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Western professor publishes new book

Kirsten Edmunds

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An associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Western Illinois University, Casey LaFrance devotes his time to educating his students along with constructing independent research on organizational development.

“I became interested in organization development in police agencies when I began to study how sheriffs and police chiefs made decisions aimed at balancing accountability considerations,” Lafrance said. “It dawned on me that there was an opportunity for fostering better communication between rank levels. Moreover, there was a willingness or even a desire with agencies to do this, they just needed a vehicle for this purpose.”

Lafrance then started to write his own book titled, “Targeting Discretion, A Guide for Command Staff, Frontline Officers, and Students.”

While the book’s information came from law enforcement research LaFrance said he believes any organization could advance their communication from this book.

“What it does essentially is it identifies areas of disconnect or areas of different priorities,” LaFrance said. “It’s not to say that they should all have the same priorities, you wouldn’t want all the managers to think like every frontline officer, but at least identifying those and asking the question, ‘Why do these exist? Is it OK that they exist? Is there anything that can be done to reconcile these, or at least help them to communicate better about the use of discretion?’ So at it’s heart it’s a communication model. It’s an organization development tool. So you could use this as a strategic planning process geared more toward organizational learning, helping the organization to adapt to changes of circumstances to stay kind of nimble in life.”

One of his biggest focus points, LaFrance said, was on discretion

“There’s this conflict between following rules and using your experience or your own decision authority; this is what we would call discretion,” LaFrance said. “You want rules, you want uniformity, but you don’t want too many rules because then you constrain people.”

LaFrance said his personal experience really helped drive him to write this book.

“Outgrowth of research that I have done and it fit in nicely with some questions that I had in general about public management,” LaFrance said. “Personal experience as well, working as a deputy sheriff, and trying to speak to command staff about different things and having to pull your hair out sometimes, because sometimes it was hard for them to understand where you were coming from, because they weren’t there doing the same job as you.”

He was a deputy sheriff in Georgia while trying to get his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Piedmont College. From there he went on to get his master’s of public administration from the University of North Georgia and then his Ph.D at Northern Illinois University.

While having a high educational degree, LaFrance said he learned a lot while doing his research.

“I learned that, generally speaking, officers put a great deal of effort into using discretion and making effective choices based on bedrock principles and guidelines,” LaFrance said. “Their personal values and experiences tend to be of paramount importance, but they also hold organizational SOPs in high esteem. They also tend to incorporate the concerns, needs, and norms of their host communities into their individual decision calculus. More than anything else, they want the opportunity to discuss various decision scenarios. Rather than fewer hours of training, many of the officers I have studied want more interactive, hands-on, discussion-based training.”

While this is LaFrance’s first published book, he said he has about 35 scholarly articles. He said writing this book was fun but he is relieved he is done.

“I had fun,” LaFrance said. “I’ve previously only consulted with nonprofit sectors. This was the first time I was able to marry my interest with law enforcement with my interest in process consultation and organizational development, so I was pretty stoked about it.”

A couple of organizations and agencies have reached out to LaFrance in hopes of a presentation or help with training.

His book is currently on sale at Barnes and Noble and on the University of North Georgia Press.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Western professor publishes new book