SOCIALIZATION IN POLICING
"Look no further than yourself for all the good and all the evil in the world" (Buddhist quote)
Today's police officer is better educated, better trained, and more representative of the entire community than ever before. Policing is an unique occupation unlike many others. Word-of-mouth advertising still remains the most common way someone finds out about job openings, and the two main reasons for wanting to become a police officer have consistently remained the exciting work and desire to help others. The personnel process is lengthy and challenging, and ranks up there as the number one concern of police administration. Getting fired or laid off is possible, but not that risky, since there is job security even in tough times, and the pensions aren't half-bad. Long-standing debates exist about what makes a "good officer," but most experts believe interpersonal maturity and emotional intelligence (the ability to understand and manage one's own and others' feelings) are the most desirable personality characteristics. How does one acquire these characteristics? How does a person change with the job, and/or how does the job change them? These are some of the central questions when inquiring into how one becomes a police officer.
First, a word about socialization, what it is, and what it is not, especially in reference to policing. It is NOT the same as acculturation because this word refers to the changes that take place when people from different cultures come together, and it is most likely the case that police applicants and recruits are already predisposed or "acculturated" to many aspects of police culture, or at least the myth of police culture. So, we're not talking about any big personality changes here, and are most likely referencing "onboarding" (organizational socialization) or indoctrination (maybe). The study of police socialization also does not normally include the study of parent-child influences. Arguably, family values have some influence, but the main agent of socialization for policing is the peer group. Peer group socialization (aka the secondary individuation process) is known to only have short-term influence, affects young adults more than older adults (as with smoking and drinking), is increased with intergroup conflict, can involve reference groups, and is the primary determinant of self-esteem (Wolf 2008). Socialization is the process of learning the norms, customs, values, traditions, roles, language, symbols, and ideologies of a culture. There are many theories of socialization and culture, and most theories treat them as control systems which orient newcomers by requiring an internalized understanding of "why things are." Further, in the culture and personality approach, which has always been the predominant anthropological viewpoint in this area of study, various personality "syndromes" (or configurations) develop as individuals try to copy or mimic what they perceive is modeled by their culture or subculture.
Some occupations, like policing, rely more on standards than tests. Although they may call them "tests" or use testing procedures, most pre-employment hurdles are really standards. A standard assesses whether you've got something or not -- you either have it or you don't -- and is met by passing some predetermined, arbitrary, cut-off point. A test, on the other hand, is something that actually ranks people on the basis of how well somebody did in comparison to other people who took the test. Therefore, the police personnel process is largely driven by the assessment of pre-existing skills. It is understandable why this is so, because the police have been sued so many times, their approach to employment (civil rights) law has taken a rather stringent view with respect to bona fide occupational qualifications that have made almost every "good" way of selecting police officers unconstitutional. Police agencies also utilize "multiple hurdles" when hiring, which is evidenced by the fact that when you are hired, it is called a "conditional hire" which reflects the influence of negligence (tort) law, police having been sued so many times (again) for negligent hiring. The multiple hurdles approach is good, however, as it essentially serves as a "screening-in" process (as opposed to a screening-out process) allowing for the best of the best to be hired, at least theoretically. Below are some common parts of the process:
1. Citizenship -- although religion or national origin cannot be considered, citizenship is required, either obtained naturally, thru military service, via permanent residency or asylum status, or application for citizenship three years prior to application. Certain civilian jobs in policing (like dispatcher or detention officer) often don't require citizenship. It isn't a federal law or anything. Most cities and states mandate the requirement at the level of City Council or POST Commission, and the reasons are unclear. Some departments could really benefit from hiring recent immigrants. In the 6-3 decision in Foley v. Connelie (1977), the court ruled that police only need a rational or valid reason for citizenship requirements, and that expectations of familiarity and sympathy for American traditions were not unreasonable.
