Mandatory Rotation:
Is it an effective way to staff an Investigations Division ?

By Lieutenant Robert Stachnik
Schaumburg, Illinois Police Department
November 12, 2001

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A Research Paper Submitted to the
Northwestern University Center for Public Safety
School of Police Staff & Command, Class #164
Northwestern University Evanston, Illinois
November 12, 2001


A very significant portion of the data presented in this research paper was obtained from five Law Enforcement professionals who have devoted a large portion of their personal lives and professional careers to improving the excellence of Criminal Investigations. I would like to acknowledge and thank my distinguished colleagues not only for their contributions in making this paper possible, but also for their professional dedication and commitment to Criminal Investigations, Criminal Investigators, and the public they have sworn to protect.

Lieutenant Commander (Retired) Vernon J. Geberth
New York City Police Department

Lieutenant Mark Hinchy
Illinois State Police

Assistant Deputy Superintendent (Retired) Charles B. Roberts
Chicago Police Department

Captain Michael Sullivan
Dubuque, Iowa Police Department

Chief Charles Wernick
Highwood, Illinois Police Department

Lieutenant Robert Stachnik
Schaumburg, Illinois Police Department
November 12, 2001

Executive Summary

The most effective and efficient way to staff the Investigations Division is a serious concern to the Schaumburg Police Department. A number of considerations must be taken into account when deciding staffing issues since these considerations ultimately impact the performance of the Investigations Division. One of the most important staffing considerations is the determination of appropriate duration for personnel assigned to the division. Generally speaking, a police manger has two options available when it comes to staffing duration decisions. The first choice is to base the length of an investigator's assignment in the Investigations Division upon an arbitrary time frame, Mandatory Rotation. This choice makes a predetermined number of months, or years, the sole criteria for the length of an officer's assignment. The second choice is to determine the length of assignment based upon the investigator's actual job performance, Performance Rotation.

Mandatory Rotation not only has supporters and practitioners, it also has benefits. Mandatory Rotation is impartial, and therefore, seemingly fair, to all those involved in the Mandatory Rotation process. It is also easier for a manager to implement since, by its very nature, it eliminates discretion in the decision making process. Also, Mandatory Rotation automatically factors ongoing change into personnel management. This concept is also appealing to today's change orientated manager who has been taught to not just accommodate change, but to embrace it, since change often provides many progressive organizations opportunity and growth.

Performance Rotation also has advocates, practitioners and benefits. The benefits of the experience and the finely honed skills that are acquired with time are obvious and difficult to dispute. The complexity of criminal investigations, and the demands on a police department, have experienced rapid and pervasive growth throughout recent years. Just as the complexity of crime has increased, so has the need for the expert investigator. From the management perspective, Performance Rotation is a more challenging process to administer than Mandatory Rotation since it requires a closer monitoring of investigators (to effectively monitor performance) and, therefore, additional work on the behalf of the investigator's supervisors.

Research done on this topic clearly establishes that the benefits of Performance Rotation greatly outweigh both the real and perceived benefits of Mandatory Rotation. Specifically, Mandatory Rotation is more expensive to a police department, to an investigations division, and to department personnel in both tangible and intangible assets. While Mandatory Rotation may offer some benefits to the Schaumburg Police Department, those benefits are offset by the disadvantages of Mandatory Rotation, and the greater overall superiority that Performance Rotation affords in regards to enhanced customer service, increased employee empowerment, more decentralized decision making, and greater efficiency and effectiveness for the department.

Throughout the years, police investigators have been assigned to positions as detectives after being selected from a pool of candidates comprised mainly of uniform patrol officers. After an officer was selected for the position, most law enforcement agencies kept the investigator in this assignment for the remainder of the officer's career unless the detective was promoted to sergeant, or returned to patrol because the officer was ineffective as an investigator.

During the late 1970's many police agencies reviewed the length of an officer's assignment to the detective bureau and some police agencies began to implement the mandatory rotation of detectives from their assignments and return them to patrol. Under the mandatory rotation system, a predetermined time span, as opposed to an officer's job performance and effectiveness, is the primary factor in determining an individual's transfer back to patrol. While the exact length of service as a detective varies from agency to agency, many police departments that utilize mandatory rotation transfer their detectives every three to five years. Supporters of mandatory rotation generally rely on two different lines of reasoning to support the process. The first justification is the belief that mandatory rotation creates a better overall work environment by enriching individual job assignments for police officers. Since individual officers benefit, the police department ultimately benefits as a whole. Many proponents of the job enrichment theory also believe that similar forms of mandatory rotation are widely practiced in the private sector. A second belief in support of mandatory rotation is that the rotation process increases the department's overall efficiency by cross training officers. This cross training is thought to provide officers extra training and experience that they can use and share with other officers when they return back to their original assignment.

