Week 8 Research Proposal

Running head: POLICE OFFICER PERCEIVED JOB SUPPORT 0

Police Job Support: Impact of Service Orientation and Interactional Approach toward Offenders

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John Smith

American Public University System

2015

Abstract

Law enforcement officers are often consumed with work related stressors that gradually take a toll on the officer. Although there have been numerous papers written describing the nature of police stressors, there is surprisingly little empirical evidence for their existence. In addition, literature pertaining to police interactions with offenders as a result of organizational stressors is nonexistent. This study was designed to understand the organizational stressors, the public stressors, and the inherent nature of police work and the effects it has on interactions with citizens, specifically offenders. Of particular interest, is the impact of high, moderate, and low levels of perceived support and how this transcends into positive or negative personal interactions with offenders.

The Lexington Police Department has recently come under “fire” from officers who felt they did not get the support they needed from the department after they were involved in an officer shooting (Spears, 2003). Over a 4-year period from 2000 to 2003, three officers have fatally shot a suspect in an attempt to protect themselves and the public. The officers names have become well-known in the community, but what was not publicized is the lack of support and isolation each officer encountered during the investigation. One officer, currently still on the force, is lobbing the department in an attempt to improve support for other officers who may endure a similar tragedy during and after investigations (Spears, 2003).

The Lexington Chief of Police, Beatty, vowed 2 days after the article was published in the local newspaper to find additional resources, such as counseling, for officers involved in fatal shootings (“Policing Trauma,” 2003). Resources, such as psychological counseling, have been the single source of treatment provided by departments in an attempt to alleviate the stress felt by officers.

These programs are necessary, yet in reviewing organizational behavior and law enforcement stress literature; one begins to wonder whether administrators have been treating the symptoms rather than the problem (Ayres, 1991). Whether or not great effort is placed on individual centered strategies, if the organizational stressors remain, the dysfunction associated with stress will persist. (Laufersweiler-Dwyer & Dwyer, 2000, p. 444)

Clearly, other means of support are necessary, but few know what those supportive measures should be.Problem Statement

Although there have been numerous papers written describing the nature of police stressors, there is surprisingly little empirical evidence for their existence (Loo, 1984). In addition, literature pertaining to police interactions with offenders as a result of organizational stressors is nonexistent.Purpose Statement

Thus, the purpose of this study is to describe three groups of officers and their levels of service orientation, the perceived level of organizational and public support, and lastly, the officers’ interactional approaches to offenders.Literature Review

Stress in police work can be categorized into several factors. These factors are related to the characteristics of organizations, the criminal justice system, the public, and the duties associated with police work (Violanti & Aron, 1995). The most common stressors are those stressors related to the practices of the organization, which are followed by the inherent nature of police work (Violanti & Aron, 1995).

The organization includes several distressing factors; included is the authoritarian structure or militaristic hierarchy, the lack of lower level decision-making related to daily tasks, the lack of hierarchal support, limited opportunities for advancement (Loo, 1984), and a punishment-centered philosophy, which includes unjust discipline (Violanti & Aron, 1995). Additionally, it is not uncommon for there to be conflict between personal job goals and departmental demands on the officer (Violanti & Aron, 1995). This may include the officer’s desire to become certified in a particular area, such as accident reconstruction, when the organization demands the officer answer calls for service.

Violanti and Aron (1995) found the inadequate support of superiors within the department weighed heavy as a stressor on police officers. Interpersonal relationships between supervisors and subordinates are almost nonexistent because of the paramilitary structure of police organizations. Additionally, African-American police officers reported the lack of support as a more compelling stressor than Caucasians and Hispanics (Violanti & Aron, 1995). In addition to the perceived lack of departmental support, police officers face other organizational stressors, such as a negative public perception of police and interfacing with the judicial system (Aaron, 2000).

A police officer endures tremendous stress that most occupations are not faced with. Loo (1984) also reported that shift work, negative impacts on family and social life, cross-examination in court, feeling the courts are lenient towards criminals, a lack of public support for the police, and biased media reporting of police actions particularly troubling to officers. A factor such as rotating shifts often leads to inadequate sleep for officers, which in turn lowers physiological resistance to stress (Loo, 1984). Boredom with everyday routine police functions may lead to a sense of worthlessness and aggravation (Loo, 1984). Repeated exposure to human suffering and even death may result in an extreme negative view of life and occupation (Loo, 1984). Most importantly, it is distressing for officers to deal with the death or injury of another officer (Violanti & Aron, 1995).

Due to these added stressors, police officers are at a high risk for cardiovascular disease (Loo, 1984), alcohol and drug abuse (Peter D. Hart Research Associates, 1996), burnout (Violanti & Aron, 1995), psychopathology (Aaron, 2000), and suicide (Laufersweiler-Dwyer, & Dwyer, 2000). Aaron (2000) conducted a study in which he surveyed police officers with the Charlottesville, Virginia Police Department (CPD) in an attempt to understand coping styles of police officers. Aaron stated,

Police officers move in a world in which people’s most violent and deceitful sides are exposed. Their jobs frequently involve them in situations in which people lie, steal, and harm others and then try not to get caught. It was reported by a number of CPD officers that police officers tend to develop a distrust of others. In fact, such a distrust is often necessary to be professionally effective. It pays not to believe people or at least to maintain healthy skepticism as a police officer. (pp. 447-448)

In addition to the negative interactions officers face, potential danger is another external stressor.

Danger is intrinsic in police work in many forms. Undercover work, stopping a vehicle, or entering a building are common officer dangers (Violanti & Aron, 1995). Aaron (2000) commented,

Many people have a strong tendency to avoid thinking about what is painful or frightening. Although an understandable response to the discomfort associated with revisiting difficult thoughts and feelings, such an approach may lead to more maladaptive coping and adjustment (Wenslaff, Wegner, & Roper, 1988)….One form of psychological avoidance is dissociation, or the splitting off from awareness thoughts, feelings, or memories of a painful or distressing event (pp. 438-439).

The constant exposure of this stress, coupled with the lack of administrative support, will impact the officer’s service orientation and interactional approach to offenders (Aaron, 2000; Violanti & Aron, 1995). However, in an attempt to counteract stress, the role of support has been found to be important in reducing such stress (Aaron, 2000).Role of Social Support

A survey conducted to examine the differing views of subordinates and supervisors towards occupational stress indicated that corporate and labor definitions significantly differ (Laufersweiler-Dwyer & Dwyer, 2000). Managers thought stress was chiefly a question of maladaptive individual lifestyles and poor “person-environment fits”; however, subordinates believed stress was a result of the organizational conditions (Laufersweiler-Dwyer & Dwyer, 2000). The differences between the two views make it difficult for a supportive environment to be fostered, therefore, the role of social support is critical.

To the extent that identity or relational dimensions of communication have been seriously considered in mainstream research on organizations, the dominant focus has narrowly been on task relevant features of superior-subordinate relationships. One other exception to the neglect of the human side of research on work-related social support has particularly been as a mediator of work-related stress.

Zimmermann and Applegate (1994) presented an approach for understanding how social support is achieved through communication in the workplace, the functions it supplies for the persons and organizations concerned, and its relation to outcomes at both stages.

Based on a message-centered view of communication, social support in the workplace must be studied in terms of organization members’ multiple communicative goals, strategies or lines of actions chosen in accomplishing those goals, the ways in which communicators negotiate definitions of supportive situations, and individual social-cognitive differences. This view is in contrast to other conceptualizations of social support in the workplace, which have, for example, examined social support within a network analytic framework (Anderson & Gray-Toft, 1982; Ray, 1991), or in terms of a target individual’s perceptions of supportive behavior received from others (Etzion, 1984; Seers, McGee, Serey, & Graen, 1983)….Social support has been established as a coping mechanism or as a buffer of workplace stress and burnout (Miller, Ellis, Zook, & Lyles, 1990; Ray, 1991; Ray & Miller, 1991). In addition, social support has been linked with increased job satisfaction (Argyle, 1992; LaRocco & Jones, 1978), satisfaction with the organization (LaRocco & Jones, 1978), and personal accomplishment (Miller et al., 1990); reduced job tedium (Albrecht, Irey, & Mundy, 1982), workplace role ambiguity (Ray & Miller, 1991), and job strain (Blau, 1981); and improvement in coping with job demands (House & Cottington, 1986). (Zimmermann & Applegate, 1994, pp.51-52).

Research also indicates that the minor irritants, disappointments, and upsets people customarily experience are damaging to moods and psychological well-being (Burelson, 1984). Studies have led to the identification of links between depression or damaging mood states and the frequency with which horrible events are experienced (Aaron, 2000; Brooks, Piquero, & Cronin, 1994). Still yet, other researchers have found stress resulting from everyday irritants and distress is a better predictor of mood and psychological well-being than stress resulting from major life events or chronic conditions (Laufersweiler-Dwyer, 2000; Wilson, 1994). Some work also shows that the stress resulting from daily upsets may even be a better predictor of physical health than the stress resulting from major life events (Violanti & Aron, 1995). Thus, the ordinary distresses and upsets addressed in routine acts of comforting are major determinants of mood, psychological well-being, and even physical health (Burelson, 1984).

Emotional support is a way in which a person is able to see that others care for them during times of stress (Burelson, 1984). Social support in the workplace has been recognized by researchers, still relatively little is known about the ways social support is communicated or how that support is interpreted by the receiver (Zimmermann & Applegate, 1994).

Conclusions must be drawn regarding the relationship of perceived supportive communication and outcomes experienced by others. Research indicates that perceptions are related to workplace stress and burnout (Loo, 1984); however, how the support is communicated is still not known. Yet, the role of supportive communication in organizational outcomes is also not known (Zimmermann & Applegate, 1994). Zimmermann and Applegate (1994) believed that the study of communication practices, definitions of what counts as social support, and the functions and goals supportive communication serve, are important to the study of supportive communication.

Employee stress is managed through support from the organization. This should also be important to the organization to ensure organizational survival. It is unlikely that burned out, estranged managers are going to help the organization meet its competition. High-quality employees will leave for “greener pastures” and those who stay will do little to elevate the organization to the next level (Horton & Reid, 1991). Despite Horton and Reid’s (1991) statement applying to the corporate world, similar issues occur in policing. When support is not obtained and needs of officers are not met, the premium officers leave for other agencies.

Horton and Reid (1991) advocated “developing a corporate culture that encourages and enables employees to succeed,…giving middle managers recognition for their accomplishments,…[and] encouraging creativity and risk taking, without fear of punishment for failing” (p. 125). Supportive communication by organizations to employees, reduces turnover, enhances productivity, and increases achievement of organizational goals (Zimmermann & Applegate, 1994). Once again, this could apply to a police organization if upper administrators followed similar ideas. “Executives and managers at all levels of police organizations must be vitally concerned with the management perspective of organizational communication” (Southerland, 1991, p. 25). The organizational perspective ensures that the vision, values, goals, and objectives of the organization are spread (Southerland, 1991).

In her chapter on organizational communication, Southerland stated,

The vast majority of organizational communication occurs through the culture, climate, and management style of the organization; the system of rewards and punishments that exists organizationally; the symbols that are adopted for use in the organization; the adopted values, mission, and role that the organization is to pursue; the mechanisms and standards for measuring police performance; the mechanism for governmental accountability for police action; and the expected relationship between the police and community. Each of these shapes the range of possibilities for communication to occur as well as determining the forms and atmosphere of that communication. Each sets up a range of expectations and assumptions about the behavior of others, that is, both the police and the public have a basis for anticipating certain forms of response from each other. These expectations may be implicit or explicit and may be correct or incorrect (Southerland, 1991, pp. 30-32).

In order for the public to obtain the anticipated response from the officer in question, it is important to understand the organizational support, or lack thereof, that conditions and impacts their reactive function.Operational Definitions

[These are definitions you have created solely for the purpose of your study so that the reader can understand what you mean when you refer to these terms. Make sure to arrange these in alphabetical order. An example of an operational definition is as follows:]

Frequency of usage of social media. This was a predictor variable and based on the responses to the survey key question 12. The response choices were measured using a 5-point Likert scale with 1 indicating very poor activity (one or fewer community contacts via social media or posts per week); 2 indicating somewhat poor (two or three contacts via social media or posts per week); 3 indicates do not know, meaning the sheriff does not know the number of contacts via social media or posts per week; 4 denotes somewhat good (four or five contacts via social media).Research Method and Design Participants

Participants in this study will include police officers from a large metro police department. The department totals more than 450 sworn officers. Officers will be surveyed from all divisions within the police department.Survey

This study will involve the development of a survey instrument to examine police attitudes about different kinds of offenders and other key variables pertaining to police attitudes about their work and their communities. The instrument will include items on nine dimensions. The survey dimensions will include: demographics, service orientation, perceived support for police by the public, perceived support of the police organization, seriousness of crime, importance of incarceration in general and by offense type, perceptions of treatment, alternatives to incarceration, and personal experiences.

