This book has been replaced by a newer edition:

Why Law Enforcement Organizations Fail

Mapping the Organizational Fault Lines in Policing

Second Edition

by Patrick O'Hara

Tags: Criminal Justice Administration, Law Enforcement

Table of Contents (PDF)

302 pp  $38.00

ISBN 978-1-59460-911-4
eISBN 978-1-61163-475-4

Read the book's prologue here and epilogue here.

Why Law Enforcement Organizations Fail dissects headline cases to examine how things go wrong in criminal justice agencies. New second edition cases include the deadly police assault on New Orleans' Danziger Bridge after Hurricane Katrina; the deaths of Amadou Diallo and Trayvon Martin; and Bernard Kerik's fall from 9/11 hero to federal prisoner. Highlight cases that remain from the first edition include the Jon Benet Ramsey murder investigation and the conflagrations that ended the sieges in Waco and at the MOVE house in Philadelphia. These human tragedies and organizational debacles serve as starting points for exploring how common structural and cultural fault lines in police organizations set the stage for major failures.

The author provides a framework for sorting through these cases to help readers recognize the distinct roles of operational mechanics, organizational structures, rank and file culture and executive hubris in making criminal justice agencies vulnerable to failure. The book examines how dysfunctions such as institutional racism, sexual harassment, systems abuse and renegade enforcement become established and then readily blossom into major scandals.

Why Law Enforcement Organizations Fail also shows how managers and oversight officials can spot malignant individuals, identify perverse incentives, neutralize deviant cultures and recognize when reigning managerial philosophies or governing policies are producing diminishing or negative returns.

This book is jargon-free and communicates plainly with students and criminal justice professionals. This is a highly-teachable book that also provides pragmatic long-term guidance for how to deal with crises, prevent their recurrence and restore organizational legitimacy. This book is an excellent centerpiece for any class on police organization and management, criminal justice policy, or police-community relations.

Author-maintained blog offers regular postings related to the book's topic:

Praise for the first edition:

"Why Law Enforcement Organizations Fail is a must read for any law enforcement executive trying to understand the dynamics of organizational structures and systems. As any experienced police official will attest, when organizational structures collapse or systems fail the results can be devastating. Not only does the enforcement agency suffer, but the reputation of the city is damaged, often for years. This text examines some of the most egregious system failures within American law enforcement. From the Philadelphia Police Department's assault on MOVE, to the New York Police Department's Michael Dowd corruption scandal, to the failures of the FBI Lab, the book highlights how things go wrong. Aspiring law enforcement executives would do well to read this book and learn from the mistakes of others." — John F. Timoney, Chief of Police, City of Miami Police Department

"[O'Hara's] book is a rare find. It addresses current and, no doubt, future issues and challenges faced by law enforcement in a very pragmatic, balanced, and impartial fashion. The author goes beyond simply finding a human culprit as the cause of organizational malfunctions and makes a strong case that the very nature of law enforcement organizations makes some problems inevitable. The treatment of organizational remedies for whatever ails law enforcement is equally insightful. The author avoids unnecessary details and his down to earth writing style allows the reader to focus on what matters most. This is one of the few books on the subject matter of law enforcement management and organizations that is bound to have an impact beyond the semester in which it is read." — Harald Otto Schweizer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Criminology, California State University-Fresno
"This excellent book examines pathologies in law enforcement organizations using contemporary cases, as well as classic cases whose implications for police management remain fresh today. Whether writing about law enforcement/intelligence failures before and after 9/11, racial profiling, renegade officers who dishonor the badge or failed police operations where communications, oversight and supervision broke down, this book is full of sharp insights about how police agencies can work better. This book should be required reading so that present and future law enforcement managers can better understand and address organizational dysfunctions before they erupt into critical incidents." — Michael C. Walker, Police Director, City of Paterson (New Jersey) Police and Assistant Professor, Passaic County Community College
"A must reading for anyone who wants a window into the multiple sources of law enforcement organizational failures. O'Hara's volume is an insightful and important contribution to the field." — Eli B. Silverman, Professor Emeritus, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Author of NYPD Battles Crime: Innovative Strategies in Policing
"In each chapter, the defects in the law enforcement organizations begin to emerge with shocking clarity… O'Hara uses these examples to provide law enforcement with the tools necessary to change the structural, behavioral and technical errors of the past… [E]specially useful in any criminal justice course that discusses police and police behaviors. The book is meant for everyone, but those who are already in law enforcement or planning to be should keep this book in mind. It is filled with many situations from which one can learn valuable lessons, and it is replete with suggestions that should be taken to heart." — ACJS Today
"More than a dozen case studies from the 1980s to the present examine many topics, from 9/11-related law enforcement failures to racial profiling, rogue cops who dishonor the badge, and failures of the FBI Lab. These case studies capture the reader's attention and help to clearly delineate the multiple sources of police agency organizational failures. O'Hara not only points out the problems and issues that confront law enforcement organizations, but suggests remedies as well. He writes in a clear, concise manner, and anyone involved in law enforcement management would be well advised to read this book. Undergraduate and graduate students and interested general readers should also find this book a worthwhile read. Summing Up: Highly recommended." — CHOICE Magazine
"O'Hara's work is an excellent read that many of the officers who take our Police Management class appreciate." — Lawrence Karson, University of Houston Downtown