The impact of deviant behavior of police officers


The organizations of today are striving to make their employees professionally responsible and proactive. They are awarded for taking initiatives and for their commitment to the organization and up to mark performance. The energetic and dedicated employees are needed and appreciated in all of the modern organization. As a result the emphasis on reducing and punishing the workplace deviance has significantly increased.

The deviant behavior including the workplace theft, sexual misconduct, alcoholism and drug abuse and other counterproductive behavior have influenced many researches and studies. The work place deviance has been defined in a number of ways. Robinson and Bennett (1995) defined it as voluntary and intentional behavior that infringes and goes against the norms and behavior standards of the organization. They also significantly threaten the reputation and well being of both the organization and its employees (Robinson & Bennett, 1995).

Robinson and Bennett (1995) further went ahead to divide the deviant behavior in to two clear cut categories. In one case scenario, the deviance can be targeted at the organization which was called the organizational deviance. In the other instance the deviance is targeted at the member of the organization which was called interpersonal deviance. The example of organization deviance includes; work place theft, damage to the property of the organization, habitual late arrival at work, disengagement and disinterest in work related activities. The behavioral misconduct towards the colleagues, supervisors, subordinates, inmates (in case of police) come under the category of interpersonal deviance. The deviant behavior at workplace is unethical, unwelcome and uncalled for. It leads to disparaging and adverse impact both on the employee and the organization's long term reputation and well being.

The deviant behavior in the police officers on in the professional industry as a whole is perhaps more detrimental. The ethics in the police or the non-deviant behavior accounts for a reputable police department and a very safe community. According to Gilmartin (2009) one of the greatest obstacle facing the law enforcement administrators is to be able to create and maintain a value based agency where the cadre of officers follow a ethical code of conduct with a commitment to preserve and sustain the peace and value of the society on the whole.

The conservancy of value system and reputation of the police departments is very crucial from another point of view. A deviant police department would not be respected which would consequently effect its respect, regard and level of confidence people put in it. It is more important professionally and ethically for the police officers to restrain from deviant behavior and conduct themselves with integrity and trustworthiness that is expected out of them (FDOE).

The deviant behavior of the police officers pertains to but is not limited to; drug abuse, alcoholism and workplace theft, accepting financial services from people for not turning them in, sexual misconduct involves forcing someone to perform sexual favors and threatening them to take them to jail if they resist. It is expected from the police officers to conduct them in a way that is supportive towards the community, true and honest. The police officials are usually relied on to serve the mankind, safeguard the lives and property of the general public, protect people from deception, oppression and intimidation and promote a peaceful environment where there is no disorder and violence and only respect and regard for all (FDOE).

This study reflects on the deviant behavior of the police officer during their service and its dire effects. The extensive effects of the police service are amply investigated through conducting a primary and secondary research. The published research in this area gave insight in to the presence, extent and the effects of the deviant behavior in the police officers. These published researched increased the understanding of the effects that deviant behavior and the way in which it is conducted/exerted.

In this research paper the relationship between the deviant behaviors of the police officers including; Alcohol and other Drug Abuse; sexual misconduct; police sexual violence is explored with relation to the ill being and the reputation of the organization, well being and the job disengagement.

The primary research was conducted through a questionnaire which was filled by 35 police officers of varying ranks. The questionnaire helped in getting quantitative data about the job disengagement and the officer's productivity. The relationship between the organization's reputation and well being was explored through the exploration of research publication. In the end recommendation were given as to how to reduce the work place deviancy of the police officers.

This research paper basically provides an analysis of literature about the potentially harmful and extremely detrimental effects of the police officers. It is argued that as public interest and health is largely dependent on the range and scale of police malfunctioning and deviant behavior. The harmful effects of the unethical behavioral patterns and misconducts of the police officers are addressed in this research paper.

Objective of the Study

The primary and main aims of this research paper was to use empirical and secondary qualitative research techniques to reflect on the deviant behavior of the contemporary police officers, establish the reasons behind the deviant behaviors and investigate the relationship job disengagement, productivity level and organization reputation with the deviant behavior of the police officers.

The secondary aim was to alongside appreciate the work of the ethical police officers who work to the best of their capability in the face of stress, danger, pressure and high emotions.

Theoretical framework:

(Independent Variable) (Dependent Variable)

Literature Review:

Drummond (1976) explored the tendency of the police officials to become isolated from friends, spouses, families, legal system and community at large. The isolation has the potential to lead to the deviant behavior of the police officers. It can be deduced that the police officers feel isolated because of the nature of their work and the associated perceived and real dangers that they regard with their jobs (Skolnick, 1966). Additionally the distance that the police officials feel might be because of their understanding of relative personality trait with respect to their profession of being a cop. Other work and field related factors including the late work shifts, peculiar days off, work on holidays, court time further isolates the police officers from the rest of the world.

