A Longitudinal Study of the Effects of Academy Socialization on Police Integrity

Date01 December 2021
Published date01 December 2021
Subject MatterArticles
A Longitudinal Study of
the Effects of Academy
Socialization on Police
Amie M. Schuck
Cara E. Rabe-Hemp
The objective of this study was to examine changes in American recruits’ percep-
tions of the seriousness of behaviors related to police integrity from the beginning to
the end of their academy training. Using a sample of 655 recruits from multiple
academies in the United States, multilevel growth models were used. The results
showed that the recruits rated scales related to misconduct, code of silence, and a
noble cause less seriously at the end than at the beginning of their training. The
results also showed that ethics training mitigated the effects of socialization, while
organizational injustice intensified the effects of socialization. Female recruits rated
the behaviors more seriously at the beginning and the end of training compared to
male recruits. The results confirm the role of the academy in socializing officers into
the negative aspects of the traditional police culture and highlight important avenues
for police reform.
code of silence, corruption, female officers, integrity, misconduct, noble cause,
organizational justice, police misconduct, training
University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois, United States
Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, United States
Corresponding Author:
Amie M. Schuck, 1007 West Harrison St., Chicago, IL 60607, United States.
Email: amms@uic.edu
Police Quarterly
!The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10986111211029958
2021, Vol. 24(4) 578 –606
Schuck and Rabe-Hemp 579
Police integrity is “the normative inclination among police to resist temptations
to abuse the rights and privileges of their occupation” (Klockars et al., 2007,
p. 1). The perception that police lack integrity is a substantial barrier to building
constructive police–community partnerships and maintaining public trust in the
police (Gaffigan & McDonald, 1997). Integrity is a feature of both an officer
and an agency. Research on officer integrity generally focuses on studying
correlates of moral attitudes, acts of corruption, and general misconduct
(Chappell & Piquero, 2004; Donner et al., 2016; Donner & Jennings, 2014;
Pogarsky & Piquero, 2004; Wolfe & Piquero, 2011). Research on agency integ-
rity often compares integrity levels across police organizations and within
departments across operational units (Alain et al., 2020; Maska
´ly et al., 2020)
and concentrates on the degree to which leaders communicate and enforce rules
and the willingness of employees to actively participate in helping maintain
standards (Klockars et al., 2007; Skolnick, 2002). While scholarship on police
integrity has helped inform public policy (US Department of Justice, 2001), to
sustain high ethical standards for officers and law enforcement agencies, there is
an urgent need for additional research aimed at refining our understanding of
the formation of police attitudes toward integrity.
The aim of this study is to examine the effect of socialization during academy
training on recruits’ perceptions of the seriousness of behaviors related to police
integrity. Research shows that officers’ attitudes regarding the seriousness of
integrity behaviors are one of the strongest predictors of their willingness to
report misconduct (Kutnjak Ivkovi
c et al., 2013, 2018). Occupational socializa-
tion is the process of acquiring and internalizing the beliefs, values, norms, and
techniques of a profession (J. E. Van Maanen & Schein, 1977). It is how an
apprentice learns the skills necessary to become a capable and productive
member of the occupation and is generally divided into six stages: anticipatory
socialization, career selection, introduction to the occupation and initial social-
ization, real-world experiences, metamorphosis into a full member of the occu-
pation, and continuing commitment (Moore, 1969; Sherman, 1982).
In law enforcement, the socialization process includes learning laws, proce-
dures, and methods as well as internalizing attitudes about the public and police
that are congruous with those of other members of the organization. The social-
ization process during academy training is envisioned as a process of personal
metamorphosis (Chan et al., 2003; Sherman, 1982; Van Maanen, 1973), whereby
a civilian is transformed into a street cop. However, this metamorphosis may
not always be positive. Conventional wisdom suggests that most new recruits
enter the occupation with noble ideals and high expectations; however, by the
time they start working on the street, many would have embraced the negative
aspects of the “canteen subculture,” including cynicism, suspicion, racial dis-
crimination, and deviant practices (McNamara, 1967; Muir, 1977; Sherman,
1982; Skolnick, 1966; Van Maanen, 1973; Waddington, 1999; Westley, 1970).
Using data collected from 655 recruits in the United States, this study examines
2Police Quarterly 0(0)

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