2. Height, Weight, Grooming, and Personal Appearance -- after Kelly v. Johnson (1976), the "mod squad" days were over, and police were no longer allowed to have long hair. Actually, few officers wanted the right to long hair anyway, but Johnson did, and he wanted the right to wear a beard or goatee also. The liberty to do so was struck down on the basis that uniform "neat and clean" appearance was not only a reasonable expectation, for purposes of uniformity, but added to esprit de corps among the ranks. To this day, a police mustache must have hairs no longer than 1/4 inch and the length of head hair cannot exceed 1 3/4 inch. These are the grooming standards. Height and weight standards are more complex, and most departments today follow the FBI approach which uses a chart to assess appropriate weight according to height (at 6 foot, for example, weight must be between 148 and 204). A quick way to estimate how well one stands on this chart is to calculate body fat. An acceptable body fat index of 19% exists for males and 23% for females.
3. Age -- it varies, but most places require the age range of applicants to be between 21 and 36, the lower end of the range relaxed if the gun laws allow for it, and the upper end of the range relaxed if someone served in the military or has prior law enforcement experience (age 45 is usually the absolute upper limit, however). The consensus of opinion is that the early twenties is the "ideal" range, and the forties are the "worst" range. Women, and to some extent minorities too, are often the ones discriminated against by the upper limits because their career paths have been delayed by pregnancies (Decker & Huckabee 2002). Other research (Roberg & Bonn 2004) has looked at what age of hire makes the most successful officer, and age 25 appears to be the best. It's fair to say that both research and policy are all over the map on this issue. For example, most police administrators say there is nothing wrong with hiring 18 year olds, but they don't practice what they preach. I think they say it because they want to reinforce the idea that the younger you get in, the sooner you get out and can start a second career. Some of the more questionable research in this area shows some troublesome correlations between young age and misconduct, but the literature is neither consistent nor worth reporting on.
4. Vision -- standards for driving in most states is 20/40, and that's the usual standard for uncorrected vision among police officers. 20/20 is, of course, the preferred standard, but 20/40 is what it takes to distinguish a target within twenty feet without using sights. The uncorrected vision standard of 20/40 needs to be obtained with both eyes open, not each eye individually. 98% of the population between 14-40 can be corrected to 20/20 in either eye, and there is better value to contact lenses because they cannot be dislodged as easily as eyeglasses. A problem with depth perception is worse than a problem with color blindness. Times have changed. In 1984, Holden found that 80% of departments had a 20/20 standard and that almost all the rest had a 20/30 standard, except for a very small number of departments that had no standard at all or accepted vision as bad as 20/200.
5. Education -- there's probably no other topic more over-researched than this requirement, and the most recent, large-scale study (Rydberg & Terrill 2010) suggests there are significant benefits to a four-year college degree in terms of less use of force and only modest benefits in terms of arrests, searches, and other indicators of performance. Past studies have been mixed, some showing college-educated officers are less authoritarian, get higher ratings from their superiors, fewer complaints from citizens, take fewer sick days, have fewer injuries, place a higher value on ethical behavior and are better communicators. Alternatively, college-educated officers get more easily bored on the job and are subject to hostility from senior officers. Non-college-educated officers do better in resolving conflict situations. In a Bureau of Justice Statistics study from 2003, 83% of all U.S. police agencies require a high school diploma, but only 8% require some college, and only 1% require a four-year college degree. Rural departments (of which there are many) cannot afford the college-educated, and even among the big-city departments (who can afford it), only about 30% of them require a four-year degree. Putting aside the long-standing debate over "book smarts" versus "street smarts," the issue isn't going to be resolved any time soon for two reasons: one, no matter how much research comes out, unless it starts consistently producing tangible evidence in favor of education, critics will continue to say the statistical significance isn't high enough or the statistical "proof" isn't a reflection of real life; and two, no one wants to resurrect that old, empty argument from the 1970s that "college cops" would help to "professionalize" policing and improve public image.
