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Attitudes of police officers toward offenders: implications for future training

Olga Soares Cunha (School of Psychology, Research Center in Psychology (CIPsi), University of Minho, Braga, Portugal) (North Lusíada University (Porto), Portugal)
Rui Abrunhosa Gonçalves (School of Psychology, Research Center in Psychology (CIPsi), University of Minho, Braga, Portugal)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 15 May 2017

Abstract

Purpose

Police officers’ attitudes toward criminals are critical to the justice system’s response to crime. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the attitudes toward offenders (ATOs) among police officers.

Design/methodology/approach

To assess police officers ATOs, the authors adapted the Attitudes Toward Prisoner scale to produce the ATO scale. The scale was completed by 431 male police officers in a Portuguese police institution.

Findings

The results revealed that police officers hold more negative ATOs than correctional officers and graduate students. Moreover, the results revealed significant differences in average ATO scores according to police officers’ age, years of service, marital status and education; namely, police officers who were older, married, less educated, and with more years of police service had more positive ATOs. However, the results revealed that these demographic factors had a limited value in predicting attitudes, as none of them emerged as a predictor of ATOs.

Originality/value

Nonetheless, considering the relevance of attitudes in law enforcement procedures, the implications for training police officers are provided, specifically using critical incident technique strategies.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This study was conducted at Psychology Research Centre (UID/PSI/01662/2013), University of Minho, and supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology and the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education through national funds and co-financed by FEDER through COMPETE2020 under the PT2020 Partnership Agreement (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007653). The study was also supported by Grant SFRH/BD/66110/2009 from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology awarded to the first author.

Citation

Cunha, O.S. and Gonçalves, R.A. (2017), "Attitudes of police officers toward offenders: implications for future training", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 40 No. 2, pp. 265-277. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-02-2016-0013

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited