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Improving the Use of Quality Circles in Police Departments

NCJ Number
Date Published
83 pages
Publication Series
This report examines the practical issues that police departments face when considering the adoption, design, and implementation of "quality circle" programs, in which small groups of employees, primarily nonmanagement personnel from the same work unit, meet regularly to identify, analyze, and recommend solutions to problems confronting their work unit.
This book reports on a 2-year (1983 and 1984) study of quality circles that involved a relevant literature review, a mail survey of police departments, telephone interviews with department personnel responsible for quality circles, a review of materials, and onsite field work. The study resulted in indications of the likely outcomes of police quality circles and information about specific ways to better apply quality circles and similar employee participation programs in police departments. The study concludes that the use of quality circles in police departments has the potential to achieve a number of small-scale service improvements in work units that use them. The effective use of quality circles, however, requires modest expenditures for training, overtime pay, and other activities of quality circles. There is no evidence to date that quality circles produce any major improvements in service delivery or productivity. The circles have typically focused on improving working conditions and the resolution of relatively minor, narrowly focused operating problems. Absent continuing maintenance of the circles and the identification of issues that impact employees' work, quality circles tend to deteriorate after a year or two. The long-term survival of quality circles depends on voluntary participation, a motivated facilitator who is given time to devote to the circle's operation, and explicit support and recognition from upper management. Detailed recommendations are offered for the development and maintenance of quality circles so they can fulfill their potential for improving work unit operations and employee morale. 24 notes and 101 references

Date Published: January 1, 1986