A Closer Look at Law Enforcement

It is important to note before reading any of the results or conclusions drawn from the survey, interviews and observations that there is potential for bias based on personal experiences. The researchers spouse is a sworn peace officer therefore there is potential that some of the questions were formed based on observed experiences that the spouse has gone through; however the spouse did not take part in study to any extent. The creation of the survey and interview questions, as well as the interpretation of the answers was completed by a single individual, which could cause possible bias as well. All tasks completed relating to this study were done with the intention of objectivity but interactions with the group, prior experiences and generally accepted perceptions create a possibility for the creation of questions aimed to finding similarities between individuals in the group. General accepted notions regarding law enforcement officers also helped to frame some of the questions as well.

Basic Demographics

The ethnographic group studied consisted of 20 sworn peace officers ranging from 23 to 56 years of age. In the state of Minnesota, a sworn peace officer must be are at least 21 years of age, have completed their formal education, to include at least an Associate’s degree, and they must have passed all of the state required certifications. An individual cannot be sworn in until they have started their employment with a city or state agency and have taken an oath to uphold the law. The ages of the subjects involved in the study include: two 23 year olds (10%), two 24 year olds (10%), two 25 year olds (10%), a 27 year old (5%), a 28 year old (5%), three 30 year olds (15%), a 31 year old (5%), a 32 year old (5%), a 34 year old (5%), a 40 year old(5%), a 42 year old (5%), a 43 year old (5%), a 46 year old (5%), a 52 year old (5%) and a 56 year old (5%). All officers in supervisory positions, including Chief, Captain and Sergeant fall into the over 35 category.
The studied group was comprised of 16 Caucasian individuals (80%), one African American (5%), one Asian (5%), one Bi-racial individual (5%) and one Hispanic individual (5%). Of those surveyed three were females (15%) and 17 were males (85%). The group consisted of four individuals who were single and had never been married (20%), 11individuals were currently married for the first time (55%), three individuals were divorced (15%) and two individuals were remarried (10%). Educational requirements for sworn peace officers in Minnesota state that you must have at least an Associate’s degree to be considered for employment, of the group studied nine people had Associate’s degrees (45%), 10 individuals had Bachelor’s degrees (50%) and one had obtained their Master’s degree (5%).

A few conclusions can be drawn from the surveys, interviews and observations about basic demographic information. For instance, in suburban law enforcement agencies around the Twin Cities with 120 officers or less, most of the sworn peace officers are Caucasian males. Although there were slightly more officers under the age of 30 amongst those surveyed, the age range was evenly spread; the highest ranking officers are typically older. The educational background amongst officers was also evenly spread amongst Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees, however as you will see below in the education section most officers are planning to return to school to further their educations which means that a larger number will have Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Around 80% of the officers have been married at one time or another so this would allow a conclusion to be drawn that most officers are married. The divorce rate found amongst surveyed officers was slightly below the national average, which is 50%, and the assumption can be made that this is skewed due to the fact that most studies show a higher than average divorce rate (75%) due to schedule and stress level associated with the job (Grant, 2006).

Group Identity and Boundaries

Officers identify themselves individually by titles that are given to them on the job; these titles are earned by merit and promotion. Several factors are part of the process used to identify people eligible for promotional opportunities; along with immeasurable skills such as leadership, there are other factors that officers believe help them to stand out in the selection process. Before becoming a sworn peace officer some people obtain employment through a police department in a non-sworn position such as a Community Service Officer (CSO), a Reserve officer or they may take part in the Explorers program, which gives teenagers the opportunity to see first-hand what officers do by helping out around the police department. Of the officers surveyed 17out of 20 (85%) partook in one of the aforementioned programs. All three individuals (100%) that didn’t take part in these programs exceeded the average eight months lapse time between their graduation from college and their time of employment by an average of six months. Of the eight sworn officers surveyed who were above patrol level, seven of them (87.5%) had taken part in one form or another of the aforementioned programs. Some departments even have programs that allow officers to move directly into sworn positions once they complete their education and certifications if they hold a CSO position at that time.