6. Medical condition and physical fitness -- a police recruit will be poked and probed from head to toe like a piece of meat, X-rayed, EKG'd, drained of blood, audiogrammed, treadmilled, and possibly administered the Kraus-Weber Test (80% of healthy people can't pass it). The purpose is to "clear" the candidate as free from any physiological or neurological defects, and "defective" in this case also refers to any sexually transmitted disease or virus such as the most common forms of hepatitis. Often before these medical tests are conducted, the department will require physical agility testing, and sometimes this takes place at job fairs or mass hiring events in a contest-like atmosphere. The specific kinds of agility tests vary (my favorite is the one in parts of Florida where you swing from a rope over a pit of alligators ... which I have an award for, by the way), but they should be job-related, such as being able to change a flat tire, run up and down a flight of stairs, drag a body at least 50 feet, or other obstacle-course inventions that can be quite imaginative. Of course, your basic regimen exercises are standardized; e.g., push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and the like; and if applying for a federal job, expect a lot of long-distance, timed running. Weight machines are sometimes used, with bench presses being the most common thing measured. The failure rate is high among recruits, and because much of this stuff is really rite-of-passage, some departments allow a retake. Bissett et al. (2011) found that 27% of incumbent police couldn't even pass their own department's agility tests, but 100% of officers say it's important every new recruit pass them. The bona fide argument in favor of fitness is that it buffers stress, but how much and how well is a matter of speculation. Physical fitness tests emphasizing strength have also come under fire with gender equity lawsuits, which seem to increase year after year.
7. Drug history and criminal history -- no agency will talk honestly about its prior drug use policy, but they will expect you to be completely honest about your prior drug history. Lying about drug history is grounds for dismissal no matter how far along you are in the personnel process. Policies vary. Some agencies have a big NO over any drug history; some allow experimentation with soft drugs (like marijuana) only; some allow re-application after five years of disclosure; some get picky over Rx drugs (taken with or without prescription). Urine tests are to be expected, systematically and/or random, and a few agencies will even take a hair sample that can detect as far back as 10 to 15 years. A polygraph examination will also focus on drug history, but the key thing it reveals is how honest you are (as well as some other things). Essentially, what happens at this point in the process is that liars are weeded out, because that is also something the background investigation looks into. The BI isn't fool-proof, but it is extensive, time-consuming, and worrisome. It will examine your education, residential history, employment, driving record, credit standing, any prior encounters with police, and (if really extensive) what you were like growing up as a 9-year old in your home town. With a criminal history, it usually doesn't matter if you had anything expunged, plea-bargained, or reduced to something minor, because the hiring agency (a police agency, remember) considers the only important thing to be what the police charged you with in the first place.
8. Psychological examination -- not all departments are willing to bear the costs of psychological examination at the entry level, but they should because they are 69% predictive of future performance, in my opinion and experience (I practiced police psychometrics for five years), but don't take my word for it, read the literature starting with Aylward (1985). The expensive part is the clinical interview, which standard protocol requires be done in addition to a paper-and-pencil test, like the MMPI, CPI, or Inwald Personality Inventory. Some of the things which testing will reveal is whether the candidate's emotional pattern is toward anxiety or depression, and whether or not there is any latency toward hostile-dominance (or over-controlled hostility). The former is highly predictive of an employee's reliability (absenteeism and tardiness), and the latter (along with authoritarianism, which is a given) suggests that the person is a bully.
9. Aptitude testing -- some departments (especially those with strict civil service requirements, like the NYPD) require a written test, of the kind that ARCO (Peterson's) or Barron's Study Guides prepare you for. These are basically intelligence tests, so there is really no content area you can study beforehand. Examples of test items include a variety of complex scenarios from which you must choose the best multiple choice answer, and/or a timed look at an illustration, map, or street scene and then you must answer a series of questions about what you observed. Let me tell you that it's impossible to "ace" a test like this, and it also doesn't really matter if you do poorly on one. A high score may very well play a part in your promotional process one day, but as an entry-level hurdle, everyone knows they have terrible scientific validity and reliability.
10. Interviewing -- there may be more than one interview (some call the second or third one "developmental" because they want to see how you handle stress), and there are better and worse ways to answer standard questions (e.g., How would you take down an enraged 350-pound gorilla by hand? A: I'd do my best - better; I'd die trying - worse), but the main thing in this hurdle, believe it or not, is dress. How you dress for success is important because policing is a uniformed profession after all. You are evaluated in the interview process on your personal appearance, sharpness of your attire, judicious use of cologne or perfume, how recent is your haircut, whether or not you wear jewelry, how shiny your shoes are, and a number of other first impressions based on what you do before you even open your mouth. Police are experts at body language and believe nonverbal channels communicate more than verbal ones.
