It will be the intention of this essay to answer the question, ' "can psychology help the Bobby on the Beat?" Answer this question referring to aggression, non-verbal behaviour and stress'. The areas of aggression, non-verbal behaviour and stress have all been the focus of a great deal work by psychologists over the years. In the very short scope of this essay it would not be possible to cover all of these areas. As such, I will divide this article into four distinct stages. Firstly, I will discuss aggression and in particular how the Bobby on the Beat can exhibit aggression.I will then examine non-verbal behaviour, again focusing on the officer and the factors that surround their display of non-verbal behaviour.
I will then consider the effect the police uniform, the proxemics and gesturing used by an officer, might have on the people with whom they interact. Concentrating on stress, this paper will consider why police officers may become stressed, the police culture and its relationship to stress and finally how stressors can have an adverse affect on the health and well being of the Bobby on the Beat. In conclusion, I will draw on the content of this essay in deciding how psychology can assist the Bobby on the Beat, if at allMost psychological research in the area of aggression has focused on how and why people are aggressive in society, but very few have aimed at police aggression. It is accepted that the police have to meet aggression full in the face on a daily basis, but there is outrage if it is the police themselves that use such behaviour.
Tourists to, and other law enforcement officers from outside of, the United Kingdom are often surprised to discover that the British 'Booby on the Beat' does not carry a firearm. Recent calls for, and poles which have looked at, whether the British police should be armed, should make note of the negative effects that this may have on police-public relations. Empirical research conducted by Boyanowsky and Griffiths(1982) found that officers, who were wearing sunglasses and carrying a firearm openly, whilst issuing a traffic ticket or conducting a roadside check, were perceived more negatively. In fact, the motorists who were informed that they would be receiving a ticket expressed the most anger on their faces and reported more aggression from the officer.
Such inadvertent and probably unintentional display of aggression is just one example that the 'Bobby on the Beat' can learn from. As the risk of violence and the criminal use of firearms increases, the supply of personal safety equipment such as CS spray, side handled batons and overt stab-proof and ballistic vests are being issued. The 'Bobby on the Beat' now resembles 'Robocop' more than 'Dixon of Dock Green'.If we consider how open and approachable a police officer will act when conducting a school crossing patrol, comparing this to the authoritative and forceful behaviour that will be displayed when arresting a violent offender. But how will the officer be greeted in light of this new 'Robocop' style image.
The officer will still be friendly and approachable when dealing with school children, but may be seen as more of a threat, outside of a pub, dealing with the violent offender. Let us consider if an officer took a different approach to the latter. An understanding of what makes people aggressive; identifying aggressive situations and recognising how their own appearance and behaviour affects such an incident, may allow the officer to adopt a different approach. An approach that was open and aimed at avoiding an altercation may negate a physical confrontation, run the risk of assault and allegations being made against them.
One of the popular theories put forward by psychologists as to what causes aggression is that people experience frustration, which manifests itself into anger and ultimately aggression. We have to remember that police officers themselves suffer frustrations in the same way as other occupational groups. They suffer pressures at home, financially and emotionally and may react to these frustrations, and emotional feelings with anger and aggression.Other work related stressors, associated with increased interpersonal aggression, were identified by Chen and Spector (1982) during their survey of white-collar workers. These were:* Role ambiguity* Role conflict* Interpersonal conflict* Situational constraintsAlthough this study was not directed at the police service, the above factors appear as major elements of police work and stressors. If officers allow such stress to get on top of themselves, then maybe this will go some in explaining why certain officers act aggressively at certain times.
A police officer is one of the few members of British society who can lawfully use force on members of the public. The levels of force authorised varies from common assault, to the use of a baton or CS incapacitant, and when properly authorised, the lethal use of firearms. The training that accompanies the issue of such equipment and authorisation to use it, may in the eyes of the public make the police officer a highly skilled and effective exponent in the use of such force. But officers need to remember that just because they are allowed to use this force, it does not have to be used whenever the opportunity arises.The dilemma is often left with the officer as to whether to use force or not, and if so, how much. Added pressures placed on an officer also exist, in that they know that if the use is considered excessive, accusations of police assault will follow.
If an officer uses lawful lethal force in the UK they can guarantee that this action will be the subject of a full and formal investigation. This pressure is heightened further, in that the definition of what is as much force as is absolutely necessary is unclear, and has to be judged on a case-by-case basis. Views as to whether force used was reasonable and justified will certainly differ between the police officer and the victim.In this part of this essay I have tried to show briefly some of the reasons how aggression can manifest itself in the 'Bobby on the Beat'. This can be unintentional through demeanour, stance and attitude; it can be borne out of personal and work related frustrations and stressors, or the authorised use of force (whether excessive or not).
Psychology can help the 'Bobby on the Beat' by offering an insight into what causes aggression within a police officer. Understanding the way the officer presents themselves through non verbal behaviour such as dress and demeanour, recognising frustration and stress and using the skills acquired in self defence are all important factors in reducing and controlling their own aggression. This reduced aggression will allow for greater police-community relations, less likelihood of being assaulted, a fall in complaints against the police and new and more constructive methods of dealing with violent offenders.The traditional Police uniform is seen as the epitome of the British police service and according to surveys, what most members of the public want to see more of on the streets of the United Kingdom. What are the positive and negative effects that this uniform has on people?Empirical research by Johnson (2000)1 found the following:Firstly it was described as a uniform to "convey an image of a more competent, reliable intelligent and helpful person" Singer and Singer (1985.
