Date of Award

Summer 6-8-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

PhD Counseling Psychology

Department

Professional Psychology and Family Therapy

Advisor

Minsun Lee, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Corinne Datchi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pamela Foley, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Smith, Ed.D.

Keywords

police, police psychology, police-community relationships, police perspectives, police deaths, police homicide

Abstract

The media has presented current tensions between police officers and the communities they serve, particularly the Black community. These tensions have led to calls for reforms in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. However, there has been little focus on the police perspective. Thus, this study sought to address the gaps in the literature by shedding light on the perspective of police officers through the following research question: a) How do police officers perceive the public’s view of them? b) How do police officers’ think the public’s view of them impacts the relationship between police officers and the communities they serve? c) What are police officers’ perspectives on recent events involving police-inflicted deaths of Black community members and the deaths of police officers by community members? d) How do police officers think the recent events influence the relationship between police officers and the communities they serve? and e) What do police officers identify as ways to strengthen the relationship between police officers and the communities they serve?

This study utilized a phenomenological, qualitative approach to examine police officers’ perspectives in order to shed light on their subjective experience rather than apply preconceived theories to the subject at hand. However, the theoretical underpinnings of broken windows theory (Wilson & Kelling, 1982), legal cynicism (Kirk & Papachristos, 2011), police implicit racial bias (Spencer, Charbonneau, & Glaser, 2016), and Black men’s stereotype threat (Steele & Aronson, 1995) guided the background for the research questions.

Participants were three full-time, male Patrolmen in urban communities who participated in individual, in-person interviews. Results elicited nine themes that are discussed in relation to the research questions: diverse experiences; difference between expectation of the job and the actual job; being in danger at work; media; generalizations about police; predominant dislike of police officers by the public and negative/poor relationship between police officers and community members; racial tensions between community members and police officers; exposure to traumatic situations, frustrations, and trying not to take the job home; and limited options for relationship reparations. Limitations, implications for future research as well as clinical implications are discussed.

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