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Police Cynicism - A Cancer in Law Enforcement?

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 49 Issue: 8 Dated: (August 1980) Pages: 1-4
K R Behrend
Date Published
4 pages
This article discusses the causes and occurrence of cynicism throughout the ranks of the police department and suggests tools which can be used to combat cynicism.
Cynicism can be defined as a means to display an attitude of contemptuous distrust of human nature and motives. The inherent stress and frustration found in the law enforcement profession provides an ideal breeding ground for the disorder. Young police officers, facing daily exposure to the worst of society (homicide, violence, drug addiction, etc.) begin to feel isolated from people in the community. Older police officers can become frustrated with what they see as roadblocks to the prosecution of criminals (i.e., deals and plea bargaining, court decisions seen favoring the rights of criminals over the rights of society). Still others become frustrated and cynical after unsuccessfully trying to achieve recognition or promotion. Police administrators also can become cynical while facing continual criticism, increased demands for services, and curtailment of resources. Combating cynicism must begin with an acknowledgement that it exists. Training bulletins or sessions, stop and talk programs, individual counseling or instruction can all be useful tools in recognizing the symptoms of cynicism and stopping its development. Police departments should develop organizational philosophies which give officers positive feedback and reinforcement, discourage isolation from the community, and provide a fair and impartial promotional system.