)Balkan and Houlden (1983) established that "it is the most likely uniform to induce feelings of safety", and "the mere presence of a person wearing it induces conformity to traffic regulations" Sigelman and Sigelman (1976).Adversely however studies into the influence that the colour of a uniform has, indicates that "because of citizens' negative psychological perception of dark colours, they may perceive a police officer in a negative manner partly because of the officer's uniform colour" Johnson (2001).A similar and potentially more dangerous effect was found by Pinizzotto and Davis (1992) when they concluded that "a dirty or creased uniform or a badly worn duty belt sends the message to criminal suspects that a police officer is unprofessional and incompetent and, consequently, can invite violence".In essence as Johnson (2001) said "the police uniform can have extraordinary psychological and physical impact.
Depending on the background of the citizen, the police uniform can elicit emotions ranging from pride and respect, to fear and anger".We influence people in what we say, but more importantly in how we say it and the context in which it is said. We pass information to one another in all sorts of ways, sometimes not even realising that we have done so. This means communication is not always deliberate.
In general we use this 'non deliberate', non-verbal communication all the time, without even thinking about it. This is done through our posture, clothing and the expressions on our face.One of the most interesting findings from the study by Argyle, Alkema and Gilmour (1967) was that people tend to believe non-verbal communication far more than the words that we actually say. Their study involved a group of actors communicating messages that were friendly, hostile or neutral. These messages were accompanied by a non-verbal manner, which was also friendly, hostile or neutral. The two forms of communication however did not always correlate.
The results showed that when the actor's manner and words were the same, there was very little misunderstanding. But it was found that when the actor's non-verbal communications contradicted the words, people were four times more likely to take notice of the non-verbal communication, than the words.Gesturing is one of the most common ways in which people communicate as an alternative to speech. Rude gestures such as a 'V' sign is a way of passing a clear message without words, whereas pointing at somebody to come and talk to you is a way which we illustrate what we are saying. As we can see then, gestures can be used both as speech replacements as well as illustrators.
Cultural differences are also important in this area. Some cultures such as the Italians tend to use their hands much more than the British do when they communicate. The same is said for touching, where many cultures will touch each other whilst talking. An understanding of these cultural areas of difference is important to the 'Bobby on the Beat'. They help to avoid any misinterpretation of a gesture or a touch made by a person, and as important to the officer, ensure a member of the public is not inadvertently insulted by the inappropriate use of the wrong gesture.A similar area of psychological research, which is related to posture, is proxemics, which deals with personal space and the distances that humans keep between each other.
The term often used is the 'bubble' of personal space that we are surrounded by, and we only allow people into our bubble if we know them well enough. Edwin Hall (1966) proposed that "there are four distances at which people interact. Intimate friends interact at 0-30 inches, casual friends at 30-48 inches. People in social-consultative encounters interact at 4-12 feet, whilst distances greater than 12 feet would indicate a public encounter".One of the reasons that this should be of interest to the working police officer is that invasion of ones personal space, for instance, whilst interviewing will make the individual feel threatened and uncomfortable, before a word has even been said.
Certain tactics employed, such as moving chairs very close together, invading a person's intimate space to within touching distance, as advocated in a certain police-training book (Ibanu and Reed, 1963), should be avoided. This will not only lead to the interviewee leaning back, moving their chair and showing overt signs of non compliance, an obvious unwillingness to cooperate, as well as possible accusations of oppressive behaviour or even indecent assault.The effect that one slovenly dressed, gum chewing, slouching, rude police officer may do to a service that is trying to improve its public image, is quite easily avoidable. The fact that this will be an adverse reaction, may be seen as obvious, but is borne out of the work completed by psychologists. Occasions when the Bobby on the Beat will have to invade the intimate space will include when affecting an arrest.
An understanding of how this intrusion may make a person fell threatened and aggressive will help the officer deal with the situation far better. Especially if the officer is overtly displaying personal protection equipment and projecting an authoritative and forceful persona.Is invading a person's intimate space, causing them to feel intimidated the best way in which the Bobby on the Beat should go about establishing the facts during an interview? Knowledge of personal space is also important, whilst engaged in on street working, in the multi- cultural United Kingdom. The space with which people feel comfortable varies from culture to culture. For example, people who originate from a Middle Eastern country will feel too close to a person from a North European country during an everyday contact. It is simple to see how simply tension may arise when the two interact.
The Government and police service as a whole are now showing genuine concern about the long-term effects that stress has on their officers. These can include medical problems, alcoholism, absenteeism, marital problems and high staff turnover. This was reinforced by a study of 2300 police officers by Kroes (1985) from 29 different stations or squads. It painted the following picture of stress indicators: marital problems 37%, health problems 36%, drinking problems 23%, having children with emotional problems 20% and using tranquilisers 10%. Empirical evidence also indicates that those officers who stay within the service for their entire working career will continue to experience 'burnout' or work related exhaustion even after they have retired (Oligny, 1994).