary, to make police units more open and organic to society, it is necessary to assess the demands of both department staff and citizens. In particular, along with the formation of new technical and technological support, it is necessary to change the methods of selection and training of professional staff, shift emphasis from a punitive function to a preventive, and change the methods of interaction with the population. The formation of police groups carried out not on the instructions of officials, but on a real need for the region, automatically makes the department open.


To sum up, special attention should be paid to the importance of keeping systems open in today’s world. Any company, including the police department, must be adaptable to the changing environment: only in this way can the organization remain relevant and timely. The police administration has changed markedly in recent decades as traditional bureaucratic models have been replaced by humane and moral models. This has led the police to acquire signs of an open system, which have been discussed in detail as part of this work. However, it is difficult to say that the work of law enforcement agencies is strictly open. On the contrary, to improve the system, it is necessary to qualitatively change some components of everyday practice, such as models of interaction with the population and the formation of a working team.


Allen, K. (2018). Closed and open systems: The importance of worldviews to leadership. Medium. Web.

Balko, R. (2019). How much interaction should we allow between forensics analysts and law enforcement? The Washington Post. Web.

McLay, C. (2017). Building police legitimacy through measuring and managing performance [PDF document]. Web.

Novak, K., Cordner, G., Smith, B., & Roberg, R. (2016). Police & society (7th edition). Oxford University Press.

Open versus closed systems [PDF document]. (n.d.). Web.

Paulsen, J. E. (2019). The relationship between organizational commitment, readiness for change and competing values framework in the Norwegian police [Master’s thesis, University of Oslo]. University of Oslo.

Suve, P. (2017). Towards multi-strategic police organization. European Law Enforcement Research Bulletin, (3), 251-261.

Weber, K., & Waeger, D. (2017). Organizations as polities: An open systems perspective. Academy of Management Annals, 11(2), 886-918. Web.

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