The Working Personality of Police Officers

The following post was written by Ann Freeman at

“If the system turns away from the abuses inflicted on the guilty, then who can be next but the innocents?”― Michael Connelly,

Many are faced with issues of police brutality, as reported across the United States. As to give you an idea of how this can occur, it is my goal for every American to be warned of the police officer, and the working personality. I will explore the reasons behind this, as well as show how this can occur. This is every citizen’s nightmare, to be faced with a brutal officer, regardless of gender. No officer is immune to this problem, however, it is a choice that one makes.

To get a better picture of what this really means, we will investigate this through JEROME SKOLNICK’S THEORY of working personality. Jerome Skolnick, a criminologist, wrote a book in 1966 called, “Justice Without Trial: Law Enforcement in Democratic Society,” and the focus was on police work, in a very challenging time. This book came about when violence was at its peak, against civil liberties in the United States, in the 1960’s.

As it is explained “Jerome Skolnick’s theory originated by looking at the subculture of police and its effects on police deception. He began by analyzing the three elements that create the policeman’s “working personality”; they are danger, authority, and efficiency (Skolnick, 1966). Skolnick explains there are “distinct cognitive tendencies” in police as an occupational grouping. This analysis can be found similar among departments across the country and across the world (Skolnick, 1966). This “working personality” creates the subculture of the police, which Skolnick continually refers to.”

This theory can be most shocking to those who have witnessed, been a victim of, or read many police abuse stories across the United States, recently. You will find that any attempts to curb this problem have failed, and the problem continues to flourish today. This can be most dangerous to citizens within any community where their departments have exhibited this type of behavior.

Let’s take a look at these elements: “The “working personality” develops with the element of danger. This makes the policeman constantly aware of those who may break the law. This results in the policeman becoming a suspicious person. This causes them to be less likely to develop friendships with any civilians who they may see as a potential lawbreaker.

The element of authority combined with danger can isolate the policeman. Authority can cause the citizens that the officer must protect, to see him as an outsider to their community” (Skolnick, 2000).

This can be very dangerous, because police officers are to have the connection with the community to help provide information on crimes that happen within the community. However, when an officer of that community has committed acts of violence against citizens, and gets away with it, then the community has lost all respect for the officer, and the department within that community. This poses a problem for more crime to be committed with the lack of public outraged. Far too many citizens are afraid of their own police department.

As Skolnick further states, “Deception is considered by the police to be acceptable in many aspects of their job. A cop learns to back up the stories colleagues tell to superiors and investigators; in turn he is confident colleagues will back him up (Skolnick, 2000). This is sometimes referred to as the “blue wall of silence.” A police officer may find himself stuck between the “blue wall of silence” and the need to notify his or her superiors of any police misconduct. An officer does not want to tell on another officer and be labeled a “rat”. This label can follow an officer for the length of his/her career if he or she would choose to reveal information about a co-worker and their misconduct. Skolnick states that the blue wall of silence can cover-up and possibly encourage violations of civil rights and small less extreme incidents of violence and abuse. These actions may only be uncovered if there is pressure from an internal investigation or the threat of prosecution (Skolnick, 2000).”

We have seen this common appearance far too often in many court cases across America. The most famous case of our time is the case of Daniel Harless who berated a citizen, and threatened the citizen with death. This officer was never convicted of his crime, and was fired, however, is still trying to seek his position back. The City of Canton, the City Council President, as well as other officers justified this officer’s actions, until the citizen was acquitted. Daniel Harless’ partner even lied on a sworn statement, and if was revealed during Mr. Bartlett’s trial, though he wasn’t charged with perjury. This shows the deception between these two men, and how far they would take it. Daniel Harless is a true example of working personality, as well as his partner in law enforcement. We see officers every day that commit verbal abuse, disrespect of the citizen, seeing all citizens as criminals, and ultimately police brutality. If Daniel Harless was not removed from the police force, it would be evident that he would have committed a very serious crime, by abusing his victims, or possible murder.

These officers have been seen all across the United States, and it is still the police policing their own. If the department is corrupt, and covers these types of incidents, then the community is still unsafe from their own officers. It’s hard enough to protect yourself against criminals, but to have your police department partake of criminal activity is even more frightening. It is up to the citizens to demand accountability of the officers, the department, and the City as a whole. Without citizen accountability, these acts of violence shall continue, and more innocent citizens will be found at the mercy of officers with working personality. Officers can lie about what had taken place during an investigation, or police call, and the Prosecutor will hold that Officers word over any citizen, regardless if its truth or not. We have found this to be true when the Stark County Sheriff arrested a victim of rape, and stripped searched her after her arrest. This was the case of Hope Steffey. As Hope Steffey had settled out of court for what has taken place with her situation, Mr. Bartlett is now in Federal Court for his lawsuit against the city.

More needs to be done with officers who exhibit signs of such, and it is only psychological evaluations that can provide this information. I believe that all police officers should have to take continued psychological evaluations during their career to safe guard the community against such officers who have found themselves with this problem. It is vital for the police departments to hold their officers accountable by the code, and ethics they have sworn by, and to remove those who pose harm to innocent citizens. However, the only way that this can happen is by the community coming together, and demand accountability within their communities departments.

After all, it is the citizen’s tax dollars that pay out because of these horrific crimes by police officers. It is this writers belief that not only should the City be held accountable, but also the Department, as well as the Officer. Why should our tax dollars pay for crimes that were committed by the Police Department? And why aren’t many of these Officers charged with their crimes? These are the questions that the citizens should demand answers for, among many other questions. There are many low cost methods of Community involvement that can help reduce these problems, but you won’t find these in certain cities, such as Canton, Ohio. As long as this community does not take action against the problems with their departments, then this will continue, and we might even see an escalation in violence by the Officers.

Programs that the department can implement are Community Watch Programs with meetings with the citizens. Another great program is “Community-Oriented Programs with the Goals: To provide a 24-hour a day liaison between police and the community to prevent crime. To change the image of police, so they would be viewed as people who can help those in trouble and as people who can be trusted. This can bring back the relationship of the department and the community. Unit Beat Policing and their Goals: To promote closer contact, deliver better service, improve information flow, overcome the shortage of officers by combining resources, and create a new challenge for officers, particularly younger officers” (Trojanowicz , Pollard , Colgan & Harden, 1986). Another great program is Citizen Review Board. This concept allows selected citizens to sit on the board to hear situations of Police Officers misconduct. All of these concepts, and more, are great to bring the community back to having a relation within the police department. However, the lesson learned is that once the community has lost trust with its own department, it is very difficult to build that trust again.


Skolnick, Jerome H. (1966). Justice without trial. John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Skolnick, Jerome H (2000). Code Blue. The American Prospect. 11(10) March 27- April 10

Trojanowicz , R. C., Pollard , B., Colgan, F., & Harden, H. (1986).

Community policing programs a twenty-year view . NATIONAL NEIGHBORHOOD FOOT PATROL CENTER Publications, Retrieved from



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