The integrity of police officers may be shaped more by a department’s culture and clearly defined policies than by an agency’s ability to hire the “right” people, says a study funded by the U.S. National Institute of Justice, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A department’s reaction to reports of misconduct goes a long way toward creating an environment of integrity, say researchers. “Officers learn to evaluate the seriousness of various types of misconduct by observing their department’s behavior in detecting and disciplining it,” the report says.
St. Louis Police Chief Joseph Mokwa said his department acts swiftly and consistently to serious misconduct to send a signal to his officers and the community. “How you handle discipline is the most important way to communicate your priorities,” Mokwa said. Three criminal justice professors wrote the study after surveying 3,235 officers from 30 police agencies across the nation. The authors were the late Carl B. Klockars of the University of Delaware; Sanja Kutnjak Ivkovich, an assistant professor of criminology at Florida State University; and Maria R. Haberfeld, an associate professor of police science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.