Ch. 5: Police Officers I: Entering Police Work
I. The Changing American Police Officer
a. 40 years ago officers were almost all male, almost all white, and typically had no
high school education.
b. Most officers today have some college education, many have undergraduate
degrees and a number have master degrees
c. Several openly gay and lesbian officers.
II. Aspects of the Personnel Process
A. A Career Perspective
a. More like a career than job.
b. Career perspective helps to understand how police officers interact with law
c. Need to focus on hiring and retaining the best officers.
d. Personnel problems due to:
i. Hire good recruits but don’t retain them.
ii. Train well but do not supervise.
iii. Do not have good personnel evaluation systems and recognize good
iv. Fail to discipline officers.
v. Fail to provide career opportunities that promote good morale and help
retain good officers.
vi. Do not promote the best officers.
B. Beyond Stereotypes of Cops
a. Stereotypes about cops heavily influence the public image of who police are,
what they believe, and how they act.
i. View officers as uneducated, untrained, prejudiced, brutal and corrupt.
i. Heroic saints, risking their lives in the face of hostility from the public,
media, and the courts.
d. Niederhoofer characterizes officers as a “Rorschach in a uniform; people in
trouble view as savior and others view as ogre”
e. Police officers are average and do not differ from general pop in beliefs and
C. The Personnel Process: A Shared Responsibility
a. Civil service system and/or other city personnel departments control part of
b. Civil Service agency responsibilities
i. Develop job descriptions
ii. Establish the minimum standards required for each position
iii. Develop tests for each position
iv. Announce job openings
v. Conduct some, but not all, of the tests
vi. Certify a list of persons to be hired or promoted
c. Police departments i. Advise the civil service agency on job descriptions, requirements and
ii. Conduct some of the recruiting
iii. Administer some of the tests
a. Includes minimum qualifications, recruitment effort, and applicant decision’s
apply for a position.
A. What Kind of Job? What Kind of Person?
a. Important to define the nature of the job.
B. Minimum Qualifications
i. Some believe the minimum age level for recruits should be raised.
ii. Most require all applicants to be 21 years old.
iii. Used to have an age limit but federal law banned these discriminations.
b. Height and Weight
i. Departments require that weight be proportional to height.
ii. Used to require applicants be 5’8 but laws changed due to discrimination.
iii. Didn’t use to enforce fitness standards.
i. Used to only require high school education.
ii. Most departments now require a college education.
d. Require a College Degree?
i. Believe degree would improve policing
1. Higher education will shape the values of students and make them
better understand the complex role of the police in a democratic
2. Improve on-the-street performance by giving them capacity to
make better judgments.
3. Exhibit a desire for self-improvement and this will help make
professional police officers.
ii. Helpful to enhance their ability to be problem solvers and planners.
iii. Some argue it limits the pool and leaves out other races.
iv. No proof college educated officers perform better.
e. Criminal Record
i. Some argue this should automatically eliminate an applicant.
ii. Others argue it depends on what time, the severity, and how many times.
iii. Found 95% of departments refuse to hire someone with an adult felony.
iv. 75% reject people with a juvenile felony.
v. 30% reject people with either or.
vi. Drug offense pose most difficult questions.
f. Residency Requirements
i. American Civil Liberties Union believes it matters if an officer lives in the
city they police.
ii. ¼ of all police departments require police officers to live within the city or
county. iii. Intended to heighten the officers familiarity with the community and their
C. Recruitment Effort
a. Department’s effort will affect the pool size.
b. Historically, police departments did not actively recruit officers.
IV. Choosing Law Enforcement as a Career
A. Applicants’ Motivations
a. Choose for two reasons
i. Nature of police work
ii. Material benefits of the job
b. Top reasons why
i. Help people
ii. Job security
iii. Fight crime
iv. Excitement of the job
v. Prestige of the job
c. Similar for both males and females.
d. Enjoy high degree of job security due to civil service rules and police union
contract provisions that make it hard to get fired.
e. After probation period, have to be fired for specific reason and can appeal
f. Racial minorities motivated for the same reasons.
g. Family connection is also another motivator.
B. Barriers to Recruitment
a. Negative image of police causes some African Americans not to apply.
b. Many women do not apply because they see it as a traditional male role.
V. Selecting Officers from the Recruit Pool
A. Selection Tests
a. Written and medical exams, a background check, and interviews of finalists.
b. Sometimes takes many months.
c. 90% test for drug use
d. Some make officers regularly drug test
e. Oral interviews are used by almost all big city police officers.
f. About 45 minute interviews and are about two or three of them.
g. Most departments used standardized interview format.
B. Background Investigations
a. Can identify factors related to job performance: good work record in previous
jobs, the ability to get along with people, the absence of disciplinary problems
in school or job.
b. Can identify involvement with drugs, behavior problems, or criminal record.
c. Washington DC police department
i. Needed to hire 2,000 officers quick
ii. Dropped standard background checks
iii. Number of applicants submitted fake references and work experience.
iv. Became corrupt officers involved in drug activity.
VI. Predicting Police Officer Performance
a. Cohen and Chaiken studied 1,608 NY police officers. i. 33 background characteristics were examined; race, IQ, father’s
occupation, previous job history, military record, marital status, and
ii. Only factor that correlated was recruit training score.
b. Not possible to predict which individuals will be goof officers.
c. Grant and Grant concluded that efforts to improve the quality of police officer
performance by screening out those recruits who will not make good police
officers have generally been unsuccessful.
d. Tests read out illiterate and uneducated.
e. Some great officers might be good at research but don’t do well under pressure.
f. Psychological tests do not necessarily help.
VII. Equal Employment Opportunity
A. The Law of Equal Employment Opportunity
a. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; it is unlawful for an employer “to fail
or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate
against any individual because of race, religion, sex, or national origin.”
b. Equal Employment Opportunity Act extended the overage to state and local
c. Some state laws cover other categories that federal laws do not.
B. Job-Related Qualifications
a. EEO’s do not guarantee anyone a job.
b. Employers may establish bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQ) and
refuse to hire people who do not possess those qualifications.
c. BFOQ: “reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that part