All training, whether basic (22 weeks on average) or in-service (one week a year on average), will be approved and monitored by a statewide Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) commission (except in those states who don't have POSTs, like Hawaii and West Virginia). Most police standards and training commissions have a long history, going back to the 1960s when they were formed, along with criminal justice planning commissions, upon the recommendation of the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice 1967. Some states, like Missouri and Mississippi were late to the game. Police training councils or commissions are ostensibly human resource planning entities who forecast future skill sets and optimize market demand, but in most cases, are a plum, political, "do-nothing" appointment. It's a big 16MB download (pdf), but an essential read for anyone who wants to fully understand the origins of American criminal justice is the Commission's report, called The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society (pdf). I'm old enough to remember when this was the only thing we used for a textbook in the early days of criminal justice education.
Anyway, live-on police academies are more "indoctrinating" than the ones you can attend part-time, in the early morning, or at night. Some academies require passing of all modules on the first trial; others allow a retake or two; and still others provide remedial assistance until you do pass. Standard modules exist on: field assignments, patrol procedures, firearms, investigations, self-defense, traffic control, report writing, criminal law, criminal evidence, criminology, juvenile justice, ethics, introduction to law enforcement, and introduction to criminal justice. A lot has been written about the "training-education divide" (Berg 1990), and the main gripe that most educators have is that police trainers are not good enough teachers. Teaching in the context of police training tends to focus on rote memorization of "one-size-fits-all" checklists of behavioral things to do, step-by-step, in any given situation. Some educators are more tolerant of this pedagogy than others, but sincerely believe it could be improved. For example, college-educated police cadets are at a serious disadvantage because, among other things (see Cascio 1977), they already know how to write well, but have to "unlearn" everything taught to them in college to pick up the arcane, shorthand-style of police report writing which basically involves how to say everything incriminating about a suspect but nothing potentially exculpatory or a potential liability. Another major problem area is the academic qualification of police instructors. Police training has historically been an unpaid, all-volunteer profession (Langworthy et al. 1995), and fewer than 15% of them hold any kind of college degree. The main qualification for becoming a police instructor appears to be some kind of achievement or recognition in the community.
Field training is the second major type of training used by police departments. Post-academy recruits are usually paired up with a field training officer or "FTO" for a predetermined length of time averaging 12 to 18 weeks. The purpose of the FTO is to serve as a role model or mentor for the new officer, who for all practical purposes is going through a probationary period. A probation period in policing is regarded as the time when a person sheds their "civilian" self and truly becomes a police officer. Hands-on experiences make up most of the training, and there is often little predictability in what kinds of incidents make up the basis of those experiences. Learning to develop a positive attitude is emphasized. Nearly 75% of police agencies use field training programs (Kaminsky 2000), and the consensus of the literature is that they are a distinct improvement over the old days when a "rookie" was simply assigned to a veteran long enough until the rookie could go it alone.
In-service police training has always been encouraged but is mandated in most places today. It is usually free training provided by institutes, associations, or educational institutions. In the "cheapest" of venues, it consists of roll-call briefings and/or videotape/TV watching. The quality of in-service training tends to be somewhat good, and can be summarized as falling into two topical areas: specialized areas (like dealing with explosives, hostage negotiation, or investigating a complex crime); or command aspects of policing (like middle management responsibilities). Thus, in-service training has the benefit of helping employees prepare for promotional opportunities. It also helps with courtroom credibility.