There is further evidence of the police's sexual misconduct in a research paper called ‘Police Sexual Abuse of Teenage Girls' by Samuel Walker and Dawn Irlbeck. According to this report, about forty percent of all the sexual abuse by police officers cases reported in the 2002-2003 involve the teenagers. The full extent and intricacies involved in the cases of sexual abuse by the police officers are still unknown because countless cases go unreported. The main reasons investigated in this report include the shame it might bring and the fear of retaliation by the police officer. The limitation of this report was that it did not take in to account the un-reported cases which are crucial because it leaves out a big chunk of cases which occurs in small towns which are not amply served by the newspapers headlines or the television stations. The report also consisted of many sexual abuse incidences. The citation analysis of the sexual misconduct by the police officers helped in understanding the alarmingly increasing rate of such cases on yearly basis. One such incident narrated in the report was about police officers of San Francisco, California who conducted a humiliating body search of two female juveniles. They were reported to have touched the girls at inappropriate places. The police men were not able to explain their reasons of the search and clearly did not comply with the standard procedure of dealing with juveniles. The request of the girl to have a female office to carry out the search was also ignored (San Francisco Chronicle (January 24, 2003): Posted on-line at in Oakland, California two police officers were convicted for kidnapping and sexual assault of a motorist. One of the police officials was charged with sexually assaulting seven women over the span of 2 years of his patrol duty (The San Francisco Chronicle (March 27, 1992): Final Edition; News; P. A32; Bay Area Report.)

According to (Maher, 2003) the sexual scandal of a police has long lasting effects on the society. It does not matter if any criminal or civil outcome is achieved, the negative feeling of the police is perpetuated because of these events. A very interesting survey was carried out by Trautman, (2000) in which it was revealed by the 46% of the 1016 police officers who were asked, that they would not report a fellow colleague if they know anything about his sexual misconduct while at duty.

The deviant behavior and cynical personality trait can largely be associated to with the prolonged and continuous exposure and experience with the negative side of human behavior. The morale and values of the officer is greatly reduced due to these bad influences (Kirschman, 1997; Reiner, 2000). The police men are continuous being lied to which develops a somewhat cynical and suspicious response system to just about anything in the police officials (Kirschman, 1997; Foster, 2003). Kurke and Scrivner are of the opinion that the training can counteract this and can teach skills which are necessary to keep the value and belief system alive in a job of incessant experience with liars and criminals of police officials. Foster (2003) fear that if the vicious cycle of being exposed to criminals is not tactfully handled it can lead to a culture of deviant behavior on the part of the police officer themselves.

Another report brought forth by the Nottinghamshire Police Market Research Group (2006) also highlighted some of the issues that about 2,030 police officers. They indicated that the training imparted at them was most of the times irrelevant which can be one source of malfunctioning at the workplace. The reported highlighted that the police officers do not feel valued, lacked a clear sense of direction and focus and were not rewarded for their service. This divide in their thinking and a lack of support and visibility and a heavy focus on the results have potential to trigger the malfunctioning of the police officers (Nottinghamshire Police, 2006).

A very common deviant behavior observed in the police men is the alcoholism. The estimates related to the alcohol abuse by the police officers are more than double than regular people (Voilanti, 2010). The social use of alcohol is widely accepted in some professions, however its excessive use or abuse can seriously impair a person's capability to perform at the job, this fact holds true for the profession of police as well. Their drinking problem can and have led to vehicle accident and a complaint by a citizen. The fact is that, most of victims of abuse of authority by policemen are the women. The demographic varies from prostitutes, victims of domestic violence, held up drivers, female juvenile. The alarming thing is that those offenders were usually on duty or in uniform when the sexual impropriety occurs. The policemen have been known to exploit their authority especially when drunken to force, coerce and entice the innocent people. The disturbing element in this is the psychological motives behind these policemen, they are not on a lookout for sexual gratification, it is usually just about the need to dominate, control and hold these women hostages and exercise the authority on these women (Voilanti, 2010).

Mastrofski et al (2002) also classified the deviant at the police station as somebody who is cynical and who is motivated by money and has little regard for the work he does. The researcher highlighted the personality traits to be on a look out for when it comes to locating a deviant police officer. They basically worked to give insight in to why some police officers develop negative attitudes which consequently have dire effects on the community at large.

There is evidence for existence of a strong relationship between the perceived justice and deviant behavior of the employees (Fox, Spector, & Miles, 2001). The dimension of the organizational justice perception are; Distributive justice, procedural justice and interactional justice (Aqunio, Lewis, & Bradfield, 1999). The distributive and procedural justice has been proven to have strong affiliation with the deviant behavior.