Opponents of mandatory rotation believe that rotation of investigators based upon length of service in a particular assignment is not an effective management principle and opt for rotation based upon an individual's actual job performance (Performance Rotation) for a number of reasons. Many feel the training that is provided to the investigator is wasted when the officer is returned to patrol. Others feel it is difficult to effectively manage a detective unit when skilled investigators are arbitrarily transferred. Finally, there is a concern that the involuntary transfer of motivated, effective employees causes the employee unneeded stress, frustration, needlessly damage morale, and ultimately thwart a promising career and at the same time undermine the effective operation of a criminal investigations unit.

This research paper poses the question, "Is the mandatory rotation of police investigators an effective and efficient method of staffing the Investigations Division of the Schaumburg Police Department?" In order to answer that question, this paper discusses the origin of the mandatory rotation of police detectives and evaluates mandatory rotation as it impacts police investigators, the Investigations Division, and the department overall. It also compares and evaluates:
Finally, only the non-disciplinary transfers of police officers who are meeting, or exceeding, standards is studied in this evaluation of mandatory rotation.

Research and Analysis

History of Police Investigations and the Police Investigator
Like so many other aspects of American law enforcement, criminal investigation can trace its origins back to Europe. Early European police forces believed that the presence of uniformed police officers would either prevent crime from occurring, or result in an immediate apprehension after a crime was committed. The paradigm of 18th century law enforcement did not allow for plainclothes officers or follow up investigation. For all practical purposes, police investigation began and ended with the taking of the initial report.

During the early 1700's, London was experiencing a serious problem with crime. Many of the victimized citizens who were losing property felt the police were having little success in catching the offenders and recovering stolen property. Some victims began hiring individuals known as "Thief Catchers" to assist uniform police officers in arresting felons and recovering their stolen property. Thief Catchers not only were not police officers, they usually were made up of riffraff who only chose to cooperate with law enforcement in order to obtain personal financial gain or attempt to better their social standing. One of the most effective Thief Catchers was an individual named Jonathan Wild. Wild worked out of a brothel and was an accomplished thief in his own rite. Wild's methods included paying the thieves a small reward for turning stolen property over to him. The stolen property would then be turned over to the rightful owner and an even larger reward would then be obtained by the Thief Catcher. Even though Wild popularized the idea of using a thief to catch a thief and was very successful, claiming responsibility for the arrest and execution of over one hundred twenty felons, he was despised by the citizens in London. Jonathan Wild's career ended when he, himself, was arrested and executed in 1725.

The French also used thief catchers. Eugene Francois Vidocq was active eighty years after the death of Wild and, in many ways, was Wild's equivalent in Paris. Vidocq began as an informant for the Paris police and was so successful that in 1812 he formed the first detective bureau in France, much to the chagrin of the French police establishment. In just one year, 1817, Vidocq and the other eleven men on his squad effected almost 800 arrests, including 15 murderers, 108 burglars, 5 armed robbers and over 250 thieves. Due to Vidoq's personal success, and the success of his detective squad in Paris, Eugene Vidocq will always be remembered as the creator of the world's first detective agency, the Brigade de Surete.

While the Thief Catchers of yesterday bear little resemblance to today's professional police investigator it is interesting to note that the Thief Catchers pioneered successful tactics that were considered beneath the dignity of their uniformed counterparts. Many of those tactics, such as the use of paid informants, conducting undercover operations, and surveillance are still used by police investigators today.

