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The basic principles and functions of personnel administration as applied in the field of criminal justice include recruiting, selecting, hiring, placing, evaluating, training, educating, dismissing, promoting, firing, and career development for law enforcement professionals. There are three major current issues in the field. The first major issue involves what educational requirements should there be for police officers. The second major issue is the prior misuse of females in law enforcement and how that can be remedied. The third major issue is sexual harassment and how it impacts criminal justice agencies. While there are, of course, other issues that impact personnel administration in criminal justice, these three topics help explain the historical evolution of criminal justice, as well as reflect the projected hopes for the field.
Whether or not police officers should have some form of higher education is a topic of longstanding interest in the criminal justice community. It is commonly understood that the turmoil of the 1960s, and some of the police misconduct that either occurred in reaction to that turmoil or was revealed by that turmoil, revealed a lack of professionalism among many police officers. It was believed that requiring police officers to have bachelor's degrees would have the effect of increasing professionalism. While it is certainly true that the 1960s brought about an increase in the push for higher education among criminal justice professionals, law enforcement professionals have actually been pushing for higher education requirements for almost two centuries. In 1829, Robert Peele was pushing for a professionally trained police force (Travis, 1995). August Vollmer, who is considered the father of modern policing, suggested that police officers needed college degrees in 1916 (Travis, 1995). In response to his urging, the University of California at Berkeley began to offer law-enforcement related courses (Travis, 1995). However, it was another fifteen years before anyone even suggested nationalized standards for police education (Travis, 1995).
Currently, most police departments have some type of policy requiring bachelor's degrees for police officers. Moreover, many of them have policies to promote further education for current officers. Many people, including people in the criminal justice community, continue to question whether post-secondary education is necessary for an effective police force. Certainly, one cannot equate a bachelor's degree with professionalism. However, a higher education can be a means to achieving the goal of greater professionalism. In order to achieve that goal, it is important that criminal justice students learn from people who are examples of professionalism in the field, as well as learning textbook information about criminal justice.
For example, ethics constitute a huge part of the formal education for someone seeking a degree in criminal justice. On paper, the appropriate method to use may seem easy to choose, not only because some behaviors are illegal, but also because they are unethical. Torture is one of those scenarios. However, the reality of law enforcement in a post 9-11 world demonstrates that many in law enforcement were vulnerable to the idea that torture could be necessary in order to save lives. Requiring law enforcement professionals to have a bachelor's education would greatly increase the likelihood that police officers would not only understand the rules, but also the reasons behind those rules. For example, torture is prohibited by the Constitution. However, torture has also proven notoriously unreliable in uncovering reliable information, because people will provide false confessions to stop torture when it is occurring. What this example demonstrates is that law enforcement professionals are often confronted with difficult decisions in the field. Ensuring that they understand the reasoning behind professional rules, and not simply the rules themselves, may make them more likely to adhere to these professional rules.
A second major issue for modern criminal justice agencies is how they can remedy the past mistreatment of female officers. Like the issue of whether or not police officers should be required to have college degrees, the historical treatment of female officers is an issue that involves professionalism and changing cultural and professional norms. In the past, policing was considered a male profession. It was believed that female officers would not have the physical strength to perform the more demanding parts of the job. However, the sexist orientation of many police department hiring policies was not based only on ideas of physical strength; women were seen as more emotional than men, which may have contributed to a belief that they would not be able to handle the more emotionally taxing parts of the job.
While law enforcement has been a male-dominated profession since it came into being, it would be erroneous to assume that women have played no role in law enforcement. Women have been part of law enforcement in the United States for years, though their roles were historically marginalized. For example, prior to departments instating death benefits, some departments would hire widows to replace a dead officer's salary. In other areas, women were hired as prison matrons. However, the greatest initial role that women officers played in police departments was to act as social workers, even if not officially designated as such. Women were often involved in domestic abuse and child abuse cases, sense the sphere of womanhood was seen to encompass family and children (See generally, Feminist Majority Foundation, 2009). Modern criminal justice organizations can correct for this historic maltreatment by ensuring that their departments do not overtly or subtly push women to be involved in "feminine" units, like sex crimes, domestic violence, or child abuse. This may seem self-explanatory; however personnel administrators in the criminal justice field want to find the best candidates for each individual position, which may make them vulnerable to the same gender stereotyping that led to discrimination against female police officers in the past.
Another way that female officers have been mistreated is by assumptions that their salary is less important to a family than a male officer's salary. During the Great Depression, in policing, as well as in many other professions, males were seen as breadwinners, while working women were seen as competition for a family's well-being. This meant that a woman who was equally situated with a male would probably not get a job, because of perceptions that males needed jobs more. In a time when so many households are headed by single mothers and when most families need two wage-earners, this type of mistreatment seems unlikely. However, perceptions about gender roles in private life continue to influence employment decisions. A personnel administrator must be careful to avoid hiring or promoting a male because he perceives that person as a breadwinner in contrast to a female candidate. Furthermore, personnel administrators have to avoid paternalistic protectionist policies, which would prevent females from taking riskier jobs because of a perceived risk to the family unit in the event that mom was injured or killed.
Obviously, correcting for the past mistreatment of female officers is interrelated to the third major issue facing criminal justice personnel administrators: sexual harassment policies. Sexual harassment is different in the police officer's world than it is in almost any other profession, except perhaps active duty military. Policing is an extremely stressful profession, which takes its toll on personal relationships, so that police officers of both sexes seem to be more prone to extramarital affairs and more vulnerable to divorce than the average member of the community. Moreover, because police officers often work together in stressful, but intimate scenarios, it is easy to see how romantic relationships can develop. However, the stress of policing can also bring out some of the worst behavior, making law enforcement personnel particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment:
can include "sexual harassment" or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person's sex…harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (2011).
Most personnel administrators are aware that quid pro quo sexual harassment where an officer or candidate is either promised rewards or threatened as an incentive to perform sexual acts, is prohibited. Furthermore, it is almost inconceivable that a person in today's modern workforce would be unaware that such harassment is illegal. However, what personnel administrators must understand is that sexual harassment is about gender, not about intercourse. This has, historically, been a challenge for people. Sexual harassment seemed like something that had to occur between members of the opposite sex, or, if between same-sex members be linked to some type of homosexual behavior. However, the reality is that any gender-oriented behavior that makes a workplace a hostile work environment can qualify as sexual harassment.
Furthermore, solving the problem of sexual harassment is more complex than simply educating employees about sexual harassment and establishing an open door policy for complaints. Police culture discourages reporting other officers for…[continue]
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