It is also revealed in a study by (Maher, 2003) that the every police departments have rules and policies for sexual impropriety. However there are hardly any written policies relating to the police sexual misconduct. In 2003 40 officers in St. Louis area police agencies, were explored and it was found that none of them had any written policies against the sexual misconduct. The study further revealed that the occurrences of sexual misconduct were very common but the sexual violent behaviors were still relatively few.


The sample size taken for this study is about 35 police officers. The relationship between the job disengagement and well being as a result of deviant behavior was explored through a questionnaire.

The professional of the police has a few similar characteristics throughout the world, it is stressful, tight paced, team oriented and prone to putting a lot of pressure on the employees. The aim of the questionnaire developed was to amply gauge how the employees deal with this intense stress and pressure at work. The questionnaire which was developed and administered to 35 police officials was developed post a thorough review of the literature and consultations with experts. An instructional guide to fill the questionnaire and a return envelop was also provided along with the questionnaire. The respondent gets to complete the questionnaire in its own convenience and time, that why the halo effect and other interviewer effects does not come in to play. (Bryman, 2004)


Deviant Behavior:

The work place deviance for this research paper was accessed through a measure of Bennett and Robinson's (2000). This measure basically took in to account 12 examples of organizational devianct behaviors including; “I have taken property from work to home without the conscent and knowledge of my coordinator”. The interpersonal deviances were also explored which comprised of 7 out of 12 items from the scale. It incorporated the questions like “made fun of somebody at work” and “I have exploited my authoritative position at work to gain personal interest”. The participants were asked to rate the behavior on a 5 point scale ranging from ‘never' to ‘often'. According to Benneett & Robinson (2000) the cronbach alpha was .81 for the organizational deviance and .78 for the interpersonal scale.

Well being of the Officer:

The well being was also measured with a 5 item scale to gauge its correlation with the deviant behavior of the officer. The questions in the measure included; “In most ways my life is close to my ideal” and “The conditions of my life are excellent”. The questions were taken from the satisfaction with life scale of Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin (1985). The subjective satisfaction and happiness is measured using a 7 point scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The Cronbach alpha was .87 (Segrin & Taylor, 2007).

It was found through our research that was negative correlation between the well being of the officer and the deviant behavior at work. It signifies that as the deviant behavior of the officer increases, the self well being depreciates and gets lower. It can also be deduced that if the well being of the officer is taken care of through various administrative ways then the deviant behavior of the police officials can be prevented.

Job disengagement:

A 17 item measure for measuring the job enagement/disengagement was used for this study. This measure was made by Schaufeli, Salanova, González-romá and Bakker in 2002. The scle on which the police officers rated was again a 7 point scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Example questions included in the scale were “When I get up in the morning, I feel like going to work”, “To me, my job is challenging” and “When I am working, I forget everything else around me”. The cronbach alpha was 0.79 which is very satisfactory (Schaufeli, Salanova, González-romá, & Bakker, 2002). The validity was proved through this.
It was found out through our research that the there was correlation between the job disengagement and the deviant behavior of the officials which proves the fact that the work productivity of the police officers is greatly reduced as a result of deviant behavior. It stresses the need to keep monitoring the deviant behavior of the officers to sustain and maintain the smooth functioning of the organization.


The primary and secondary both type of researches were made use of to get insight of the effects of deviant behavior of the policemen. The secondary research made a very good source of comparison for critical analysis. The subject area of our research greatly helped with the application of previous concepts, themes and issue of the deviant behavior of the policemen.

From our primary research it can be predicted that the job disengagement and the depreciating well being can easily be associated with the deviant behavior of the police officers. It is suggested to increase the perception of well being and encourage self monitoring in order to decrease the deviant behavior of the police officials. The probability of the workplace deviancy can be decreased with the help of inducing engagement. The humanistic welfare and compensation packages are regarded the best ways to induce the well being (Chang, 2008).


It has been proven through research that the social support from the supervisors and the colleagues, authority, learning and training, is positively correlated with the work engagement and thus works to reduce the potential of deviancy (Bakker & Demerouti, 2008).

Another set of recommendation were given by Walker and Irlbeck (2003) in which they gave suggestion to stop the curse of sexual abuse by the police officials. It promotes the idea of a strict policy and serious discipline measures will be met conviction of any kind of sexual abuse by the police officers. Their recommendation also suggested working on the principal of open and accessible complaint procedure. The filing of the complaint procedure should be made easy that way. It also stressed on the prompt and through investigation of allegation of sexual misconduct by the police officers.

There is evidence in a survey of 1999 that only 1/3rd of the US citizens held positive views about the local police department. The ratio of African American in relation to this aspect was even lower. The positive image of the police department and the reduction in the deviant behavior of the police can be achieved through a community oriented policing. Such initiatives are in execution; however more efforts can be made to enhance the relation between the community and the police. The relationship between the minorities and the police agencies can specially be strengthened this way (Thomas & Burns 2005).


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