Role relationships and role perceptions of police officers

Christie, Gayre (1995). Role relationships and role perceptions of police officers PhD Thesis, Graduate School of Management, The University of Queensland.

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Author Christie, Gayre
Thesis Title Role relationships and role perceptions of police officers
School, Centre or Institute Graduate School of Management
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1995
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Total pages 384
Language eng
Subjects 390400 Law Enforcement
Formatted abstract Introduction The police organization in Queensland has undergone extensive change in recent years. This change is both structural and organizational. It has included a major shift in emphasis away from a preoccupation with issues of law and order toward an emphasis on service. It has also involved a shift in the philosophy of policing whereby community policing is now seen as the major operational goal. In addition, changes have taken place at the level of pre-service recruitment, education and training, including a significant increase in the recruitment of women. These changes were introduced largely as a result of the implementation of recommendations of the Fitzgerald Report (Fitzgerald 1989). Research purpose The purpose of this research was to investigate differences between males and females and between new police and longer serving police in their orientation to, and perceptions of, the police role. A related focus was how these perceptions impact upon levels of job satisfaction, interpersonal communication and commitment to the police organization. Communicative relationships between males and females, and between constables and more senior officers, were especially examined with reference to the effects of work roles and gender roles. In addition, in one study police were compared with non-police in their ability to decode numerous forms of communication. All five studies in the thesis explored gender differences.

The studies

Study One This study compared police recruit and longer serving officer perceptions of the police role. It evaluated the reasons for joining the police offered by recruits and longer serving officers, as well as comparing the perceptions that males and females have of the other sex's reasons for joining the police. The congruence between self perceptions of reasons for joining and the reasons for joining attributed to others of either sex was also investigated. In addition, the study reports on a comparison of these Australian perceptions with the perceptions of similar samples of Scottish and Canadian male and female police recruits and longer serving officers. For the Queensland sample, the respondents were 85 police recruits (51 males, 34 females) and 206 experienced police officers (108 males, 98 females), a total of 291 respondents. The Canadian sample contained 132 police recruits (HI males, 21 females) and 124 experienced officers (99 males, 25 females), a total of 256 respondents. The Scottish sample had 147 recruits (113 males, 34 females) and 209 experienced officers (113 males, 96 females), a total of 356 respondents. Each respondent completed a highly structured, self-administered questionnaire comprising a measure of police role perceptions, a questionnaire exploring reasons for joining the police, and a police activity questionnaire. Results revealed that experienced police in Queensland viewed their service role as less important than did experienced police in Scotland and Canada, but viewed a law and order role and a crime role as more important than experienced police and recruits in the other locations. Helping people, a lack of alternative job opportunities, and the desire to fight crime were the top three reasons for joining the police for groups of all nationalities. Sex and rank differences emerged as well. Within the Queensland sample there was extensive mismatching between perceptions of the police role, reasons for joining, and perceptions of how much time police should spend on various activities.

Study Two In this study, the extent to which female and male constables and more senior officers of the Queensland Police Service experience role conflict and sex role conflict was examined. The study compared these measures of role conflict and sex role conflict with officer self perceptions of their own gender identity (masculinity/femininity). In addition, the relationship between role conflict and sex role conflict and other organizational variables was examined. Subjects were 204 experienced police (106 females, 98 males) who completed a 65-item questionnaire which measured gender attitudes, sex role conflict, role ambiguity and role conflict, job satisfaction, job commitment, and propensity to leave the organization. Results showed that men experienced more role conflict than did women. Male and female police both experienced sex role conflict, but women more so than men. A structural equations model using LISREL analysis revealed that the direction of the hypothesized relationships between role conflict and role ambiguity, job satisfaction, job commitment, and intention to leave the organization was largely upheld. Results generally confirmed the findings of prior tests of the role conflict/job satisfaction/turnover intention relationship. Findings extended these models by confirming a further relationship with the antecedent causal factor of sex role conflict. In addition, separate models were tested for junior and senior ranks. Sex role conflict was causally related to role ambiguity and hence to lower job satisfaction for senior officers but not for constables.