Much like their European counterparts, 19th Century American law enforcement agencies originally found little value in police investigators. One of the earliest examples of organized law enforcement can be traced back to paid police patrols in New York City in the early 1830's. These police patrols consisted of uniform officers. The New York City patrols, and others like them, had no detectives. Soon, like the English and French, police agencies in America realized that they needed to build upon the efforts of uniform officers if they were going to deal effectively with crime. Boston and Chicago were two of the first cities in the country to employ detectives. As a result of the belief that detectives were not an integral component of policing Chicago's first detective, Allan Pinkerton, did not "come up through the ranks"; he was hired directly by Chicago's mayor, Levi D. Boone, in 1849. (Gilbert, Pg 4-14)

Over the years, the position of police detective has been portrayed in countless mystery novels, television programs and in the motion pictures. There is probably no other assignment in law enforcement that has received as much exposure and publicity. As a result of this exposure, many people have preconceived notions about detectives and their work. These fictional depictions range from the bumbling "Inspector Closseau" made famous by the actor, Peter Sellers; to Sgt. Joe Friday of "Dragnet" fame; to the incomparable creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes. Those who are engaged in actual criminal investigation realize that while these fictional detectives provide good entertainment, they have little do with actual criminal investigation, other than they help create or perpetuate myths surrounding the business of criminal investigation. The modern police investigator is a well educated, highly trained professional that relies on a comprehensive understanding of the law, science, investigative techniques and human nature to accomplish his mission.

Even after one dismisses the myths that are so often popularized by fiction there is still a mystique attributed to police investigators. Many law enforcement professionals believe that while an assignment to investigations is not in the technical sense, a promotion, it certainly is more than just another job. Authors of police texts and scholarly journals agree and have written texts that support the belief that a good police investigator is an artist or craftsman. Over the past thirty years the late Charles O'Hara had authored numerous editions of Fundamentals of Criminal Investigation, a textbook that is considered by many to be a foundation for police investigation. In his book Mr. O'Hara writes, "...Investigation is an art, not a science; hence it must be discussed in terms of precepts rather than laws and rigid theories...." (O'Hara 1994, Pg 5). Thomas A. Repetto, the former vice-president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York went even further. "...There is of course, the concept of the detective as an artist, the individual of brilliant insights, a master of interrogation and other skills, who engages in an intuitive exercise which ultimately leads to the solution of a crime. Though this version is usually found in fiction or on a movie or T.V. screen, it is by no means unknown in professional policing..." (Repetto, Pg 8).

Prior to the mid 1970's, an assignment from Patrol to Investigations was usually considered a career long assignment. Authors of textbooks involving police administration often wrote that an assignment to a detective bureau was akin to a formal promotion "The investigator's rank and pay should be slightly below that of sergeant in order to encourage career development and a broadening of experience of all officers." (Gourley, Pg 86). Patrol Officers that were selected as detectives were normally assigned to a detective bureau with the understanding that they would remain detectives unless they: 1) were promoted to sergeant 2) retired 3) were incompetent as investigators 4) received a disciplinary transfer back to the patrol division. Transfers that returned an investigator back to a patrol assignment were, for all practical purposes, either for discipline or substandard performance, "A detective should be subject to transfer to another, but not necessarily unrelated job at the discretion of the top administrator in the event of inadequate investigative performance or other good reasons..." (Gourley, Pg 86.) Rotation of investigators, predicated upon a predetermined time versus actual job performance was rarely seen.

The origin for the mandatory rotation of police detectives appears to have two main components. The first component is the belief by some that detective work makes a limited contribution to the overall mission of a police department due to the fact that it consists, for the most part, of routine, elementary follow up and consequently requires limited skills and talents. The second component has been experimentation with modern management philosophies, both in the private and public sectors.

One of the first contributors to the belief that detectives, and detective units have limited value was the RAND Study of police detectives that was published in 1975. The RAND Study was commissioned by the Department of Justice and studied investigators from twenty-five police agencies over a two year period. The study made a number of conclusions but some of the most significant include:
While the results of this study were immediately disputed (controversy about the study included definitions of terms such as "superficial attention" and how department size impacted actual reaction to major criminal investigation) amongst members of the law enforcement community, many members of the law enforcement challenged the value of criminal investigators by concluding that detectives make a very small contribution to the successful follow-up investigation of crimes. (Gilbert, Pg 456-457)

A subsequent study of the effectiveness of detectives was conducted in 1983 by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). The PERF study analyzed the follow up activity done by detectives investigating burglaries and robberies in three jurisdictions, DeKalb County, Georgia, St. Petersburg, Florida and Wichita Kansas. The PERF study contradicted the RAND study and found that follow up investigation conducted by detectives does play a significant role in solving crimes. A major finding was that patrol officers and detectives contribute equally in solving both burglary and robbery cases. The PERF study further recommended that patrol officers could help further increase the resolution burglaries by conducting neighborhood canvasses at crime scenes and that detectives could also increase resolution of burglaries by increased utilization of informants. (Lyman, Pg 13-14)

A second contributor to mandatory detective rotation is a result of the law enforcement's exposure and experimentation with more humanistic theories of corporate organizational behavior and personnel management. These theories include job rotation, especially as it relates to job enrichment.

