U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Self-control and the Police Code of Silence: Examining the Unwillingness to Report Fellow Officers Misbehavior among a multi-agency sample of police recruits

NCJ Number
253476
Date Published
June 2018
Length
9 pages
Author(s)
Christopher M. Donner; Jon Maskaly; Kanani N. Thompson
Agencies
NIJ-Sponsored
Annotation
Although research has established that low self-control is significantly related to harmful police behavior, the authors believe this is the first study of which they are aware that has investigated the relationship between self-control and adherence to the police code of silence.
Abstract
Structural equation modeling was used to test the theoretical causal sequence linking self-control to the unwillingness of a police officer to report fellow officers' misbehavior among a multi-agency sample of 1,072 police recruits, while controlling for other factors associated with misconduct. Although the data provide some support for the general theory of crime, the findings suggest that attempting to explain police adherence to the code of silence is complex and multifaceted. Impulsivity/temper was the only self-control variable of the three tested to demonstrate a significant effect. Several other variables, including job satisfaction and cynicism, also significantly predicted the outcome of interest. Thus, self-control was found to be a multidimensional construct, and only the impulsivity/temper element was related to police recruits' unwillingness to report fellow officers' misconduct; however, other factors were also significant in predicting code adherence. This study offers insight into this important phenomenon and the findings suggest important policy implications for police administrators. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Created: July 20, 2021