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Transforming robocops? : a case study of police organizational change in the Durban Public Order Police unit.

This dissertation provides a sociological description and explanatory account of the organisational
transformation in the Durban Public Order Police (POP) unit following the transition to democratic
governance in South Africa in the mid-1990s. In contrast to other more cursory commentary on
police organisational change in South Africa, an in-depth case study is used to provide a close-in
examination of the details of successes and limitations of particular aspects of the transformation
project. Through the use of an ethnographic approach - supported by quantitative research
methods - I explore the mechanisms that were used to bring about change in Durban POP and
assess the extent to which this change process has been successful.
Extending the work of Janet Chan and Edgar Schein, I argue that for police organisational
change to take place, there needs to be a shift in both the field (objective, historical relations or
the structural conditions of police work) but also in existing 'police culture' (basic assumptions and
values). Police organisational transformation can only be partially brought about through
conventional mechanisms of change such as new policies, revised training, or even new entrylevel
recruitment programmes. Rather, fundamental shifts in assumptions and values requires a)
changes in the way in which police work is structured and evaluated; b) daily experiences 'on the
streets' that demonstrate that new policing responses achieve desired and positive outcomes;
and c) a work environment that is supportive whereby all members feel acknowledged and where
the diversity of members (and consequently of communities more broadly) is valued.
To empirically validate this argument, three key areas of the organisational life of Durban POP
are examined. First, the extent to which the behaviour of members of the unit toward the public
has changed following the implementation of new training and policy is closely examined. I argue
that mechanical change in police behaviour was not difficult to achieve. However, this behavioural
change was only partly accompanied by more fundamental changes in the basic assumptions
that police held about their work and their environment. Changed behaviour was, as a result,
contingent on immediate circumstances and on the extent of supervision and gUidance provided
to unit members by their officers. Second, in order to explain this low level of change, I examine
the nature of management and supervision in the unit. Despite the emphasis in the South African
public service legislation on participatory and professional management practices, police
supervisors and managers had retained an autocratic management style. In addition, police
supervisors and managers did not always provide sufficient direction to rank-and-file officers,
much needed during times of police organisational change. Third, in further explanation of the limited level of change, the extent to which pre-existing social cleavages (based on race and
gender) that existed within the unit have changed is explored. Despite affirmative action and
equity legislation and programmes, the unit continued to be plagued by deep racial and gender
divisions which were reinforced by the structural make-up of the unit and the inability of middle
management to challenge them and to provide alternative ways of organizing and interacting
within the unit. / Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of Natal,Durban, 2002.
Date January 2002
CreatorsMarks, Monique.
ContributorsSitas, Aristides.
Source SetsSouth African National ETD Portal
Detected LanguageEnglish

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