Regarding social settings 16 of the 20 officers (80%) stated that they socialize with other police officers outside of the required work hours. Of those 16 officers surveyed eight (50%) said that they fraternized regularly with officers from their own city as well as other cities while four (25%) said they only spend time with cops from their own city and the remaining four (25%) said they only socialize with officers from other departments. Concerning sports related hobbies, 18 of the 20 (90%) officers said that they watch or partake in sports of some sort. Of the 18 officers, four officers (20%) said that they watch or play sports with other police officers. Of the original 20 officers, 14 officers identified themselves as watching or playing softball or baseball (70%) while 10 officers (50%) said they watched or played football.

Relating to perceptions of themselves and of others, 19 out of 20 (95%) of officers reported being highly suspicious of people; some stated that they are more suspicious of those they encounter through their job while others stated they are suspicious of all people. Concerning cynicism, 16 of 20 (80%) officers identified themselves as more cynical than when they began their job; while three of 20 (15%) said their cynicism is the same as when they started their job. One officer shared that he has always been very cynical and this job has just confirmed his reasoning for his cynicism.

Chief A shared this about his suspicion relating to other people, “I am suspicious of people based upon their behavior no matter what the context. Like Will Rogers I never met a person I didn’t like. They have to earn that. I am more alert and sensitive to many cues than most others who do not have LE (law enforcement) experience.” While one of the officers shared he was suspicious of anyone at work, more specifically anyone above patrol. Policing is career path that is often highly political so many officers believe they need to trust their fellow officers enough to protect them, if need be, but realize that most officers are ultimately looking out for themselves.

Amongst conclusions to be drawn about group identity and group boundary are the fact that sworn peace officers are clearly in a category all their own. The officers who had previous experience as CSO or Reserve officers or took part in the Explorers program should be glad they made the decision to seek these positions as they found employment considerably sooner than those who didn’t. In relation to social interactions, most officers did socialize outside of work with other officers and although some did differentiate between cities or agencies did socialize with people from other cities as well as their own. Chiefs of police hold positions in which it is often frowned upon to socialize with other officers, or people whom you supervise, so it is understandable why both individuals stated that most often they do not socialize with other police officers now that they are in their current position. However, both chiefs identified themselves as belonging to several clubs or associations relating to their jobs while most other officers listed one or two at most.

A few suppositions can be made about the specifics of how officers spend their time outside of work and how they perceive the world around them. Most officers said that they watch or partake in sports outside of work but very few did so with other officers. Many of the officers watched or played football or baseball over other sports. Most police officers find themselves highly suspicious of people outside of their field; some even specified not trusting people who outrank them at work. Most officers also see themselves as cynical, even more so than when they began their careers.

Communication Features

Majority of the individuals, 19 out of 20 (95%), speak English as their first language and one speaks Hmong as his first language (5%). Some individuals said that they have picked up a few Spanish words, enough to get the basic information that they need from people on traffic stops. Spanish is the largest foreign language that officers reported running into while on the job.

Facebook is a form of social communication, 18 of the 20 individuals surveyed (90%) have had Facebook accounts previously or do have one now. The two individuals who didn’t have Facebook accounts were in supervisory positions; one said that they may get an account after retirement. One supervisor shared that some cities are in the process of forming or have already formed policies regarding Facebook usage because some officers have posted confidential or inappropriate information related to work on their accounts.

In regards to communication and socializing, police often find themselves being singled out for legal advice, 18 of the 20 (90%) officers reported being asked for legal advice from individuals outside of the law enforcement field. Concerning communicating and relating to other individuals, 14 officers (70%) identified themselves as being private while five identified themselves (25%) as being an “open book”; one person said they were both to different people (5%). Communication styles differ amongst officers, 12 officers (60%) consider themselves to be “frank” when communicating with others, two officers (10%) considered themselves to be “subtle”, while six officers (30%) considered themselves to be a combination of both “frank” and “subtle” at different times.

Concluding communication, most officers speak English as their first language while picking up a minimal amount of Spanish to be able to communicate on the job. Most officers have Facebook accounts but that may change if new policies are implemented. A majority of the officers said that other people ask them for legal advice; they also categorize themselves as private yet frank when dealing with people. The job as a sworn peace officer requires people to be frank while dealing with criminals and people at work.

