Police in the progress of change

Empirical analysis of the working situation of police officers in Lower Saxony, in part a repetition of a 1991 force survey


Project period

2000 – 2003

Project staff

Prof. Dr. Thomas Ohlemacher (Projektleitung)

Dr. Christiane Bosold, Dipl. Psych.

Anja Mensching (geb. Fiedler), Dipl.-Krim., Dipl.-Sozialpäd. (FH)


Innenministerium des Landes Niedersachsen

Own funds

Project description

Survey instruments were developed in the course of 2000 in collaboration with a team from the Lower Saxony police force. After realistic preliminary testing, the instruments were published in their final form in December 2000. They are available in a research report, KFN Forschungsbericht 86.

The sample of 4,200 officers selected as of 1 January 2001 in collaboration with the Lower Saxony state payroll and pensions office is representative of the target population of police officers both in its entirety and in the relevant subsamples.

After an intensive preparatory phase (including advance information for all police officers via the police force newspaper, and for staff association representatives and Lower Saxony police chiefs), the questionnaire was sent out with a detailed cover letter to the private addresses of the selected police officers at the end of January 2001. The questionnaires were returned to KFN anonymously. At the end of February, in advance of the final send-in date on 15 March 2001, all recipients were sent a reminder letter including additional information based on questions that had come up on a project hotline provided by KFN. The returned questionnaires represented a very healthy response rate of over 60 percent; some sub-modules, in fact, achieved response rates of no fewer than some two-thirds of the targeted police officers. This is a very satisfactory response rate compared with other recent written surveys in the police sector. The project team would like to express its thanks to all police officers who contributed to the success of the project by returning their completed questionnaires.

All questionnaires were converted into machine-readable form at KFN during May 2001. Exhaustive data entry checks and data preparation work followed in the ensuing months. Data analyses on central areas of the study were carried out in autumn 2001. Initial findings were presented to the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior in an interim report on 30 January 2002. The interim report was presented to the police force and the general public by KFN and the Ministry of the Interior on 18 February 2002. The interim report is available on the police force intranet. A summary appeared in the police force newsletter (Polizei Extrablatt, April 2002).

Alongside the questionnaire survey, the project also included a qualitative component (focus group discussions and interviews) addressing the atmosphere and communication within the Lower Saxony police force (based on the operational and patrol force and related command levels). In-depth focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted from January to March 2002 with Lower Saxony police officers from the three career groups (intermediate, superior and senior service). Lasting several hours, the FGDs centred on questions of communication with colleagues and superiors within units. Individual guided interviews were carried out with a total of 22 selected FGD participants between May and September 2002 and once again in May 2003 (following a final focus group discussion in March 2003). A research report, Forschungsbericht 87/June 2002, presented initial analyses of the qualitative FGDs on a demand-driven shift duty management system then being tried out in the Lower Saxony police force and on assessments/promotion.

That interim report was presented to the Ministry of the Interior on 30 June 2002. It contains supplementary findings from the survey and initial outcomes of the focus group discussions. It is available on the police intranet and as a KFN research report, Forschungsbericht 87.

In December 2003, the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior was presented with the final report of the qualitative project component, “Police in the progress of change: Conditions in the Lower Saxony Police Force by the example of the operational and patrol force and related command levels.” The report details the methodological design of the focus group discussions and guided interviews (qualitative sample, conduct, feedback, analysis steps, etc.) and summarises the interpretation outcomes. Alongside supplementary analyses on the topics covered in the last interim report – the demand-driven shift duty management system and assessments/promotion – the final report also analyses the FGDs against two dimensions of horizontal relationships within the force: relations between different sections of the force and relations between older and younger police officers. The guided interviews are analysed from different angles using two methodological approaches, firstly as to the subjective positioning of superior and frontline officers with regard to conditions in the force, and secondly as to their positioning as opponents or supporters of the demand-driven shift duty management system. Finally, the report brings together the interpreted outcomes of the focus group discussions and interviews. Marking the conclusion of the project, the final report to the agency funding the research was made available on the police intranet and published in May 2004 as a KFN research report (Forschungsbericht 92).

Project related publications