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IV Specialized Aspects of Risk Management

Developing a Strategic Risk Plan for the Hope City Police Service

ANDREW GRAHAM

Adjunct Professor and National Editor, Case Studies, Institute of Public Administration of Canada, Queen's University

Hope City is a midsize urbanized community, part of a larger conurbation and therefore part of larger and more complex forces. It is changing in terms of demographics and the demands on policing. While there is no central crisis in this case, there are a number of disturbing trends that represent risks to the Police Service business model now in play and to the ability of the Police Service to meet the emerging needs of its community.

The Hope City case is one that forces integrative thinking about risk management. It is a holistic set of facts and information designed to lead to the creation of a strategic risk management plan for the Police Service of Hope City. It is centered on the qualitative and impressionistic assessment of risk, rather than the quantitative. Therefore, coming to an assessment of the risks in this circumstance and rendering them relative weights will entail some form of collective, consensus-driven or centrally driven exercise. Further, aside from being a good platform for the effective assessment of risk and the assignment of weights, it is also useful when linked to the creation of a strategic or action plan for the Police Service as a whole. The case lends itself well to group work as well as written analysis.

THE CONTEXT

Like most police services, the Hope City Police Service is a busy place. There is no end of activity. Chief Karl Paulson has been in the job for 10 months now and feels that he is getting a handle on the culture and way things are done around Hope City. He came in from another service. This is his first job as chief, although he has held both operational and planning roles at the deputy level elsewhere. He finds working in a growing community of 500,000 like this one interesting. However, at the end of the day, while he fits in fine, he still does not feel in control of things. Being a good police leader and being used to rapidly changing time and resource priorities, he can certainly fit into the "What's next?" approach to management. He feels he and his organization are adept at responding and adapting to both operational challenges and changing situations. But is that what it is all about? He is also seeing some changes happening that he is not sure the Police Service is ready for.

Hope City is indeed a growing and changing place. It is situated not far from a larger metropolitan area, one that gives a lot of employment to Hope City residents. In fact, about 20 percent of the Hope City working population commutes the 50 to 75 kilometers every day by way of the multilane highway that passes just west of town, the commuter rail link into downtown Benville, or the commuter bus systems. The others work in the large service sector or the many secondary manufacturing plants on the west side of the city. There is also a community college with extensive programming that employs about 500 people. It really is a regional hub, one that Hope City residents are proud of. Right now, as this community grows and changes, there is a lot to be optimistic about for the future. On the other hand, the more the community changes, the more that future changes. Having been a small city with a homogeneous population and relatively isolated for a long time, it is now becoming part of the growing conurbation around Benville.

Taken at first blush, Hope City seems to be doing well. There is growth in residential and commercial construction as the result of an influx of new workers into the high-tech industries that are growing here. Many of these new workers are new Canadians, often well educated, some of whom come through family sponsorships. They have settled primarily in four communities in Hope City, often forming fairly close-knit communities. New services are arising to meet their needs, although schools, churches, and social organizations are at capacity.

Working with the notion that it is always best to get ahead of issues before they get ahead of you, Chief Paulson decided to pull together his top managers for a planning session and a bit of a look forward. He is allergic to flip charts, consultants, and detailed reports that do not get used. However, he wanted to not just be a good day-to-day chief, but to set the future direction of the Police Service as well. He also had an uneasy feeling that the Police Service needed to get a handle on the challenges that it was facing, develop a better understanding of the communities it was serving, and get a bit savvier on the political developments in the area. All this was also part of his desire to bring along a number of top-notch operational commanders and broaden their perspective so they could take on more senior roles. Paulson clearly wanted to move to becoming a strategic leader.

The Chief decided to get some help on an environmental scan. He was able to get the help of an old colleague (a consultant) who had retired from a senior police job (not in Hope City) and was known for her ability to talk to people. He asked her to do some interviews in preparation for the senior staff retreat. Her mandate was to gather information and impressions that would help the senior management team identify its challenges and risks. What follows is the result of those interviews.

 
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