Police Inspector & Chief Inspector Data from the UK

Ian Stuart

As Academic Director of the Junior Command Course at Bramshill Police College I became interested in Dr Kirton’s work. It was presented to me as a very useful management learning experience. As with so many jobs and professions that seem to be outside the usual meaning of management, senior policemen have many management duties. So I went along for training. I was not disappointed and KAI, its interpretation and how to make use of this information in ordinary duty became part of the Inspectors and Chief Inspectors Course (usually leading 30 to 150 officers, depending on their role).

Soon afterwards I was passed information on the means obtained from Fort McNaire command course for US senior military officers, major rising to lieutenant colonel. They too were finding this theory and inventory of use to them. I met one of the senior officers in charge whilst he was on a visit to UK. He reported that the mean for his senior officers was almost exactly that of the male mean of the general population of USA, the same as that for UK. At this time the males very greatly outnumbered females. This course has many other similarities to my own. All officers of this rank were expected to attend – so any data collected were representative of these ranks in the service.

He also reported that most civilians who heard this news were incredulous as they expected that this group would be markedly adaptive. Interestingly, so did many of the officers who attended this course and took KAI as part of it. Later he found that those who most thought this had a distinctly innovative mean. The reason for the view is that most people believe that uniform equals structure equals adaption. Yet, when I was asked by a visiting journalist, shortly after adopting Kirton’s work, whether a senior policeman was, in my experience, an adaptor or innovator, I hesitated. However, despite having had experience of some 8,000 on various courses since I had been appointed, I had to admit I was not sure. Later, Kirton gave us a lecture on the paradox of structure and we learnt a more sophisticated view of these matters.

The US data spreads over two years (1985 –1986) to include all member intake. We decided to review our experience – then in its second year, as we too had data over the same length period (1986-1987). Once again, in our case the males greatly outnumber the females and the mean of this sample of 336 officers, at 98.4, also came out at almost exactly on the male mean; the Americans were just 1 point more adaptive. We also calculated the sub-scores and the expected sub-scores; again there were no surprises.

In civilian life there can be marked difference of means between jobs. The US team had also found some differences between branches of their services. Their data were not completed, and may still not have been published, but my notes show that they reported that their admin branches (e.g., supply and Coast Guard) were significantly more adaptive, but special services; armour and submarines were more innovative. The latter tend to work in smaller groups and believe they have more scope for variation. We wanted to carry out a similar exercise, except that we were had a problem. Whereas most military personnel have options (in peace time) as to which branch to serve, we have less. Therefore, we asked the sample whether they were in the kind of job they preferred, offering three categories: the “standard” uniformed service, or either administration or CID (detective work for the non-British).

To our surprise 40% said they would prefer another type of job. So we divided the sample on job preference rather than current job. Admin and CID are actually minorities compared to uniformed jobs. Admin, as we expected was significantly more adaptive, with a score of 85, but CID surprised many at 95, leaving the majority, therefore, slightly more innovative at 100.

In the debate that followed our staff, mostly serving officers, came to general agreement using Kirton theory. The Admin mean was not a problem; it was the CID mean that first generated debate. Quickly the consensus among us agreed that the bulk of success in detecting crime and more so in getting successful prosecutions was good, hard, meticulous, detailed, fact collecting and analysing, painstaking work. Only some of it was the sort found mostly in detective stories that depends so much of intuition and innovative flair. However, clear innovation did play a role, in many investigations, at some time – so the mild adaptive mean seemed right. That left the rest of the force as very mildly innovative. We come back to that Kirton course. We decided that once an officer left the station he or she became a representative of the police structure in dealing, mostly as an individual, with a member of the public. Of course the rules and approved procedures were not abandoned but the role of interface, as Kirton puts it, is strong. Hence we have a mean closer to sales representative (out from HQ dealing with a client) than with the representative’s administration.

Perhaps our largest surprise was the range of this sample. We had one man on 45 and one at 145 – the complete range reported for the British general population sample. We are still debating the best way to manage this diversity, including ways in which the service might take more note of job preference, at least for much of one’s total period of service.

One last interesting set of data is that in 1990 we had heard during an advanced course that those who tend to volunteer for optional courses of a wide-ranging general nature might be more innovative. Our Intermediate Command Course (for Superintendents) does have a higher element of voluntary attendance and relatively wide syllabus, i.e., it is not a specialist course. We can report that the mean of the first two intakes for this year, N=65, is 102.8 but with no sub-score variation departures from expected.

The conclusion is, both from these data and the discussions with course members, that we gained as much from A-I theory as managers. We are just the same problem solvers as any other group; it is the context in which we work rather than our natures that is different.