Knowledge Management Cases in Asia/Knowledge Management in a Law Enforcement Unit/Introduction

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“Knowledge is state of mind, knowledge is an object to be stored, knowledge is a process of applying expertise, knowledge is a condition of access to information and knowledge is the potential to influence action.” (Alavi and Leidner, 2001)

Knowledge Management in the Asia Law Enforcement Unit discussed in this chapter is defined as “the discipline that promotes a systematic way of capturing, organizing, accessing and re-using of organizational knowledge”. As the knowledge management concept is relatively new in the public sector, it is not surprising to see that this concept is yet to be implemented in the law enforcement industry and the subject is ‘relatively unexplored’ (Colaprete, 2004). By nature, work of this industry is ‘dynamic, complex and stressful’ (Tan & Al-Hawamdeh, 2000), and covers almost every aspect of people’s lives. Officers of law enforcement industry, both at the frontline and at the management level in the command hierarchy, have to respond to fast-changing situations demanding urgent action. Officers have to be ‘proficient knowledge workers’ themselves (Tan & Al-Hawamdeh, 2000) in order to adequately cope with the vast expanse of their daily work, which for almost all law enforcement services comprises prevention and detection of crime, management of incidents, and community policing. For instance, the Asia Law Enforcement Unit discussed in this chapter is one of the pioneers in this field, and since 2002 it has implemented knowledge management to enhance the work efficiency and effectiveness, with the ultimate aim of turning into a learning organisation to better serve the city.

The public sector is turning to knowledge management, having recognized that they are heavily facing competition in funding and from alternatives services. Increasingly, customers of the public sector are demanding higher service quality. According to Luen and Al-Hawamdeh (2001), knowledge management is thus a natural solution to improve operations and enhance customer service. Big corporation around the world have applied the knowledge management concept into their business. In 2001, the Law Enforcement Unit has included the knowledge management project in the Three Years' Strategic Action Plan.

Knowledge is essential for all kinds of organizations. Unlike other inert organizational resources, the application of existing knowledge has the potential to generate new knowledge. Not only can knowledge be replenished in use, it can also be combined and recombined to generate new knowledge. Once created, knowledge can be articulated, shared, stored and recontextualized to yield options for the future. For all these reasons, knowledge has the potential to be applied across time and space to yield increasing returns (Garud & Kumaraswamy, 2005). Organizations are turning to knowledge management initiatives and technologies to leverage their knowledge resources. Knowledge management can be defined as a systematic and organizationally specified process for acquiring, organizing and communicating knowledge of employees so that other employees may make use of it to be more effective and productive in their work (Kankanhalli et al., 2005).

With the globalization of crime and the mounting global threat of terrorism, the Asia Law Enforcement Unit is facing much pressure than other government agencies before. In order to improve what they could or they should deliver to the communities, it is reasonable to say that the services provide must also embrace knowledge management in their attempt to outwit the criminals. Knowledge management is an increasingly important project with the service possibly involving substantial investment of resources, so it must be scrupulously examined to see how it can contribute to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement activities.