Demographic questions will include age, gender, race, education, total experience as a police officer, length of time with the department, and police rank and division/unit. The service orientation, perceived support for police, and other related scale items will be adapted from Brooks, Piquero, and Cronin (1994), Wilson and Bennett (1994), and Worden’s (1993) work. The survey will consist of statements, such as police should help settle family disputes, police officers should assist sick or injured persons, and if police officers act in a service capacity, this detracts from their ability to fight crime. In addition, several variables will be constructed to examine whether police attitudes are associated with personal or family experiences with crime or violence. Items pertaining to attitudes about the seriousness of crimes and degree of increase in drug problems will be adapted from a national survey of police chiefs conducted for the Police Foundation (Peter D. Hart Research Associates, 1996).Procedure

Participants will be recruited during roll call sessions for all three shifts (7:00am, 4:00pm, and 10pm). The sample will include patrol officers as well as other divisions/units. Participation will be anonymous and voluntary. After roll call is complete, a short introduction will be given by the researcher asking officers for their participation in an anonymous survey about their attitudes toward alternatives to incarceration. The police chief will be contacted prior to the introduction and invitation to participate in order to gain approval and access to the department. The survey will take approximately 20 minutes on average to complete.Hypotheses and Research Questions

H1. Police officers expressing a high level of perceived departmental support will experience a high level of service orientation toward policing.

H2. Police officers expressing a low level of perceived department support will experience a low level of service orientation toward policing.

R1. How do police officers with a high level of service orientation interact with community members, particularly offenders?

R2. How do police officers with a low level of service orientation interact with community members, particularly offenders?Conclusion

The Lexington Police Department example showed the lack of departmental support and frustration officers’ experience (Laufersweiler-Dwyer & Dwyer, 2000). Typically, the answer is to this problem is to consider psychological counseling; however, according to Laufersweiler-Dwyer and Dwyer (2000), the organization should look at the additional internal factors that relate to such stress. Job stress has been linked to health problems (Aaron, 2000), diminished job satisfaction Brooks, & Cronin, 1994), burnout (Violanti, 1995), drug and alcohol abuse (Peter Hart Research Associates, 1996), and even suicide (Loo, 1984). Research has shown that police officers sustain an abnormal amount of stress from the public, administration, and the inherent nature of the job (Brooks, Piquero, & Cronin, 1994).

Minimal empirical studies have been conducted regarding the examination of organizational induced stress, and none have involved the effect of such stress on police interactions with offenders. This is particularly important if law enforcement officers are likely to disbelieve citizens due to the nature of the job (Aaron, 2000).References

Aaron, J. D. K. (2000). Stress and coping in police officers. Police Quarterly, 3(4), 438-450. doi:10.1177/109861110000300405

Brooks, L. W., Piquero, A., & Cronin, J. (1994). Work-load rates and police officer attitudes: An examination of busy and slow precincts. Journal of Criminal Justice, 22(3), 277-287. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0047-2352(94)90023-X

Burelson, B. (1984). Comforting communication. In H. Sypher, & J. Applegate (Eds.), Communication by children and adults: Social cognitive and strategic process (pp. 63-104). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Horton, T. R., & Reid, P. C. (1991). Beyond the trust gap: Forging a new partnership between managers and their employers. Homewood, IL: Business One Irwin.

Laufersweiler-Dwyer, D. L. & Dwyer, R. G. (2000). Profiling those impacted by organizational stressors at the macro, intermediate, and micro levels of several police agencies. The Justice Professional, 12(4), 443-469. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1478601X.2000.9959562

Loo, R. (1984). Occupational stress in the law enforcement profession. Canadian Mental Health, 32(3), 10-13. Retrieved from http://www.cmha.ca

Peter D. Hart Research Associates (1996). Drugs and crime across America: Police chiefs speak out: A national survey among chiefs of police. Washington, D.C.: Hart Research Associates.

Policing trauma: Give needed services to officers involved in shootings. (2003, September 11). The Lexington Herald Leader, p. A12.

Southerland, M. (1991). Organizational communication. In L. K. Gaines, M. D. Southerland, & J. E. Angell (Eds.), Police administration (pp. 281-303). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Spears, V. (2003, September 7). Shooting to stop a threat. The Lexington Herald Leader, p. A1.

Violanti, J. M., & Aron, F. (1995). Police stressors: Variations in perception among police personnel. Journal of Criminal Justice, 23(3), 287-294. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/

0047-2352(95)00012-F

Wilson, D. G., & Bennett, S. F. (1994). Officers’ response to community policing: Variations on a theme. Crime & Delinquency, 40(3), 354-370. doi:10.1177/0011128794040003004

Worden, A. P. (1993). The attitudes of women and men in policing: Testing conventional and contemporary wisdom. Criminology, 31(2), 203-241. doi:10.1111/ j.17459125.1993.tb01128.x

Zimmermann, S., & Applegate, J. L. (1994). Communicating social support in organizations: A message-centered approach. In B. R. Burleson, T. L. Albrecht, & I. G. Sarason, Communication of social support: Messages, interactions, relationships, and community (pp. 50-70). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Appendices

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