Expert Interviews
In an attempt to build on existing data and obtain a practical, contemporary appraisal of mandatory rotation, several senior police managers were personally interviewed to learn their professional viewpoints regarding the effectiveness of mandatory detective rotation versus performance rotation. All of the persons interviewed had extensive experience involving the management of criminal investigation units. Three of the individuals either currently supervise, or used to supervise criminal investigation units in the Chicago metropolitan area. A fourth manager had extensive experience in the supervision of police investigations in New York City and is a nationally recognized author and police trainer.

The first administrator interviewed was Chief Charles Wernick of the Highwood, Illinois Police Department. Chief Wernick has been the chief of the Highwood Police Department for seven months. Prior to becoming Highwood's police chief, Chief Wernick was a thirty year veteran of the Evanston, Illinois Police Department having retired from the Evanston Police Department with the rank of Commander. During his career, Chief Wernick had several assignments relating to Investigations, beginning as an investigator and eventually serving as a Commander of Field Services (The Investigation Division is one of the components of Field Services) for the Evanston Police Department. In addition to his experience directly relating to the Evanston Police Department's detective unit, Chief Wernick helped design, and was the commanding officer of the North Regional Major Crime Task Force (NORTAF). NORTAF is a task force comprised of thirty investigators and crime scene specialists from thirteen suburban police departments located in the northern portion of Cook County. NORTAF's mission is to provide participating member police agencies assistance with homicide investigations. Chief Wernick is also a member of the faculty of the Northeast Multi-Regional Training organization (NEMRT). As a NEMRT instructor, Chief Wernick trains police investigators and police supervisors throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, in major case investigation and major case management techniques.

When interviewed about the benefits of mandatory rotation of detectives Chief Wernick advised he was strongly opposed to the rotation of detectives who were meeting or exceeding performance standards. Chief Wernick felt the loss of trained, experienced investigators due to a mandatory rotation was not in the best interests of a police department. Chief Wernick stated that it was his belief that it took many years for a detective to receive the proper training and acquire the experience and skills needed to perform adequately. In addition, most successful detectives develop an extensive network of professional contacts with colleagues from other agencies, prosecutors, and other professions. These contacts are extremely beneficial and constitute a considerable asset that often assist a skillful investigator in the successful investigation of criminal activity. Chief Wernick believed it was counterproductive to transfer an investigator just when his training, experience and networking were all coming together and the officer's performance was beginning to peak. Chief Wernick believed transferring an experienced, highly effective detective would be like "Xerox taking its most successful salesman and transferring him to the loading dock." When asked about the potential benefits of cross training by giving everyone a chance to get exposed to the workings of investigations, Chief Wernick replied that he believed a police department would be much better served by rotating patrol officers through an investigations unit as a temporarily assigned duty with a 90 to 180 day duration. Chief Wernick also felt that any possible benefits of potentially increasing the morale of patrol officers by increasing opportunities for investigative assignments through mandatory rotation would be offset by the negatives that would inevitably result from the involuntary transfer of a high functioning employee. Chief Wernick did not feel it was a sound management technique to attempt to improve one employee's morale at the expense of another officer. Chief Wernick concluded his interview by saying that it was his belief that mandatory rotation truly fails to recognize the value of a police investigator.

The second police administrator interviewed was Assistant Deputy Superintendent (Retired) of the Chicago Police Department Charles B. Roberts. Assistant Deputy Superintendent Roberts had a career spanning over thirty years with the Chicago Police Department until his retirement in October, 1999. During his career, Assistant Deputy Superintendent Roberts served as the Commander of Area 5 Investigations which consists of over one hundred fifty investigators and supervisors, the Commander of the Training Division (Chicago Police Academy), and the Assistant Deputy Superintendent in charge of the Bureau of Operational Services. In addition to his police service, Assistant Deputy Superintendent Roberts holds adjunct teaching positions at both Lewis and Northwestern Universities.

