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Police Culture and Its Influence to Their Behavior Essay


In today’s American society in policing are a set of fundamentals that helps set the law and keep everything in order or at least try too. We will be discussing the police culture and the significance stress in policing. In addition, we will also analyze the culture for women and the ethnic minorities. Also, on how they can achieve equality in law enforcement for women. Moreover, we will be going more in depth with internal and external mechanism that control police discretion.

Analyze Police Culture, including the Significance of Stress in Policing There are many factors that contribute to the stress of a police officer. Some of these factors are as follows: dangers of the job itself, the probability of advancement or a lack of advancement opportunities, family, and any vice that he or she may be influenced by. Along with any other responsibilities that he or she may have. The culture to deal with these stresses is to speak to another police officer. At times this is encouraged because the other officer is your partner and probably the only one who will be able to relate to what the officer is going through. Police officers are always under stress because of the nature of their profession. In any case, they will need to make a split second decision that will be evaluated again and again by people in a controlled environment with none of the dangers or necessary immediate response that the officer was subjected to.

This results in intense scrutiny by superiors, peers and the public. The result of this stress manifest itself though health related issues such as chronic illnesses, poor performance at work, failure to be a productive member of the family and unfortunately suicide. The police departments have made great strides in being able to detect an officer who is in need of help and have conducted studies into how stress affects police officers. During their studies they have discovered that Officers who reported high levels of stress had a link to heart disease, depression, anxiety, somatization and posttraumatic stress disorder. They also discovered a strong relationship between work related stress and alcohol abuse (Gershon et al.2009). Police departments can help by having an engaged leadership in which they know their officers and know to look for the signs that someone needs help. Police department can also mitigate these issues by taking preventive measures by educating the officers to develop coping mechanisms to help alleviate the daily stress that builds up in some people.

Woman and Minorities in policing today

Employment discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex is illegal in the United States this is due to the passing of title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts. In 1n 1972 the Equal Employment Opportunity Act extended the coverage of the 1964 law to state, local, and government which included the police and sheriff’s departments (Walker, S., katz, C.M. , 2011). The employment of minorities and woman officers have increased significantly over the last forty years. A useful tool in measuring the ratio of minority groups in a law enforcement agency is the (CALEA) which means Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. The recommendations of CALEA is that law enforcement agencies have a ratio of minorities employed in approximate proportion to the diversity of the agency. Another useful tool that is useful to measure employment in law enforcement is the Equal Employment Opportunity Index.

This measurement tool is used to compute the relationship between the racial diversity in the community and how this reflects the racial diversity in police departments that serve that particular area (Walker, S., katz, C.M. , 2011). For example, a police department in southern parts of the United States may hire more African American officers because of the racial makeup of a particular city being serviced at that time. There is still however, an underrepresentation of African American police officers in some states. According to (AolJobs.com) there was a serious problem with the Boston Police Department in 2010. According to the article there was discriminatory hiring practices being used to eliminate out minorities applicants. “The city is about 24 percent black according to the 2010 census but of the 51 Lieutenants on the force just two are black men and of the 23 Captains The only black man retired yesterday” (Gorden, 2012). The Article shows that even today discrimination is still alive and well and is still existing in some police departments across America today. Because of the rapidly changing population in some parts of the United States employment of Hispanic and Latino officers have increased. Being able to speak with the public when dispatched to a call is very important.

Being able to speak Spanish or know a foreign language can be a very important asset to a police department. Because a police officer of a different racial ethnicity can respond to citizens who may not speak English and may be able to effectively communicate within their own racial group this is a very important asset to most police departments. Because of that fact most Hispanic and Latino officers are highly recruited by some police departments. Because of the changing face of law enforcement in the last 40 years woman are becoming police officers in higher rates today. Old policies that discriminated woman officers have been changing over the last 40 years. For example, rules on hairstyles and officers who become pregnant while actively being a police officer has changed. The federal Discrimination Act prohibited Employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or any other pregnancy-related medical conditions (Walker, S., katz, C.M. , 2011). There still is a long way to go in the hiring of more woman police officers. Woman police officers are still underrepresented compared to men in police departments across the United States.

