Barriers to Effective Communication
Effective communication is a major element to success in any relationship, business, or organization. Communication barriers attempt to impede, and in some instances stop, the successful completion of the communication process. Law Enforcement agencies are susceptible to the consequences of ineffective communication and should work toward reducing and eliminating barriers blocking the flow of communication. Organizational flaws in the entangled hodgepodge of agencies within the American criminal justice system cause various communication barriers resulting in confusion and inefficiencies throughout the system. Law enforcement agencies began sharing more information after the attacks on 9/11 but barriers still exist. Understanding the communication process and using active listening skills is vital to overcoming barriers to effective communication. Process of Communication
Wallace and Roberson (2009) define communication as, “a process involving several steps, among two or more persons, for the primary purpose of exchanging information” (p. 15). The communication process is dependent on the sender’s ability to create an understandable message for the recipient and the recipient’s ability to interpret the message. The process begins by transmitting an idea into a message made of carefully chosen symbols understandable to the receiver (Wallace & Roberson, 2009). To ensure success of the communication process, the sender should consider the recipient’s point of view while forming the message and selecting the means of transmission. The message can take the form of writing, speaking, or movement (Wallace & Roberson, 2009). Receipt of the message is very important or the process of communication stops. Sending the message using the appropriate medium continues the communication process to the next step. Understanding the idea of the message requires interpretation by the recipient. The receiver interprets the message and provides feedback to the sender. Feedback indicates receipt of the message and whether the message was understood or requires more information. Formal and Informal Channels of Communication
Information flows up and down through the police organizations according to the chain of command. The formal channels of communication within police organizations require strict adherence to order, written memorandums, and directives (Wallace & Roberson, 2009). The Momentum that information flows within the formal channels is slow creating a delay in sharing new information throughout the organization. Slow transmission reduces organizational efficiency, wastes valuable time, resources, and puts the reputation of the police agency at risk. Formal channels are restrictive and at times seem unnecessary but police agencies do receive benefits using the formal channels. Through formal channels, all officers receive the same directions in an understandable message that reduces confusion among officers and creates documentation for later reference (Wallace & Roberson, 2009).
Informal channels of communication exist in all law enforcement agencies and are used to pass information outside the formal channels of communication. Informal channels of communication give officers a break from the rigid protocol of formal channels. Opportunities for personal discussions that build camaraderie naturally improve morale and work performance. Police agencies know the benefits of informal channels of communication. When the right balance of formal and informal communications is achieved, the agency becomes a united police force.
Overcoming Barriers to Effective Communication
The barriers that influence effective communication within the criminal justice system are emotional barriers, physical barriers, semantic barriers, and ineffective listening (Wallace & Roberson, 2009). The sender and receiver...