Educational Patterns

In relation to education and educational patterns, 16 of the 20 (80%) are intending on returning back to school to further their education at one point or another. (Reference Table 4 below to see projected time frames in which officers plan to return to school.) In reflection, 17 out of 20 officers (85%) recalled performing average or better as students during high school. During college 11 individuals recall doing better than in high school (55%); five recalled doing the same as in high school (25%) and four recalled performing worse than in high school (20%).

In conclusion, most officers did average or better during their time in high school and over half reported doing even better in college. Most officers even planned on returning back to school in the next five years to further their education; a few may do so sooner if their cities implement a tuition reimbursement program. Officers believe that they should further their education so that they can remain competitive in their field; most officers try to give themselves every possible advantage so that they can be the most promotable individual on the force. Seeking further education is just one of many ways that officers can show initiative towards possible future promotional opportunities.

Marriage and Family Patterns

Relating to the upbringing of officers, 12 (60%) officers reported that their parents were either still married now or at the time of their passing. Criminal history was present in immediate family members in 10 (50%) of the officers surveyed. When asked about extended family, three officers (15%) reported they never see their extended family while the average amount of time that other officers reported seeing their extended family members was on holidays only. Family history of law enforcement was present in six out of the 20 officers (30%).

Regarding the marital status of the female sworn peace officers studied, one female was single and had never been married (33%), one female was currently married for the first time (33%) and one female was recently divorced (33%). Marital statuses of male sworn peace officers studied were as follows: three men were single and had never been married (18%), 10 men were married (58%), 2 were divorced (12%) and 2 were remarried (12%). Of the 16 individuals who were married at one time or another, seven were married before becoming sworn peace officers (44%) while nine got married after being sworn in (56%). The average age at which individuals got married was 23 years old amongst those married before they became a sworn peace officer while those married after averaged 26 years old.

Officers reported meeting their spouses in many different places; reference Table 5 above to see how many officers married individuals from law enforcement related fields. Amongst the sixteen surveyed officers who were married, nine officers (56%) were wed after being sworn in and of those officers, seven of the nine (78%) married people who work in law enforcement related fields. Of the seven officers (44%) married before beginning their law enforcement careers, one officer (14%) married a person who worked in a law enforcement related field.

Relating to family life, 10 sworn peace officers had children (50% of total officers) and of those 10, all were males (100%) and their children were born while the officers were at an average age of 25 years old. Of the 20 surveyed officers, seven officers (35%) had children born in the last 17 years; of the seven officers, all of them (100%) took off at least 2 weeks off when their children were born. Concerning the officers who have children currently 9 of them (82%) felt that their work schedule made parenting more difficult; one officer shared that on work days he doesn’t get to see his children at all. In regards to the 20 surveyed officers’ current or future children growing older, fourteen individuals (70%) said that they would be okay with their children becoming a sworn peace officer while three officers said they would not be okay with it (15%). Regarding their child marrying a sworn peace officer, eight officers (40%) said they would be okay with their child marrying an officer while nine officers (45%) would not approve. In regards to both questions about becoming or marrying a sworn peace officer two officers (10%) said they didn’t care either way and one officer (5%) said that it completed depended on the situation.

Regarding scheduling the officers were split down the middle 10 officers worked day shift (50%) while 10 officers worked night shift (10%); of the 12 patrol officers eight officers (67%) were on night shift while four worked day shift (33%). Relating to shift preferences, 11 of the officers (55%) reported a preference for night shift, stating that there is less administrative work, more action and more high risk calls during the night shift. Of the six officers (30%) who said they preferred day shift and additional officers who were on night shift there was a resounding theme that days are much better for family life. The patrol officers’ shifts ranged from 10 to 12 hour shifts, with rotations of three to five days on, then three to five days off.

Multiple officers shared stories of how they enjoyed night shift; it is so much more exciting but if they have families it makes life more difficult. Officers who have spouses in law enforcement have an easier time balancing schedules because their spouses are more understanding of schedules or they may share the same schedules. One officer shared how he enjoyed working opposite of his wife though because he got to spend alone time with his baby during the day while his wife was at work; if they worked the same shift he wouldn’t get this bonding time.