Assistant Deputy Superintendent Roberts opposed the mandatory rotation of detectives calling it "shortsighted." Mr. Roberts felt that the transfer of investigators served no useful purpose as long as the investigators were performing at, or above, accepted standards. In addition to failing to see the logic in transferring competent employees, Assistant Deputy Superintendent Roberts questioned the wisdom of having a police department invest in training an officer (in the case of the Chicago Police Department an investigator receives a minimum of three weeks of formal training) and then returning the officer back to an assignment where the training would seldom, if ever, be used again. Mr. Roberts concluded his interview by saying that the transfer of detectives from their assignments should remain under the control of the detective's supervisors in the Investigations Division. When asked his professional opinion about ensuring a high level of performance from individual investigators and the investigative units in general, Assistant Deputy Superintendent Roberts responded there is no need for mandatory rotation "If supervisors supervise, and if managers manage."

The third police manager interviewed for this paper was Lieutenant Commander (Retired) Vernon J. Geberth of the New York City Police Department. Commander Geberth also has over thirty years experience in law enforcement. During his career, Commander Geberth served as a detective, a Precinct Detective Squad Commander, a Temporary Commander of the 7th Homicide Zone in the South Bronx, and as the Commander of Bronx Homicide. In addition to his police service, Commander Geberth has served as an adjunct professor at both Mercy College and John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Commander Geberth is perhaps best known, to those in the law enforcement community, as the author of Practical Homicide Investigation Tactics, Procedures and Forensic Techniques, which is considered by many police officers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to be the benchmark professional publication for homicide investigation.

Commander Geberth is strongly opposed to the mandatory rotation of detectives for a number of reasons. To begin with, Commander Geberth believes mandatory rotation of detectives demoralizes quality employees who are highly motivated and performing effectively. Also, mandatory rotation guarantees that no one in the detective unit will ever be truly experienced since, by it's very nature, mandatory rotation demands that all experienced officers are transferred out of their assignment as soon as they begin to gain experience and master acquired skills. When asked to consider the potential advantages of bringing experience gained in Investigations back to their new assignment in Patrol, Commander Geberth stated that this was not a valid consideration since it is common knowledge that the two assignments are totally different in nature. Investigators almost exclusively deal with criminals. Patrol Officers predominately deal with service related issues (domestic disturbances, traffic direction, traffic enforcement, etc.) Because of this, skills acquired through formal training and experience will most certainly be lost shortly after an investigator is returned to a patrol assignment. When asked about the potential benefits of giving as many officers as possible an opportunity for exposure to being a criminal investigator, Commander Geberth replied that the purpose of police detective units is to successfully investigate crimes, not to provide job diversification to employees of a police department and that mandatory rotation undermines the primary mission of any investigation unit. Not only did Commander Geberth feel that these two philosophies conflicted, he cited an example of what he believed to be one of the most infamous examples of the failure of mandatory detective rotation to adequately provide trained, experienced detectives to a detective bureau... the Jon Benet Ramsey homicide investigation. The Ramsey case was investigated by the Boulder, Colorado Police Department. The Boulder Police Department practices mandatory rotation and Commander Geberth strongly believes that the lack of experienced detectives that conducted this murder investigation was a critical reason that this murder has gone unsolved.

Commander Geberth also observed that while they are well intentioned, he strongly doubts that proponents of mandatory rotation truly understand the extent of the knowledge and skill, as well as the more subtle and difficult to define qualities and characteristics, required of a successful investigator since he, after over thirty years in law enforcement, and after personally investigating, supervising, and consulting over eight thousand homicide investigations, "is still learning every day."

Commander Geberth concluded his interview by saying that for the past twenty years he has traveled the entire country teaching thousands of police investigators homicide investigation. In all those years, and after meeting so many police investigators, he has never met one investigator that supported mandatory rotation.

The fourth police manager interviewed was Lieutenant Mark Hinchy, a twenty-three year veteran of the Illinois State Police. Lt. Hinchy currently is the commanding officer for a violent crime task force that assists local jurisdictions investigate murders and other violent crimes in southern Cook County. The task forces utilizes over one hundred investigators from forty-five municipalities. Lt. Hinchy's responsibilities include the overall administration, training, and the daily operation of the task force. Prior to this assignment in the violent crime task force, Lt. Hinchy served as the commanding officer of a DuPage County auto theft task force, and supervised a covert narcotics unit.

