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Police Chiefs

A study at Sam Houston State University is profiling Texas Police Chiefs and the toughest crimes they face on the job.

A survey of Texas police chiefs at Sam Houston State University will help develop training programs at the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, produce scholarly research and create an ongoing database of information on top enforcement administrators in the state.

A team of researchers at the College of Criminal Justice, including Dr. William King and doctoral students Matt Matusiak and Kim Chism, recently presented their preliminary findings on the demographics of Texas police chiefs and their ratings of serious situations they may face in office. The survey was completed by attendees of the Texas Police Chiefs Leadership Series, a state-mandated development program required biennially for all top administrators at small and medium-sized departments.

"It provides feedback to LEMIT on the issues that are important to Texas police chiefs and produces data to do innovative research, such as measuring the institutional environment and goals of these agencies," said Dr. King. "It also produces data that can be used by graduate students."

"Texas Chiefs of Police: Preliminary Findings from Attendees of the Texas Police Chiefs Leadership Series," examines:

  • the chiefs' demographics and background and agency characteristics
  • how chiefs rate crises and disasters
  • an assessment of organizational goals and institutional environment
  • cosmopolitanism, non-governmental organization membership and types of contacts with those organizations

In the first year of the study, based on 245 police chiefs who attended the leadership series between the fall of 2011 and April 2012, the mean age of top law enforcement administrators was 51.7 years old, with an large majority being male (96.7 percent), white (82.6 percent) and married (86.9 percent). Latinos represented about 9.5 percent of the law enforcement leaders, with Blacks at 5.4 percent and Native Americans at 1.7 percent in the top post.

The survey results reveal that approximately 92 percent of Texas police chiefs have attended college and/or earned degrees, with about 18 percent with a bachelor's, about 29 percent with a master's or graduate certificate and 1 percent with a Ph.D.

More than one-quarter of the police chiefs had prior military experience (27.8 percent) and their mean years in law enforcement was nearly 26 years. More than 45 percent had been selected as chief from inside their current agency.

Nearly three-quarters of participants (73.7 percent) came from local enforcement agencies, while nearly 15 percent were from independent school districts, about 10 percent were from special districts and about 1 percent were from state agencies. On average, the chiefs commanded about 38 full time and three part-time staff, including officers and civilian employees. However, most agencies surveyed had 10 full-time staff or less.

The police chiefs were asked to rate a list of possible critical incidents and situations their agency may encounter. The top five, most serious situations were active shootings, murder/homicide, hostage situations, Amber Alerts, and evacuations due to natural disaster.

Finally police chiefs were asked about their affiliations with professional, law enforcement oriented organizations. Among the top organizations with the greatest membership of Texas Police Chiefs are the Texas Police Chiefs Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, and the National Association Citizens on Patrol.

In a second research project, "Police and Business/Administration Leadership: A Systematic Review and Comparison of the Literature," Matusiak and Chism systematically examined the research literature related to leadership in policing and business . The study found that law enforcement research commonly focuses on perceptions and trends, while business studies incorporate the characteristics and performance basis for leadership.

"If you want to know about the cutting edge in organizational leadership, you have to go to the business organization literature," said Dr. King. "Scholars who study police executives and police leadership are lagging behind the academic literature on leadership."


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