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Police Cynicism: Causes and Cures

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 65 Issue: 6 Dated: (June 1996) Pages: 16-20
W Graves
Date Published
5 pages
Cynicism among police personnel is examined with respect to its nature, causes, and prevention, with emphasis on the role of police leaders to build a culture of policing that promotes a healthy, positive setting.
Research during the 1960's and 1970's revealed that police cynicism generally increased during the first 10 years of service, then declined slightly, and finally leveled off. More recent research has focused on the related conditions of burnout and stress. These emotional conditions all produce two main unhealthy responses from police officers: withdrawal from society and antipathy to idealism. Factors contributing to police cynicism include the conditions on the streets, police officers' ensuing loss of respect for the law, and occupational stagnation resulting from specialization. Competent, principle-centered, people-oriented leadership has a significant influence on preventing cynicism. Police leaders must demonstrate their commitment to the ideals of honesty, fairness, justice, courage, integrity, loyalty, and compassion. Leaders should also provide police with continuous training on rules of evidence, build a culture of integrity in the agency, be consistent over the long term, provide job enrichment programs, use participatory management styles, and set realistic expectations. Other issues to address include recruiting, training, mentors and peer counselors, and community policing. Reference notes