Lt. Hinchy sees no value in the mandatory rotation of police investigators and also opposes it for number of reasons. "How can we as managers, who are constantly being asked to do more with less, possibly justify spending thousands of dollars to train a police officer as a specialist and then transfer the officer when the training is beginning to pay off? " Lt. Hinchy also believes that in addition to tangible resources such as training expenses, mandatory rotation needlessly wastes a very important intangible asset... professional networking. The ability of an investigator to acquire an extensive collection of professional contacts with other police officers and professionals in related fields takes many years to develop and these valued contacts almost certainly go by the wayside, due to a cessation of interaction, when the officer is transferred from an assignment in Investigations back to Patrol. The value of networking is overlooked and professional relationships that are built upon respect, trust and time are destroyed with mandatory rotation. When asked about the potential benefits of cross training Lt. Hinchy replied that his professional experience showed limited benefits at best. Around 1992, the Illinois State Police conducted an experiment in the voluntary cross training of non-supervisory officers and the mandatory cross training of selected supervisors. The experiment lasted about four years and was terminated when the state police found it was ineffective. According to Lt. Hinchy, one of the biggest flaws in the experiment was that it failed to take into account that fact that not all people have the ability, or desire, to do all things. Lt. Hinchy highlighted this observation by saying, "Just like not all good police officers are qualified to become supervisors; not all good police officers are qualified to become investigators."

The Value of Experience
Obviously, the experts interviewed in the preceding section value experience very highly. The value of experience, and experienced detectives, has not gone unnoticed by authors of police texts, "...Although some deny the existence or worth of intuition, hundreds of experienced investigators know its value. Intuition is the 'time of knowing' without any conscious reasoning or apparent logic. It is based on knowledge and experience or what is commonly referred to as 'street sense.' It is the intangible urge to go ahead without any apparent valid reason, a 'gut feeling' developed only by experience in the field." (Bennet, Pg.14)

Rotation Successes
Mandatory Rotation of detectives has its supporters. Lieutenant Tom Gabor of the Culver City, California Police Department wrote an article in support of mandatory rotation that was published in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. Gabor's article, cites no sources, and argues the benefits of mandatory rotation based upon his own personal experiences and that of his police department. In that article, Gabor strongly recommends the rotation of virtually all police personnel, including division commanders. Gabor advises that in Culver City even their captains are rotated every eighteen months to encourage a broader perspective, minimize stagnation and encourage flexibility. (Gabor, Pg 16-19).

The Maumee, Ohio Police Department is another police department that practices mandatory rotation. This forty-one officer department rotates almost all police personnel every three years. Maumee's police chief feels the rotation compensates for the lack of promotions offered by his smaller police department. (Eggert, Pg 15-19)

Rotation Failures
Mandatory detective rotation has been tried unsuccessfully in a number of jurisdictions. Police in Baltimore, Maryland practiced mandatory rotation for six years and returned to performance rotation. Police in DuBuque, Iowa also had rejected mandatory rotation, but only after coming to the realization after many years of practicing mandatory rotation, that it was an ineffective way of staffing an investigations division.

After a long history of success with traditional staffing, mandatory rotation was initiated in Baltimore in 1993 in an attempt to break down what was perceived by some as elitism and stagnation in specialty units. The individual who was primarily responsible for the implementation of mandatory rotation was Baltimore's former police superintendent, Thomas Frazier. As a newly appointed police superintendent Frazier also believed mandatory rotation would lead to a better trained police department overall. As a result, experienced detectives, with excellent track records, were soon transferred from their duties in investigations to various assignments in the Baltimore Police Department. Baltimore's rotation experiment ended in disaster in 1999. Morale throughout the Baltimore Police Department plummeted. Clearance rates, that had been excellent prior to the implementation of rotation, also suffered. The experiment was such a disappointment that terminating detective rotation became a "Public Safety Accomplishment" of Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. (City of Baltimore, Md. Website). Senior police officials for the Baltimore Police Department reevaluated mandatory rotation and changed their minds about the process. In a 1999 article in the Baltimore Sun newspaper, one Baltimore PD official, Col. John E. Gavrilis, who is the chief of the detective bureau, and had originally termed rotation "good for the department" was quoted as saying "Rotation definitely crippled us. There were times when we had detectives who had the motives and suspects in their head. That info was invaluable. We need people who know the culture of our city." Gavrilis' sentiments were echoed by Acting Police Commissioner Bert Shirey who said, "There is no question that back in the '80's, we had the highest clearance rate and the highest conviction rate in the country." Shirey goes on to say, "We had detectives down there their whole careers who knew how to solve cases." (Baltimore Sun, December 9, 1999).