Each police officer, after some period of time on the job, develops what is called his or her "operational style." That is a term created and written about by several academic police researchers, such as John Broderick, James Q. Wilson, William Muir, Ellen Hochstedler, and John Van Maanen. Before we get into the different types of operational styles, let's begin with Bayley (1986) who illustrates how an officer might develop a particular style in response to repeated "encounters" that make up the bulk of everyday, actual work. Here are some of his findings, based on percentage of officers who rely on certain tactics in typical encounters:
|Contact Stage||Processing Stage||Exit Stage|
|54% - asking questions
38% - listening passively
9% - verbal or physical restraint
1% - divert attention
|29% - accept definition of situation
26% - follow advice or suggestion
23% - find a compromise solution
20% - indicate nothing police can do
|29% - simply leave
29% - give friendly or pointed advice
15% - make arrest
9% - make referral or promise
Thus, an operational style develops as a sort of work habit or adjustment mechanism to the constant exposure to human troubles. Such exposure would change the outlook of almost any human being, but in policing, these habits tends to aggregate into various typological formations which most scholars regard as the police "subcultures" (cultures within a culture). Here are the various typologies:
Discussion of these various types makes up the bulk of much literature, and cannot be easily summarized. Suffice it to say that each researcher has their favorite. Dempsey & Forst (2011), for example, devote no less than 20 pages on the finer details of the Broderick typology where, in essence, an idealist believes in preserving social order, an enforcer believes in the power of arrest, an optimist believes in helping people, and a realist believes in supporting fellow officers. One of the primary factors that go into these typologies is cynicism. It is assumed there is quite a bit of variability in police cynicism. Cynicism is a kind of "hardened", institutionalized outlook. There are many varieties of it, running from tragic to comic extremes. It is believed that there are 4 stages of it: (1) over-idealism (2) frustration (3) disenchantment (4) full blown cynicism. It's highest during the middle part of a police career. Perhaps the following elaboration is helpful in pointing out the connection between the various types and their relationship to cynicism:
(1) Idealists - college educated, high ideals, social order commitment, but cynical
(2) Enforcers - ends oriented, least likely to choose or recommend police career
(3) Optimists - people oriented, management aspiring "yes" person
(4) Realists - just a job/heck with it attitude, retired in place
(1) Professionals - proper integration of coercion and sympathy
(2) Enforcers - both cynical and coercive
(3) Reciprocators - wishy-washy, can't make up mind, over-sympathetic
(4) Avoiders - avoids work, just collects paycheck, shirker/slacker
(1) Tough Cop - outcome oriented
(2) Problem Solver - pays attention to people's needs
(3) Crime Fighter - zealots, on a mission to wipe out a certain kind of crime
(4) Rule Applier - goes strictly by the book, would give own mother a ticket
(1) Legalistic-Abusive - extremely rigid/has to be right all the time
(2) Task-Oriented - concerned that rules and regulations cover everything
(3) Service-Oriented - interested in documenting how community is helped
Another useful typology has been provided by Reuss-Ianni (1984) who uses the anthropological concept of "worldview" to pinpoint particular operating styles. Reuss-Ianni's typology is sometimes referred to as the 4-world syndrome, the we-they syndrome, or the us-them syndrome, and looks as follows:
Reuss-Ianni's distinction of "us" in this case means willingness to work with the public. The street v. station distinction refers to whether or not the employee has a "patrolman's mentality"; e.g., if an officer assigned to the station most of the time (a sergeant) still keeps and uses a patrol car. The 4-world syndrome holds that officers must adjust to life in all 4 worlds: the inner (defensive) world of policing; the outer (cooperative) world of the public; the street (quick response) world; and the station (paperwork) world. It may be important to recognize that the concept of "worldview" is not the only anthropological word which can be extracted and applied to police work here. The full anthropological vocabulary here includes the following:
worldview -- this is a mentality or cognitive orientation involving how people see themselves and see others. Police are said to have a "we-they" or "us-them" worldview. This in-group, we (police) v. they (civilians) solidarity is associated with the idea of police subculture, but in practice the more general term culture is commonly used to describe everything police share in common.
ethos -- this is the idea of a spirit or force in the organization that reflects an unwritten (and largely unspoken) value system. It's what makes daily life worth living. Police culture is said to have the following elements in its ethos: bravery, autonomy, and secrecy.
theme -- this is the idea of a belief system that regulates or guides the kinds of relationships or social interactions (scripts, roles) that people have inside and outside of their culture. In the case of policing, for example, the belief that you are never off duty would be a theme constraining a full interactive life with the general public.
postulate -- postulates are beliefs the integrate (homogenize, or make alike) the people in the culture. They do this by being neat little proverbs that simplify a vast amount of complex information. For example: "don't talk too much or too little" would be a postulate. Your textbook treats postulates as the most important anthropological concept and the things closest to norms that are threatening by police deviance.
