Title: De weg naar politionele integriteit. Een longitudinaal onderzoek naar de ontwikkeling van ethische competentie bij aspirant-inspecteurs.
Other Titles: The road to police integrity. A longitudinal study of the police recruits' ethical competency development.
Authors: De Schrijver, Annelies
Issue Date: 22-Sep-2014
Abstract: Ethical competency of police officers is crucial in light of the police organization’s legitimacy. Ethical competency refers to clusters of specific knowledge, skills and attitudes, brought together in a two-dimensional matrix. Twelve sub-dimensions of ethical competency are distinguished. The four rows represent sub-competencies inspired by James Rest’s Four Component Model: (1) rule abidance, (2) moral sensitivity, (3) moral reasoning, and (4) moral motivation and character. These four rows are combined with three columns representing the components of competency: (1) knowledge, (2) skills, and (3) attitudes. This is an ambitious set of elements which most new police officers possess insufficiently. The selection procedures of the police organization can focus on it, but police training should still play a socializing role in ethical competency development. Police officers must familiarize themselves with their new work environment and powers, and they need to learn how to deal with moral dilemmas arising thereof. Based on a longitudinal mixed method study of a cohort of police recruits at six police academies, this project aimed to understand the impact of the socialization process on ethical competency in three socialization phases: the theoretical training at the police academy, the field training in a local police force, and the first year experience in a police service. There were three objectives which are discussed below. First, this study aimed to describe the attention paid to integrity in the organizational contexts of the recruits. Qualitative observations of the integrity training sessions were used, combined with interviews with recruits, police officers, heads of police academies and teachers. The results suggest minor attention. It appears that the police academies, and police services limit their attention to legally imposed instruments. Moreover, these instrument are mainly used from a compliance perspective. All police academies need to teach a course about police integrity. They all do this, but the content and the approach differs substantially. Second, this study aimed to describe ethical competency development. A standardized survey was used, which was administered at four points in time. The analyses were at first instance done for all recruits together. It shows that recruits’ level of knowledge increases during theoretical training, and to a lesser extent during field training. After graduation from the police academy, the recruits’ level of knowledge remains stable. The development of the skills is non-existent; there is mainly stability in the scores throughout the entire socialization period. The analyses of the attitudes show a greater diversity: some scores increase (e.g. autonomy), while others decrease (e.g. cognitive empathy) during the theoretical training. There are equally varying trends during field training: some scores increase (e.g. cognitive empathy), while others decrease (e.g. attitudes towards rules). During the first year as sworn police officers, the attitudes are predominantly stable. To conclude, the results show much change in the elements of ethical competency during police academy training, especially during the initial theoretical training. Already at that point in time, recruits seem to be effected by internal solidarity (i.e. the willingness to protect co-workers) as a characteristic of police culture, though there is a gradual increase. The results suggest a willingness of recruits to conceal co-workers misbehavior at the beginning of their police training. These global developmental trends of the ethical competency elements, were at second instance analyzed for each police academy specifically. Despite some notable differences between the academies in attention paid to integrity, the differences in ethical competency (development) between them are rather limited. Third, this study aimed to identify the factors in police training that might impact the ethical competency development. To answer this research question, the qualitative and quantitative data were combined. The analyses suggest some potential explanations for developmental trends and differences between the academies. Yet, most academy differences could not be explained, as recruits are exposed to a multitude of influences during their socialization process. At this point, more research is needed.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Leuven Institute of Criminology (LINC)

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