Authority in the public services
Authority means the right or power to enforce rules or give orders. To do this they need legislations to enforce their laws, to function properly the uniformed pubic services need to have legislations. The extent of authority relates to the limit of control held by an individual or organisation. The limit of control is governed by the job description of the role, as well as the jurisdiction, with authority coming either from statute or company policy. An example would be Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons who has the authority under the Ministry of Justice to inspect and report to the Government on the treatment and conditions for all prisoners in England and Wales. The authority of the Inspectorate extends to Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and some dependent territories of Commonwealth countries. The power or right to enforce obedience means the authority of an individual or organisation to enforce obedience. It is similar to the extent of authority in that the right is granted by statute or policy and the person or organisation enforcing obedience does so within an accepted legal framework. For example, a senior police officer has the right to ensure that colleagues remain honest because such a principle is included in the Police Code of Conduct. Similarly, any officer in the uniformed public services has the power or right to enforce obedience from any officer of a lower rank provided that such an act of obedience does not contravene rules and regulations of that particular uniformed public service. Any request to perform an illegal act is not a lawful order and the person making the request has no power or right to enforce it.
Nature of authority
Power, like discipline, has several applications and, again, like discipline, it depends upon the context in which it is used. It can refer to the strength or might of something or someone (for example, military strength) or it can mean the ability to persuade someone to act in accordance with a demand because the person doing the persuading has some sort of power. Power is used as a tool of persuasion where there is a conflict of interests or an unwillingness to respond to a request. If there was no unwillingness to respond, there would be no need for power to be used as a tool of persuasion. The power may come from a lawful or unlawful source. For example, a person may be reluctant to hand over their wallet to a stranger but might do so if the stranger produces a gun to reinforce the demand. However, power, in the context of authority, means the right to ensure an individual or organisation complies with reasonable and lawful requests, even though there may be unwillingness on the part of the individual or organisation. For example, a serving soldier may be ordered to perform a fatigue (a non-military, mundane task), such as sweeping the barrack room floor and he or she may be unwilling to do this. The soldier would not have performed this act were it not for the power of the senior officer. Hence, for power to be exerted there must be a conflict of interests before the task is completed. Without a conflict of interests there would be no need for power in order to make a person carry out a task. The difference between the two examples above is that the power of the senior officer came from a legitimate authority, whereas the power of the gunman came from an unlawful source. There are six bases of power:
* Reward power – we do what we are asked because we desire rewards or benefits, such as praise, a wage increase or promotion. * Coercive power we do we asked what are because we fear sanctions, such as being made to perform mundane tasks, lack of privileges or even fear of dismissal. * Informational power – we do what we are asked because we are persuaded by the content of a communication (verbal or written) and not by any influencing figure. * Expert power – we do what we are asked...
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