Decision-Making Models in Criminal Justice


These models explore a criminal justice organization's ability to make an educated decision. These models do not second-guess a criminal justice professional's split-second decision; instead, these deal with a more in-depth analysis and in certain circumstances challenge employees to contribute to problem solving. Difficult decisions in criminal justice are not just a supervisor's responsibility.

Synergistic Decision-Making Model

  • This process consists of analyzing a situation or problem, coming to a collective decision on an achievable outcome, and of course deciding how to get to that successful outcome. The word synergistic by definition implies that joint effort or group action will spark a reaction in problem solving that is superior of the individual effort. This group concept promotes teamwork and empowers criminal justice professionals to promote a better work environment. From a supervisory standpoint, delegating decision-making responsibility builds trust.

Productive Conflict Model

  • Productive conflict group members are bound together in a competitive manner to produce results for their superiors or organization. Conflict resolution is key to success, not conflict avoidance, especially within the criminal justice field that is an alpha-male/female dominated profession. Successful management of conflict instills trust to the group member, builds team concept within the criminal justice system through differing ideas, and shows members that the team is solid and well suited for challenges.


  • POSDCORB is an acronym for planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, reporting and budgeting. The POSDCORB model guides criminal justice supervisors and, if followed, is the foundation for good leadership and decision-making within a cohesive environment. Ideally, problems are easily identified, solutions are quickly implemented and decisions are made based upon this model.

The Autocratic Model

  • Autocratic supervisors are able to force an outcome and distribute directives that must be met. This legitimate power within criminal justice is the frontier of the chain of command system. This has its positive and negative impact as you might expect. Criminal justice organizations are in a constant battle with crime, internal bureaucracy and the court system. When morale is low, stress is high and subordinates are not producing, autocratic supervisors make the tough decisions and demand results.

Pros and Cons Model

  • Make a list, two columns of pros and cons, and be objective. Ask a trusted adviser or colleague for help with the list. Then simply look at the results of the list. The criminal justice professionals within the organization may be asked to participate in the forming of this list, again empower a collective effort and promoting teamwork.

Experimental Model

  • Experiments are spawned from a professional hypothesis. When difficult decisions are at an impasse between two sides, an experimental phase may be resolve doubt and provide a clear and valid analysis. Set a deadline and boundaries, then reveal the results of the experiment within the organization. This model provides solid evidence of success or failure, and who better to provide evidence than a criminal justice professional?

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  • "Supervison of Police Personnel, Fifth Edition;" Nathan F. Iannone; 1994
  • "Decision Making Group Interaction, Fourth Edition;" Bobby Patton and Timothy Downs; 2003
  • "Organization Theory and Design;" R.L. Daft; 2007
  • Photo Credit Image by, courtesy of Scott Davidson
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