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Two Case Studies for Police Officers

In life there are a lot of issues that involve social psychology. Being a police officer is a profession that encounters a lot of social psychology issues. One issue that all police officers have to encounter is prejudice. Police officers have to not be prejudiced against the citizens that they are trying to protect and serve the criminals that they must apprehend and also against each other. Two case studies that will be discussed are prejudice against female police officers by their male counterparts and racial prejudice against potential criminals.

You’re a female cop. You arrive to your precinct fifteen minutes before you scheduled time to prepare yourself for the day, and you patiently wait for your partner to arrive. Fifteen minutes after your scheduled time, your partner shows up. Although he did not call ahead of time, your captain did not reprimand him for his actions. You get mad at this because, just last week when you did call and say you would be a little late, you still got yelled at by the same captain for being late and your job position was threatened.

As you’re out on patrol, you noticed a small brawl between two men starting to form in front of a corner store. You inform your partner about the possible fight and instruct him to pull over so you can see what’s going on. As the two of you get out of the car he says, “You should stay in the car there could be weapons involved and I don’t know if you can handle that. ” You inform him that you have been working for the police force for over six years and have had to deal with situations far worse than this. He then tells you that this is a man’s job and if he needs help he will call you for back up.

Instead of fighting with him, you get back in the car even madder because of the comments he made about you. You sit in the car thinking if you were another male cop then it would not have been a problem, but since you are a female, there is a stereotype set upon you that you are weaker then he is and could not handle the situation. While thinking about this, you notice in the rearview mirror that your partner seems to be having some problems. As you get out of the car, you call for some backup just in case the situation gets out of hand.

As you rush to his aid, he falls to the ground after being struck by one of the assailants. After a short fight between the two assailants and yourself, you gain control of the situation, and arrest both of the men. As soon as everything becomes under your control, your partner regains consciousness, and backup arrives. Although the crowd around you all praised you for your quick thinking and courage, your fellow officers didn’t acknowledge the fact that you did this alone. Upon arriving back at the precinct with the two suspects and your partner, you immediately are called into the captain’s office.

Thinking that you are going to get a little praise from the captain, you instead are reprimanded for not being at your partner’s side from the start, and then for taking control of a public situation with no other back up than yourself. As your captain is yelling at you, you noticed your partner telling the story making him out to be the hero and you to be nothing. Everyone was praising him for his courage when you in fact know the hero of the story was yourself. After you are yelled at, you captain tells you to do the paper work for the arrest and says that you are not to go back on the street for the rest of your shift.

Your partner is then partnered up with someone else and goes back out on the street. After your shift is over and you are preparing to go home, you overhear some officers talking about celebrating after work with a couple of beers. You start to ask about where they are going and they tell you that you are not invited because it is a boy’s night out. Not only do you feel left out, but also you feel invisible to them and to everyone else. As a female police officer there are a lot of social psychology issues that one must deal with.

Such issues as discrimination, stereotyping, prejudice, and sexism are all things that a female police officer must be aware of. Discrimination, defined as: Negative behavior directed against people because of their membership to a particular group. (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 2005) Many of the male counterparts in the police force will discriminate against women because they are female. Being a member of the female group, may complicate many things for a female’s police experience. Prejudice defined as: Negative feelings toward people because of their membership in certain groups.

Prejudice is very similar to discrimination, but the fact that the male counterparts may have these prejudiced beliefs about women because they are a female, will impact their actions towards the female officer. Stereotyping defined as: A belief that associates a group of people with certain traits. (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 2005). There are a lot of negative stereotypes associated with being a woman such as being weaker than men and less intelligent. These stereotypes will greatly hinder a female officer’s ability to prove themselves to these male counterparts.

These issues all came up in the situation that was presented earlier. When the male partner told the female partner to stay in the car, the female was encountering all of these behaviors. However, these are not the only psychological factors you will have to deal with. When the male police officers decide to exclude a female officer from social behaviors they may experience Relative Deprivation. Relative Deprivation is when someone may have feelings of discontent aroused by the belief that one faces poorly compared with others.

Being excluded from activities could lead to this feeling because as a female officer, one already has to work harder than the men, but if after all of that hard work there is no positive reinforcement, the female officer may feel as though they do not belong or that they are not good enough. Being left out may also lead to low levels of self-esteem. Self-esteem is an important part of one’s self. It is a person’s positive and negative self-evaluations, how a person feels about themselves. (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 2005).

Not being included in activities and being made to feel not worthy can greatly affect a person’s self-esteem. A person that has low self-esteem will have a much lower self image of themselves and that then may effect how that person reacts in certain situations. If a female police officer has low self-esteem it could lead to the self-fulfilling prophecy. A self-fulfilling prophecy is the process by which one’s expectations about another person eventually lead that person to behave in ways that confirm those expectations. (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 2005).

If a male police officer expects a female police officer to be inferior and treats her that way, after a while, the female police officer will begin to act inferiorly and then confirm the male officer’s expectations. Many female officers experience sexism in the work force. Sexism is a form of prejudice that is based on a person’s gender. (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 2005). Being discriminated against because of one’s gender is a very difficult thing to deal with. A person cannot change their gender so sexism is a discrimination that a person cannot avoid.

One of the main reasons that there is so much sexism in the police force is because there are very few women that are involved in the force. According to the Bureau of Investigation in 1970 only 2% of the police force was women, and as of 1991, the percentage only rose to 9%. (Bureau of Investigation, 1991). There a few reasons that there are very few women in the police force. Women are discouraged more than encouraged to join. Family members along with society often discourage women from being officers and encourage them more to be nurses, childcare workers, and teachers.

Because of the stereotype that women have they are expected to go into jobs that are more stereotypically female. Being a police officer is not one of those jobs since it has been dominated by men since the beginning. Another situation that many police officers must face is prejudice when dealing with a suspect. Certain stereotypes come into play when police officers must analyze and or apprehend a suspect. Here is the scenario. You and your have just finished a really great mean at a local diner, where you watched a football game and your favorite team won.

After leaving the dinner you see an elderly woman lying on the ground surrounded by spectators. As you arrive at the scene, you notice that no one has called for help or done anything to revive the woman. Everyone is just sort of standing around, talking and looking at each other, saying that someone should help her. You check the woman’s pulse and tell one of the bystanders to call for help. You take off your jacket and put it under her head for support. You as the some of the bystanders what happened and they reply that the woman had been mugged by a young Hispanic male.

Your partner sees a young Hispanic male who seems as though he fits the description of the attacker walking, down the street, away from the area where the mugging took place. Your partner yells for the individual to stop walking and to wait for him to come over to talk with him. The young man stops immediately, but does not turn around to face the officer. As your partner gets closer to the individual, the young man panics and takes off down the street, but only runs a few feet before he stops again.

Your partner asks the suspect if he has any weapons on him, why did the suspect run away, where he has been tonight, and what has he been doing. The suspect gives short nervous answers but swears he was walking home from a friend’s house and knows nothing of a mugging or the elderly woman. Your partner becomes agitated with the suspect and yells at him to stop lying to him or he will throw him in jail. Your partner handcuffs the subject and brings him to a squad car to be taken down to the station for further questioning. There are a lot of social psychology issues involved with this situation.

Many of these issues have to do with prejudice where as many others have to do with other social psychological issues. When the officers first arrived at the scene, no one was helping the woman; they were simply standing around waiting for someone else to help. This situation is called the diffusion of responsibility. The diffusion of responsibility is the belief that others will or should take the responsibility for providing assistance to a person in need. (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 2005). As a police officer you are the person that others turn to, to take that responsibility.

People will stand by and not help, because they are waiting for someone who has more authority to do so. In this instance the bystanders should have acted but instead waited for your arrival. Another factor is a theory called Pluralistic ignorance. Pluralistic Ignorance is the state in which people mistakenly believe that their own thoughts and feelings are different from the group’s even though everyone else’s behavior is the same. (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 2005). These people may have thought that they needed to act, that someone needed to help the elderly woman.

However, no one wanted to step forward and go against the group. People do not want to alienate themselves from the group, even when it comes to doing the right thing. When combined the theories of Pluralistic Ignorance and Diffusion of Responsibility makeup the Bystander effect. The bystander effect is when the mere presence of a few other people will inhibit a person from helping someone else in need. Helping is a five step helping process and if any of the steps are missed, then the victim will not be helped. (Latane and Darley, 1970).

The five steps are as follows: Notice that something is happening, interpret the event as an emergency, take responsibility for providing help, decide how to help, and provide help. (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 2005). These steps are crucial to helping in an emergency situation. The Bystander effect corresponds the most with step 3 in the steps of helping. People do not take responsibility for the event and just wait for others to help, either because they think that someone else is responsible, or so that they do not go against the group.

A police officer needs to be ready and willing to help another person in any situation, despite the cost of helping or whatever outcome that helping may or may not have. (Batson, 1991) A police officer needs to be altruistic not egotistic. Being altruistic is when a person is motivated by the desire to increase another’s welfare, whereas being egotistic a person is motivated by the desire to increase one’s own welfare. (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 2005). Police officers must always be altruistic. A police officer cannot worry about what is best for them in a certain situation; instead they must do what is best for everyone.

Another factor that plays a role in being a police officer, is that sometimes people are not in good moods, and not being in a good mood hinders a person’s desire to help others. As a police officer, it does not matter if one is in a good mood or not, they must help other people despite the mood that they are in. The good mood effect is the effect where being in a good mood increases the likelihood of helping others. (Cunningham, 1979). Being in a good mood on the job has show to increase many positive behaviors such as helping others or making the correct decisions.

Since the two officers had had a good meal, and watched their favorite team win a game, they were put in a good mood. If the police officers were regular citizens, this good mood would have increased their likelihood to help. Since they are police officers, however, they did not have a choice of whether or not to help. However, police officers should do all that they can to keep themselves in good moods, so as not to hinder their desire to help others, because it is their job to help either way.

Being in a good mood increases helpfulness because people will want to maintain their good mood, they have more positive expectations about the outcome of helping others and they have more positive thoughts. (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 2005). When one of the officers sees the young Hispanic male, he follows him because of a few different social psychology theories. Stereotyping, Generalizing, and Cultivation are the three main psychological theories that come into play in this situation. Stereotyping is the belief that associates a group of people with certain traits.

As the female police officers were discriminated against because they were members of the female group, some minorities are discriminated against because they are in a certain minority group. The police officer in this situation did not analyze if this man could be the suspect, he simply judged based on the man’s race and ethnicity. Also, cultivation which is the process by which the mass media constructs a version of social reality for the public (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 2005), comes into play.

Since people see all of these images on television, the general public has come to believe that most criminals are from a minority group, thus making stereotyping even more of an issue. When the suspect is finally apprehended many issues come into play. The two main theories that could be used when the suspect is being questioned by the officer are the self-fulfilling prophesy and the illusionary correlation. The self-fulfilling prophesy comes into play, because since the officer already has beliefs about this suspect he will treat the suspect a certain way.

The way that the officer asks the suspect the questions, may lead the suspect to act in a different manner than he normally would have, and if the suspect acts the way that the police officer expected him too, because of his race, then the theory of self-fulfilling prophesy is very present. Also, the illusionary correlation, which is when a person over-estimates the association between variables that are only slightly or not at all related, (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 2005), may have come into play.

Since the officer already used prejudice to associate the man with the crime, the fact that he is Hispanic and was nearby may make him a suspect, but there is no hard evidence. As a police officer there are a lot of social psychological factors that come into play every day. You must constantly be helping people, not discriminating, unbiased in every way, and of course keeping an open mind at all times. All of the theories presented here should be taught to police officers, while they are in training, to help them to be able to handle these situations if any arise.

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