In 1997 police administrators in Dubuque, Iowa evaluated the mandatory rotation of their investigators. This evaluation began after command officers in the Dubuque Police Department's Criminal Investigations Division began questioning the overall effectiveness of mandatory rotation. Command officers reviewed divisional performance, conducted departmental meetings and initiated surveys. They also conducted external surveys of other comparable police departments in their region. Dubuque's internal studies revealed that mandatory rotation was an ineffective way of staffing a detective bureau and was adversely impacting their agency's ability to serve the public. Specifically, they learned that mandatory rotation prevented their agency from keeping trained, experienced investigators in their assignments. As a result, the quality of their service suffered and their ability to effectively investigate criminal activity was being compromised. The results of external surveys told managers at the Dubuque Police Department that both local and federal prosecutors did not support the mandatory rotation process because they saw, firsthand, the inexperienced investigators as they appeared in court. Finally, in meetings that were open to all department members, they learned their officers had no objection to the termination of mandatory rotation.

Dubuque's external survey of nine comparable police departments (Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Sioux City, Waterloo, Iowa City, Ames, West Des Moines, and LaCrosse, [Wisonsin]) revealed that only two of the nine practiced mandatory rotation. They learned that, for the most part, mandatory rotation is the exception, not the rule.

As a result of their agency's study, the Dubuque Police Department terminated the practice of mandatory rotation and now practices "Natural Rotation", designed by the DuBuque Police Department's Criminal Investigations Division Commander, Captain Michael J. Sullivan. Essentially "Natural Rotation' is the policy of keeping investigators in place as long as their performance merits the assignment. For the most part, rotation of personnel occurs naturally as investigators are promoted or retire from the police department. (Dubuque Police Dept., Internal Memos)

Private Sector Utilization of Job Rotation
The practice of "Job Rotation" has been used by the private sector for a number of years, but it is used for a wide variety of different reasons. It is important to understand job enrichment is just one of the many reasons for utilizing job rotation. In addition to job enrichment, the private sector also uses job rotation to avoid repetitive motion injuries for many jobs such as assembly line workers. The private sector also utilizes job rotation and cross training for economic reasons, such as the accommodation of seasonal market trends. (MacLeod, Pg 1-16 & "The Pantagraph" Pg 2.)

Experts in the private sector also caution that when job rotation is used for the purpose of job enrichment, job rotation should not be used in an attempt to cure job burnout because poor job performance will almost certainly follow the marginal performer from his original assignment to the new one. (Daniels, Pg 1-2)

The Financial Cost of Detective Rotation
Proper training for a new investigator suggests that a police agency should plan on devoting a minimum of four weeks to training in the detective's first year in the new assignment. This training would merely consist of the basics and would most likely only consist of a basic orientation to the new assignment, an obligatory one week school studying the fundamentals of criminal investigation, and perhaps an introductory school for interviews and interrogation. If, as is so often the case in Schaumburg, the basic investigation course is provided by North East Multi- Regional (NEMRT), most the of the training has reduced costs, but it is certainly not free. When one factors in the basic cost of an investigator's annual salary, and the lost productivity that results when new investigators are absent from their assignment due to training, seemingly negligible training costs quickly add up.

After the new investigator completes the first year in his assignment, the basic, entry-level NEMRT courses that are available at reduced costs are not as readily available, yet much training is still required if the investigator is to be further developed professionally. Advanced interview & interrogation, arson, computer crimes, financial crimes, identity theft, juvenile law, sex offense, and equivocal death & homicide investigation, and surveillance are just a few areas of expertise that will require formal training in schools. Only when one factors in the cumulative costs of training and salary does the true cost of training become apparent. To further illustrate the point consider the following. Calculating salary at $52,000 per year ($1,000 per week) and average training costs of $1,500 per year, total training costs for the investigator adds up to a minimum of $12,000 within four years if an investigator receives one additional week of training per year (see chart below). This cost projection is very conservative, and as mentioned previously, does not take into account lost productivity from time away from work or the overtime expended to make up for the lost productivity.
Projected Training Costs for New Investigator
Year Est. Formal
Training Costs
Salary Costs Sub Total Cumulative
1 $1,500 $4,000 * $4,500 $4,500
2 $1,500 $1,000 $2,500 $7,000
3 $1,500 $1,000 $2,500 $9,500
4 $1,500 $1,000 $2,500 $12,000
*  $4,000 is attributed to four weeks of training assumed for first year.  Remaining 3 years assumes 1 week per year of training
The overall value of training costs and this $12,000 training projection becomes even more significant when one takes into account in last year's proposed budgets over $5,000 of training requests was denied in the Investigations Division budget request for Fiscal Year 2001-2 (Village of Schaumburg Proposed Budget FY 2001-2, Pg 59 of 287).

