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Validity of Niederhoffer's Cynicism Scale

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 32 Issue: 1 Dated: January/February 2004 Pages: 1-13
Matthew J. Hickman; Nicole L. Piquero; Alex R. Piquero
Date Published
January 2004
13 pages
This article discusses the validity of the cynicism scale developed to measure police cynicism.
The study of police cynicism is central to the knowledge base surrounding police management, culture, and behavior. In “Behind the Shield,” a widely regarded as a classic in policing literature, professionalism and cynicism were viewed as opposite poles of a single attitudinal dimension. Cynicism was viewed as an “unintended consequence of the professionalization of policing.” To assess cynicism, a 20-item additive scale was designed and administered to 220 police officers in New York City. The most important finding was that police recruits exhibited the lowest levels of cynicism, and that cynicism increased steadily during roughly the first 7 to 10 years of service. With additional years of service, cynicism declined but never returned to the low levels discovered among recruits. The current study revisited this seminal work on cynicism and examined the validity of a modified cynicism scale. The data used were drawn from a larger study of police integrity in Philadelphia. A survey instrument was administered to a sample of 499 police officers. The results indicate that race and length of service were important determinants of cynicism. There remains little consensus about the determinants of police cynicism more generally. No single set of determinants were shown to have explanatory power across populations in particular. Future research should attempt to understand the correlates of cynicism and whether these correlates vary over the course of an officer’s career. Researchers should pay close attention to organizational factors such as relations with the community and supervisors in generating officer cynicism. 3 figures, 9 tables, appendix, 32 references