Discretion means the availability of a choice of options or actions one can take in a situation. Davis (1969:2) defined it as "whenever the effective limits on power leave one free to make a choice among possible courses of action or inaction." It is the freedom to act on matters in one's own way. Also called "subdelegation," no other agency other than policing allows subordinates so much power. Police discretion involves making decisions about what law to enforce, how much to enforce it, against whom, and on what occasions. Warrantless arrest, use of force, and use of deadly force all involve discretion. A significant amount of the literature is directed toward figuring out the appropriate use of police discretion. Police discretion was a taboo topic up until 1956 when an American Bar Foundation study "discovered" it. Prior to then, nobody would admit it existed. The attitude of police administrators was that any deviation from accepted procedures was extralegal and probably a source of corruption. When it was finally exposed, people like the American Friends Service Committee (1971) called for its abolishment, and police administrators sought a clampdown on discretion (administrative rulemaking). It's now recognized as a necessary evil or something that can be put to good use if structured properly. It's probably also important to know that citizens can file what is called a writ of mandamus to get police departments to perform their duty when, for example, they are under-enforcing a law and/or failing to protect a neighborhood.
The law simply does NOT cover every situation that a police officer encounters. One of the most amazing things about policing is not who they arrest, but who and how many they let go. Discretion is the "hole in the donut" where the law runs out, but it is is bounded by norms (professional norms, community norms, legal norms, moral norms). LaFave (1965) lists the following reasons for nonarrest:
Police believe the legislature did not desire full enforcement. Instead, they believed the politicians were making symbolic statements, expressing an ideal, or appearing to be tough on crime. Some (community standard) statutes are full of ambiguity, and some old statutes need to be taken off the books. Other laws may carry penalties that the police think are too severe.
Police believe the community wants lenient or lax enforcement. The crime is common within a subcultural group, victims do not file complaints, witnesses refuse to testify, victim and offender are related, the victim is involved in misconduct, and the victim is more likely to get restitution without arrest. An arrest may cause loss of valuable public support or unduly harm someone's status in the community.
Police believe other duties are more urgent or important. The officer goes off duty in ten minutes, the department has stopped subsidizing officers for court appearances, there's inadequate manpower for backup, and the police trade nonenforcement for other favors, deals, or to gain informants.
In addition, police officers consider a whole lot of variables in their decision-making, which can be classified as falling into the following categories:
Offender variables -- Police take adult complaints more seriously than those made by juveniles. Arrest and force is more likely to be used against African Americans. Citizens who show deference (good demeanor) toward police are treated more leniently. People in middle to upper income brackets receive more and better service from police. Gender and mental health status affect how police handle many incidents. Police sympathize with and only lecture some offenders.
Situation variables -- Police give serious (crime) matters more attention than minor (noncrime) matters. The presence of weapons or acts of resistance often result in police overreaction. The type of property involved in a property crime determines police response and investigatory effort. Activities initiated by police are followed up more than activities initiated by citizen complaint. Visibility of vice is a major factor in vice enforcement (the three Cs of Vice: Complaints, Commercial, and Conspicuous). Police tend to become much more bureaucratic when witnesses, an audience, or the media are present.
System variables -- Police tend to become lenient when the court and correctional systems are clogged. Police tend to become strict when the city needs revenue. Size and structure of the department controls individual discretion. Communities that have sufficient social service resources, like detox and mental health facilities, allow officers to use more nonarrest options. The way in which officers are summoned plays a role in how they will act when they get there.
The decision to arrest somebody is supposed to be based on probable cause from one of four sources (or a mix): firsthand observation; police expertise; circumstantial evidence; or information from a victim, informant, or other officers. However, in most cases, the decision to arrest is made on the basis of one of three factors: social distance (how demographically different the officer and the suspect are); demeanor (how well the suspect carries themselves or passes "the attitude test"; and sensationalism (how emotional the situation is).
POLICE CULTURE AND PERSONALITY
The word "culture" refers to a patterned, informal code of dress, language, behavior, ritual, and systems of belief. A culture normally consists of values and norms which are transmitted via permanent or semi-permanent institutional structures that have been built up to last from generation to generation. The values (what in life seems important) and norms (expectations in various situations) of culture can change from generation to generation. When a culture deviates to some degree from the larger culture or rest of society, it is called a subculture. Most police researchers use the phrases "police culture" and "police subculture" interchangeably. Dempsey & Forst (2011) say that the following traits characterize the police culture/subculture: clannishness, isolation from the public, secrecy, honor, loyalty, and individuality.
