Police Professionalism

Professionalism refers to the skill, competence or standards expected of a member of a profession. It involves the adoption of a set of values and attitudes by members of an occupation that are consistent with a professional ideology.

Professionalization is a process of legitimization an occupation goes through as it endeavors to improve its social status.

            The various characteristics of a profession include the following (Roberg and Kuykendall, 1993).

  1. A well developed body of professional literature materials.
  2. A high degree of generalized and systematic knowledge with a theoretical base.

    This is achieved through research.

  3. A high degree of self control of behavior governed by a code of ethics.

The code of ethics is a statement of values ensures a high quality of serving. It   also guarantees competency of membership, honor and integrity. The code is a direct expression of the profession’s principles of service orientation. It emphasizes no personal gain and protection of the client.

  1. Membership in professional organizations and associations.

  2. Dedication to self-improvement.
  3. Existence of a unique, identifiable academic field of knowledge attainable through education.
  4. There is a system of testing the competence of members.

 Police professionalism has been a focal point in the past for police reformers. The ambiguity of the role of the police has however seriously hampered efforts to professionalize the police because deciding on the proper role of the police is a necessary step to outlining steps towards professionalism.

            Police professionalism can mean different things in different places and at different times making agreement on the requirement for a professional police force unlikely.

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Police professionalism may refer to police organizations as police officers, or both. Some police administrators refer to tangible improvements such as latest technology like computers and weaponry, as signs of professionalism. However this is not true in reference to the characteristics of professionalism.

            Currently the police are struggling to meet the requirements of a profession. Clearly there is a growing body of professional literature on the police. Some Journals like police studies and America journal of the police contain reports of police research. There are also penodicals and a rapid expanding number of government reports on police that contribute more information on police operations and organizations.

            A code of ethics for the police has been developed and modified by the International Association of heads of police. Although some police may be unfamiliar with its contents, indications show that many officers know the code exists. However the code of conduct offers little control over the police. This is because there is no professional standards committee that reviews and sanctions police for the violation of their own code. (Gaines, kappeler & Vaughn, 1999).

            There are a number of professional policed associations especially for chief executive officers. Organizations like Fraternal Order of the police are oriented toward rank-and-file officers as well but they have typically served as organizations and collective bargain agents. In recent years there has been expansion of professional organizations among police planners, investigators and others.

            On dedication to self-improvement, currently there are no national minimum standards for either departments or police personnel. Many states do not even allow training on a constant basis after completion of the basic training program. However among the progressive police personnel, there is an increased interest in establishing high police officer standards.

            A study in police has lately emerged. Many college-level academic programs in policing and criminal justice have emerged. Regardless of the quality of the programs and consensus on the topics covered in these programs, there is increasing number of officers earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in police science, law enforcement, and criminal justice programs.

            Regardless of these achievements however, attainment of police professionalism remains an elusive goal. Dedication to the attainment of professional standards exists among some police executives and totally lacks among many others.

            Many officers resist this pursuit of professionalism on the basis that their jobs are blue collar shift works that involve little need for advanced education. This reduces dedication to self-improvement. In addition unionization of police officers sometimes inhibits progress toward professionalism. Therefore there cannot be a universal number that will accurately reflect the police personnel needs of all jurisdictions.

There are various ways of determining the appropriate number of police personnel for a given jurisdiction (Roseberg & Kuykendall, 1993). These include;

  1. Intuitively.
  2. Comparatively.
  3. By workload.

The intuitive approach involves little more than an educated guess and is often based on tradition (personnel numbers from previous years). The approach is based on the number of crimes cleared or total number of arrests. These means, many administrators may demand more police officers be hired as crime rates increase. However it is noted that differences in crime rates should not be attributed to variations in the number of police. The research conducted by Bayley, 1994 found out that increases in the number of police closely parallel increase in crime rates. People tend to hire more police when crime rates increase, but this has no effect on the rate of crime increase.

Comparative approach involves comparing one or more urban centers like cities using the ratio of police officers per one thousand population units. If the comparison city has a higher ratio of police to population, it is assumed that an increase in personnel is justified to at least the level of the comparison city (Roseberg & Kuykendall, 1993). The exclusive use of this method to compute police personnel needs is not recommended. Communities have unique characteristics concerning areas covered, crime rates, economic strength, mile of roads and others. These have an impact on the quantity of personnel required to fulfill service requests.

            Workload requires a clear information system, expressed performance standards, well-elaborated community expectations and prioritization of police activities (Roberg & Kuykendall, 1993). The workload analysis of patrol usually involves various steps which include documenting total patrol workload occurring. Determining the time taken to handle the workload, translating the data into number of patrol officers required, determining the number of patrol officers needed on different days and times and how best to assign patrol officers to various areas (Cordner & Sheehan, 1999).

            The computation of patrol workload is complicated by the issue of uncommitted crime. Sometimes measurement of police demand services can be based on “work generating” variable like citizen calls for police service and others.

            Although the workload analysis has been shown to be methodologically sound, few jurisdictions use this form. Administrators cite the cost, complexity of the formula and extensive data collection as the limitations that hinder using the workload formula.


Bayley, D. (1994). Police for the future. USA: Oxford University Press.

Cordner, G. & Sheehan, R. (1999). Police Administration. USA: Anderson Pub. Co.

Gaines, L., Kappeles, V. & Vaughn, J. (1999). Policing in America. USA: Anderson Pub. Co.

Roberg, R., Kuykendall, L. (1993). Police and Society. USA: Wadsworth Pub. Co.

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Police Professionalism. (2017, Feb 25). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/police-professionalism-essay

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