Some of the reason diversity is so important in the police work force environment for minorities and woman is improvement of public service to different racial and gender groups, and also to improve the image of the police departments as a fair and equal employer. This will lead to better police –community relations and better work environment for police departments in general. Internal and External Mechanisms that Control Police Discretion Many writers have a tried to define “police discretion” but the most widely used definition is the following: A police officer or police agency may be said to exercise discretion whenever effective limits on his, or her, or its power leave the officer or agency free to make choices among possible courses of action or inaction. This very well written description of the said subject was written by Kenneth Culp Davis in his book “Discretionary Justice” from (1969). What he meant by that is not very hard to comprehend. Mr. Davis believes that when an officer has a choice over how to respond to a specific problem or situation that police officer is said to have discretion or choice.

The big word to remember is choice. Another definition used for “police discretion” states: Discretion is defined as an official action by a criminal justice official based on that individual’s judgment about the best course of action. So what do some police officers take into consideration when making the decision to arrest or not to arrest? Well, according to research the seriousness of the alleged offense is one of the most important factors that police officers take into consideration when deciding whether to arrest a suspect as one might expect. For example, an officer is most likely to arrest an individual for assault or robbery than a minor petty offense. Another reason an officer might lean more towards arresting an individual is safety. For example, if the officer believes that an individual might pose a threat to himself or to others then he or she might be inclined to deescalate the situation by removing or incapacitating the said suspect.

Another factor that plays a part in whether or not an officer makes an arrest is the attitude of the suspect, believe it or not. For example if the suspect appears aggressive or disrespectful when stopped or being questioned. Other factors that influence discretionary decisions are the strength of the evidence, characteristics of the victim, relationship between victim and suspect but the most controversial factor, by far, is taking the minority status into account to the offence or “racial profiling”, as it is more generally called. Some factors that inhibit the officers’ discretionary ability are official department policies, the informal organizational cultures of the department, the local political culture. But at the end of the day, the decisions made by individual officers still determine who is arrested and who is not. Despite the dawn of mandatory arrest policies and other influences, the final decision is theirs and theirs alone.


In conclusion, we have discussed and analyzed police culture and the significance of stress while policing, women and minorities in policing today, and finally internal and external mechanisms that control public discretion. The Police profession as a whole is one that can go from one extreme of emotion to another. Policing is often many hours of boredom to chaos in a moment’s notice, because of this a police officer’s career is marked frequently with encounters of danger and reckless abandon. The issues that society has directly affects the police officer negatively impacting his or her psyche. As the pressure of duty rises police officers often experience anger, depression, and or delusion. Because of this stress, over a period of time, can build up, and cause psychological indispositions that may strain an officer’s relationship with family or friends, or worse co-workers. These psychological indispositions can lead to an officer to quit, retire early, or even worse, become abusive or suicidal. The importance of women and minorities in policing today are vast.

Because employment discrimination is against the law in the United States, the addition of women and minorities have improved the police force throughout the country. Although there are some discrepancies in hiring certain ethnicity’s, as a whole, the police forces of America are continuing in an upward climb. Because of changes in policy, women are able to not only become police officers but also maintain the status of being a mother. The importance of minorities within the policing community is important with the make up of America rapidly changing it allows police to communicate with the community effectively and efficiently. Police discretion although there is no clear definition of what it is, have internal and external mechanisms which control it. Policing officer’s always have a choice when it comes to making a decision (even split second). What the main control of police discretion is always relies upon the police officer to be calm clear minded and professional especially in this day and age where every move an officer makes is either filmed or recorded and scrutinized.

Grant, H. B., & Terry, K. J. (2012). Law enforcement in the 21st century (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/02/15/black-police-officers-sue-boston-for-discrimination Law Enforcement in the 21st Century, Third edition
Walker, S., & Katz, C. M. (2011). The police in America: An introduction (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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