Influential Women? Policing Styles in Online Recruitment Materials

Date01 March 2020
Published date01 March 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Influential Women?
Policing Styles in Online
Recruitment Materials
Michael F. Aiello
This article tests the temporal relationship between the representation of females in
policing and organizational change toward community-oriented policing. This mixed
methods study involves secondary data analysis of the 2013 Law Enforcement
Management and Administrative Statistics survey, open-source data collection of
online recruitment materials for 493 Law Enforcement Management and
Administrative Statistics agencies, quantitative content analysis of a random sample
of 131 departments, and Leximancer semantic mapping of the 493 departments’
materials. The two forms of content analysis focus on the particular emphases of
“legalistic,” “watchman,” and “service” styles. The quantitative content analysis
results largely support the temporal model, with the percent female sworn in a
given department in 2013 significantly predicting whether that department’s 2018
recruitment materials focus on service or community-oriented policing content. The
Leximancer semantic mapping results provide a more ambiguous picture, including
legalistic through-line language around police work.
women in policing, police recruitment, online, community policing, policing styles
Department of Sociocultural and Justice Sciences, State University of New York at Fredonia, NY, USA
Corresponding Author:
Michael F. Aiello, State University of New York at Fredonia, Fredonia, NY, USA.
Police Quarterly
2020, Vol. 23(1) 3–24
!The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1098611119870263
“Representation matters” is a modern adage associated with media representa-
tion of various minority groups. The concept focuses on the idea that modeling
partially dictates the aspirations of individuals in a mediated society. This proj-
ect is part of a larger body of scholarship investigating the gendered nature of
policing (e.g., Crank, 2014; Prokos & Padavic, 2002) and, more specif‌ically,
police recruitment (Aiello, 2019; Cordner & Cordner, 2011). While researchers
have begun to examine how police departments and human resources profes-
sions frame minimum sets of requirements as well as their ideal recruit via focus
groups (Inzunza, 2016), a large-scale study of how American law enforcement
agencies construct their occupation for potential applicants is missing.
Increasingly, police recruitment occurs online (Castaneda & Ridgeway,
2010). While several scholars investigated the socialization process of the
police academy (Chappell & Lanza-Kaduce, 2010; Prokos & Padavic, 2002;
Rossler & Suttmoeller, 2018), studies focused on this even earlier stage in the
recruitment and development process for police off‌icers are more limited. This
study f‌ills a gap in the literature on gender in policing, as well as police web
presence, by examining how departments frame their ideal recruit in their online
recruitment materials. This project builds on prior research on this topic involv-
ing limited sample sizes or a single methodological perspective (Aiello, 2014;
Jolicoeur & Grant, 2018). This undertaking relies on a mixed methods design,
involving open-source data collection, secondary data analysis, quantitative
content analysis, and Leximancer automatic semantic analysis, providing a mul-
tiangle investigation of this crucial and growing area of policy and research.
Literature Review
Policing Styles
As some important conceptual groundwork for this project, Wilson (1968) dis-
cussed several organizational differences between the “watchman,” “legalistic,”
and “service” styles of policing in the context of the 1960s, including where
agencies draw their recruitment pool as well as their training schedules. The
focus of this project is on the objectives of departments and the relative empha-
sis of law enforcement (legalistic), order maintenance (watchman), and service
(service) responsibilities. Wilson’s (1968) styles nicely f‌it three main eras of
policing, including the “Political Era” from the 1830s through the 1900s, the
“Professional Era” from the 1900s to the 1960s, and the “Community Policing
Era” or “New Policing Era” from the 1970s to today (Walker & Katz, 2017).
The legalistic style of law enforcement has the most direct connection to
Professional Era policing. This style of formalized, legal code enforcement-
focused policing has not disappeared, as more modern policing approaches
including zero-tolerance policing are built on this foundation. The watchman
4Police Quarterly 23(1)

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