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Gender Differences in Officer Attitude and Behavior: Providing Comfort to Citizens

NCJ Number
Women & Criminal Justice Volume: 15 Issue: 3/4 Dated: 2004 Pages: 1-32
Date Published
32 pages

This study identified any differences in how male and female police officers respond to citizens in providing comfort.


Data were collected as part of the Project on Policing Neighborhoods. Both observational and attitudinal data were collected from officers in Indianapolis, IN, in 1996 and St. Petersburg, FL, in 1997. Observational data consisted of "ride-alongs" by trained observers during officers' normal duties. Attitudinal data were obtained through survey interviews administered to all but a few officers at each research site. The two research sites differed in how they implemented community policing principles, being problem-driven in Indianapolis and neighborhood focused in St. Petersburg. The dependent variable was a measure of whether the officer provided comfort to the citizen during an encounter. Independent variables were officer attitudes, officer characteristics, citizen characteristics, the provision of comfort when observers (audience) were present, and officer and citizen sex. The findings indicate that neither officer attitudes nor behavior could be distinguished by sex. Rather, other important variables interacted with sex to explain attitude and behavior, such as the variables of race, education, and community policing assignment. Situational factors were most important in determining officer behavior. The presence of additional officers decreased the likelihood of comforting behavior by officers, but the presence of additional citizens increased the likelihood that an officer would display comforting behavior. Overall, these findings indicate that female officers tend to think and act similarly to male officers, and some variables interact with sex to affect behavior; however, there is no evidence that women are better or worse than men in the tasks of enforcing the law. 4 tables, 1 figure, 14 notes, and 41 references

Date Published: January 1, 2004