Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Affairs and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Peter Kobrak

Second Advisor

Dr. Barbara Liggett

Third Advisor

Dr. Jonathan White


The evolution of law enforcement in the United States has created a circumstance where thousands of smaller communities are served by a police agency, some of which may not have the capability or resources to provide adequate police service. Many of these are agencies operate within a geographical area where they are joined by common boundaries, yet each operates as an autonomous police force. One possible solution to this quandary is to consolidate those existing agencies experiencing difficulties in the provision of police services into single, larger departments with combined resources.

The purpose of this research was to determine what factors existed that impact on the consolidation of police forces. More specifically, it explored how thesefactors come into play when decision makers were faced with possibility of eliminating existing agencies and merging them into a larger organization.

This study was conducted by selecting three counties as individual study sites: Kent County, Michigan, due to its limited history with consolidation; Ottawa County, Michigan, because of its experience with two consolidations; and Norfolk County, England, based on its long experience with management of merged agencies.

Data were collected from interviews with police management officials in all three counties. An analysis of the data, using an ethnographic software program, identified nine primary factors that have the potential of influencing the consolidation process. Of these factors, two ranked as the most critical: (1)Management Issues, and (2) Local Control and Identity. Management issues, such as merging varying pay scales, benefit packages, labor contracts, and seniority, were seen as potential difficulties requiring a great deal of planning and, in most cases, compromise. Local Control and Identity focused on the unwillingness of individual communities to relinquish political and operational control of their police force and a subsequent loss of community identity.

The consolidation of existing police organizations is a complex undertaking. It requires careful planning, political will, and a willingness on the part of all towork toward a common good: the provision of effective and efficient police services.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access