Study Three This study continued to explore male and female perceptions of the police role. Norm-supporting and norm-violating behaviour was investigated. Female and male police actors were videotaped to provide triggers of norm-supporting and normviolating ways of interacting with a senior officer. The actors on each videotaped vignette were then rated on personal attributes by male and female police respondents. Two hundred and sixteen police officers (166 males, 50 females) viewed videotape recordings which manipulated the sex of an on-screen actor, the role of the on-screen actor, and the sex of the off-screen actor. In the video scenes, a male or a female actor acted out a scene in which they adopted either a role-appropriate response (passive and compliant), or a role-inappropriate response (aggressive and noncompliant) to a person off screen. Results revealed that for dimensions of competence, and desirability as a work partner, sex of actor interacted with sex of supervisor and role of actor. Females interacting with female superiors in a norm-violating way were perceived as more competent and more desirable as work partners than females interacting in a normviolating way with male superiors. Norm-violating subordinates were rated as being less stable than norm-supporting subordinates when supervised by a male. Role also interacted with sex of supervisor for perceived stability. Norm violation was rated as a more stable behaviour only when the superior officer was female. Findings extend those of earlier studies by considering the role of rank as a mediating factor in evaluations of norm-supporting and norm-violating communication.

Study Four Police role relationships and their effects upon interpersonal communication were investigated in this study. Specifically, it examined superior-subordinate perceptions about the nature of communication in same-sex and opposite-sex dyads. Differences were also investigated in the perceptions of superiors and subordinates, and males and females, about the nature of their communication with each other. It also related perceived levels of communication congruence between superiors and subordinates to subordinate levels of job satisfaction. One hundred and seventeen (117) superior-subordinate dyads participated in the study. The 117 dyads consisted of male superior-male subordinates (42 dyads), male superior-female subordinates (31 dyads), female superior-male subordinates (22 dyads), and female superior-female subordinates (22 dyads). Both superiors and subordinates completed the same highly structured questionnaire in which each respondent replied to eight questions. They provided perceptions of their communication with the other person across eight topic areas: work, pay, employees' opportunities for promotion, supervision of the superior, subordinate relations with co-workers, subordinate health and well-being, subordinate interests outside of work, and developments within the organization. The list of topics chosen in the present study moved beyond the standard use of a global rating of communication and used ratings on individual topics. These topics are typical of those discussed in superior-subordinate interactions. Subordinates rated the eight communication areas in terms of their perceptions of communication with their superior. Superiors rated the eight areas in terms of their perceptions about communication with the same subordinate. In the final part of their questionnaire, superiors completed a measure of their leadership style. Results revealed that superiors perceived their communicative relationship with subordinates to be much healthier than did subordinates. Congruence scores between the perceptions of superiors and subordinates did not predict subordinate levels of job satisfaction. For male subordinates, there was a negative relationship between amount of communication reported with female superiors and reported levels of job satisfaction.

Study Five Communicative relationships were further examined by investigating the ability of male and female police to decode emotional messages sent by both male and female officers. Police were also compared with non-police on their ability to decode communications. It was predicted that although women would generally be superior to men on this ability, role requirements of policing would mean that non-police would be superior to police. The study used video-taped vignettes to examine the ability of male and female police, and male and female non-police, to decode emotional messages of a positive, negative and neutral intent. It examined the accuracy and certainty with which correct judgements were made, the certainty with which incorrect judgements were made, and also the valence of incorrect judgements made in response to these three message types. Respondents were 259 operational police officers, all of the rank of constable (176 males, 83 females), and 125 tertiary students preparing for careers in nursing (40 males, 85 females). Results revealed that police were less skilled in decoding emotional messages than were non-police. Overall, females (both police and non-police) were more accurate in decoding emotional messages than were men. Females and non-police were also more certain of their accurate judgements than were men and police. Conversely, police were more certain of their false judgements than were non-police. Police were least accurate, and least certain of their accurate judgements, but most certain of their false judgements when the emotion sent was neutral. Results are discussed in terms of the police role which emphasizes maintaining an emotional distance from the public, and from the perspective of research indicating a general female superiority in the communication of emotion. The use of emotion management requirements in the police is also discussed. The final chapter discusses shortcomings of the present research and examines directions for future research. Organizational implications of the results of the five studies are considered, especially the implications for recruit selection and training, and how police role perceptions may affect current attempts to reform policing.
Keyword Queensland. Police Service -- Officials and employees
Police -- Attitudes
Police ethics
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