Police personality, or more precisely, the police "working personality" refers to the psychological impact, or personality change, that occurs upon repeated exposure to the police culture. It is believed to consist of the following personality traits: authoritarianism, suspicion, hostility, insecurity, conservatism, and cynicism. A key research question is "Are they born like that, or is it the job?" The notion that they are born like that is called the predispositional hypothesis, and it is associated with the writing of Arthur Neiderhoffer (1967) who argues that police recruits already have high levels of suspicion, CYNICISM, and AUTHORITARIANISM. The notion that the job converts or changes the personality is called the socialization (or social causation) hypothesis, and it is associated with the writing of Jerome Skolnick (1966) who argues that the most influential cultural factors are loyalty, isolation, and action, resulting in a personality change toward danger, authority, and isolation (these being components of the so-called "working personality" which is kind of like a temporary personality that one puts on when at work.
One often reads or hears about police "syndromes." These refer to personality configurations, but also to the problem of trying to live up to an IMAGE or IDEOLOGY. They are not syndromes in the clinical sense, and are perhaps better understood as examples of role strain, where the job demands more of an individual than what they have to give. For example, it was Ramsey Clark who once said that police have to be "lawyer, scientist, medic, psychologist, athlete, and public servant." Examples of a few syndromes are the following:
Wyatt Earp syndrome - badge heavy, macho, victim of image
John Wayne syndrome - overserious, coldness, tunnel vision
Doc Holliday syndrome - suspicious, bitter, quick-tempered
Custer syndrome - defending police work, anti-rest of system
Parker syndrome - defending thin blueline, anti-society attitude
amotivational syndrome - term for police burnout
Ganzer syndrome - type of battle fatigue involving humor to ward off horror
POLICE STRESS, SUICIDE, AND DANGER
Stress is the body's reaction to internal or external stimuli that upset the body's normal state. Stressors can be physical, mental, or emotional. Stress alone does not cause illness, but it contributes to circumstances in which diseases take hold. Too much stress affects health, but even a little stress can have a direct impact on daily or significant life choices, such as marriage (divorce), diet (junk food), and alcoholism or other substance abuse problem. Police stress affects families, loved ones, and friends. Police stress is unlike other forms of occupational stress because it is NOT due to job insecurity nor to job dissatisfaction. Some of the best officers stress-out; and also some of the best ones burn-out (although burnouts are generally less enthusiastic about work). In policing, there are unusually high rates of alcoholism, divorce, and suicide.
The problem of police suicide seems to worsen over the years. There is some controversy over the numbers, as some studies say officers are three times more likely than the general public to kill themselves, while other studies say the risk is six times more likely. Motives vary; from continuous exposure to human misery (what is sometimes called interaction fatigue syndrome) to marital difficulties or drinking problems to physical illness or disability to impending retirement.
Each year, at least 100 police officers get killed in the line of duty. Many more get injured in the 60,000 assaults (on average) against police every year. The work is clearly dangerous, and is to be expected whenever one is required to regularly respond to situations where people are shooting, stabbing, or beating each other. In addition, police officers are not permitted to deny or withhold medical or first aid treatment from people who might be infected with the AIDS virus or other infectious disease. While only a couple cases are known where officers contracted a fatal disease in the line of duty, many officers meet their death while performing police work. On-the-job deaths occur from stress, training accidents, auto crashes, and at the hands of criminals. Law Enforcement Officers Killed in the Line of Duty have averaged 150 a year until the year 2001, when it jumped to over 200 (the most frequent causes being terrorist attack, criminal gunfire, and auto accidents). Studies by the FBI have not found that slain officers differ in any respect from non-slain officers. They were well-liked, friendly, and easy-going.
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Last updated: Mar 28, 2012
Not an official webpage of APSU, copyright restrictions apply, see Megalinks in Criminal Justice
O'Connor, T. (2012). "Police Socialization," MegaLinks in Criminal Justice. Retrieved from http://www.drtomoconnor.com/1030/1030lect03.htm.