Adding to the overall cost is the fact that little, if any of the specialized skills acquired in Investigations will be needed or used in the reassignment to Patrol. It is a widely accepted fact that most of the duties of a patrol officer deal with quality of life issues and are service functions such as traffic enforcement, traffic direction, traffic crash investigation placating disturbances, processing of abandoned automobiles, etc. (Lyman, Pg 17) On the other hand, almost all of the work performed by a police investigator is related to criminal investigation and the apprehension of criminals.


While the value of detectives and their work was initially challenged by the RAND Study subsequent studies, including the PERF study, established the value of follow up investigation and detectives.

Four prominent police managers unanimously agree that Mandatory Rotation has no place in today's personnel management polices. The experts cite wasted experience, wasted training, demoralization of quality employees, degradation of customer service and negative impact on the effectiveness of the investigative units and their police departments as some of the reasons for their opposition to Mandatory Rotation. Their professional opinions are based upon hundreds of years of combined experience and interaction with thousands of investigators and thousands of investigations.

There are instances of successes and failures with Mandatory Rotation. There are no known failures with Performance Rotation. In the case of Mandatory Rotation, when it fails, the impact is very significant. Felonies go unsolved, police organizational infrastructures are drastically changed. Clearly, training is a valuable and needed resource, but Mandatory Rotation makes the benefits derived from training temporary, and that consideration also needs to be factored into the cost of Mandatory Rotation, especially since thousands of dollars invested in training will go unused with reassignment. And in doing so, Mandatory Rotation wastes a precious resource.

While Mandatory Rotation is a well intentioned concept, it is an inferior and outdated method of staffing an Investigations Division. In an age when police agencies across the United States are empowering employees by pushing decision making down to the lowest levels, policies like mandatory rotation totally remove not just the employee, but also a substantial number of the employee's supervisors from the decision making process, and in doing so, Mandatory Rotation fails to take into consideration or acknowledge a police department's most valuable resource...its people.

Submitted to:
Captain Michael Prafke
Lieutenant Robert Stachnik
Schaumburg Police Department

Cited Works

"Baltimore Mayor O'Malley's Goals & Accomplishments" City of Baltimore, Maryland Government Website.
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Bennett, Wayne W., and Hess, Karen M. Criminal Investigation. St. Paul: West 1991
Daniels, Aubrey Ph. D. "Entrepreneur.Com" Is Job Rotation A Motivator Or A Punishment? March 30, 2001.
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Eggert, Louise. "Job rotation viable for law enforcement." Ohio Police Chief Magazine. (Summer, 1998)
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Gabor, Thomas. "Rotation - is it organizationally sound?" FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin , 61, no 4. (April 1992)
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MacLeod, Dan "Job Rotation System Report to XYZ Co." Dan Macleod's Ergonomics Website
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Repetto, Thomas A. "The Detective Task, State of the Art, Science, Craft? Pg 5-9
Village of Schaumburg Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2001-2001
Consulted Works

Cordner, Gary, and Hale, Donna C., What Works in Policing? Operations in Administration Examined.
"Criminal Investigations" Pg 19-34. John E. Eck. Cincinnatti: Anderson, 1992
Kenney, Dennis J., Cordner, Gary W. Managing Police Personnel. Cincinnatti: Anderson
Geberth, Vernon, J., Practical Homicide Investigation Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques.
3rd edition, Boca Raton: CRC, 1996
Geberth, Vernon J., "Detective Rotation: An Enigma." Law and Order Vol 46, No. 10 (October 1998) : 194-6
"Getting Away with Murder." Editorial. Baltimore Sun 13 February 1999
Holden, Richard N. Modern Police Management. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1986
Roberg, Roy R., and Kuykendall, Jack. Police Management. Los Angeles: Roxbury, 1997
Wilson, O.W., McClaren, Roy, Clinton. Police Administration. 3rd Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972
"Worksafe Online" Constructive Ideas - Innovative Ideas to Reduce Soft Tissue Injuries the Workplace
No Author. Downloaded fom Earthlink. 4 October 2001

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