Relating to family and marriage patterns several conclusions can be drawn. About half the officers had parents who set a marital example by staying married while half of the officers also had poor examples since they had immediate family members with criminal histories. Most of the officers see extended family only on occasion; family members’ career paths had little impact on the decisions made by most officers. The most glaring statistic relating to marriage and family is that of marrying within a law enforcement related field; almost every officer who got married after being sworn in married someone in a law enforcement related field (such as policing or dispatch). Those officers who were married before becoming a sworn peace officer typically married outside of their career field. Officers who married within a related field said that their spouse was more understanding of the stress and the scheduling that they have as peace officers. However, one officer who was married to another peace officer and they recently divorced said that opposite schedules made it very difficult to make a marriage work because they never saw each other.

Approximately half the officers surveyed had children, however my figures were likely skewed a bit as males were the only ones to report having children at the time they were surveyed. Most of the officers were fairly young when their children were born and they were a few years into their careers so most officers took off a good amount of time to spend at home with their spouse and child (ren). Officers believed it would be okay for their child or future children to become a sworn peace officer but most felt they wouldn’t want their child to marry an officer. Some officers expressed that after knowing how much more difficult life can be in their field because of stress and scheduling they wouldn’t want to wish that upon their child; however there was a pride related to being an officer. Most people entering the law enforcement field know that they will have to put in their time on night shift and that is just a sacrifice that needs to be made; everyone has to do it at one time or another. Officers desire to stay on the same department to get seniority relating to scheduling and if they move into supervisory positions they will often be scheduled for days anyway but they will be on call all the time. This makes being a sworn peace officer or being a family member of one particularly difficult since they usually don’t have the same schedule as the rest of the family.

Leadership Structures

Of the sworn peace officers who took part in the study nine (45%) had been on the job and sworn in for more than five years. Of the participants with over five years of experience, the average amount of years on the force was just over 17 years, two of the officers were in the chief position (22.2%), one was a captain (11.1%), one was a sergeant (11.1), three were detectives (33.3%), one was a K9 officer (11.1%) and one was a patrol officer (11.1%). Of the nine officers sworn in for more than five years four were in supervisory positions (44%). Of the supervisory officers one was divorced (25%), three are married (75%); the average number of years that the officers were married, including the divorced officer, was just under 22 years and the average age at which they got married was just over 23 years old. The education levels of the supervisory officers include one officer with his Master’s Degree (25%), one with a Bachelor’s Degree (25%) and two with their Associates’ Degrees (50%). The average year’s officers were sworn in amongst supervisory officers is 25 years, beginning their careers at an average age of 23 years old. All supervisory officers (100%) had previously served in a CSO, Reserve or Explorer officer position but only one (25%) had military background.

Regarding officers’ aspirations within the field of law enforcement, two officers (10%) already held the highest available position within the police departments as chiefs; one officer (5%) stated he would like to reach the position of chief prior to retirement; one officer (5%) held the position as captain and that’s the highest rank he would like to reach, one other officer (5%) indicated that they would like to obtain the captain rank, nine officers (45%) reported wanting to reach the position of sergeant, two officers (10%) stated they would prefer to stay as patrol officers, three stated they were undecided or weren’t concerned with rank (15%) and one stated they would like to be a K9 officer (5%).
Assumptions that can be made regarding leadership structures are not what you would necessarily expect. While some officers aspired to reach the highest ranking positions, many were satisfied to stay in patrolling positions rather than administrative positions. Of the administrative or supervisory staff the more important factor seemed to be their prior experience as a CSO or Reserve officer or their participation in an Explorer program rather than their education level. With the knowledge that most officers are planning to further their education level though it is a fair assumption to say that the next generation of officers are going to be more competitive educationally. The next generations of officers coming up are putting more focus on being the total package and having every possible advantage, including furthering their education. Military background is found more regularly in law enforcement than what my survey showed, however the prevalence isn’t as high in Minnesota as it is in other states that allow military background to be a substitute for a college education. Although divorce was present in the survey, the supervisory officers still had an average years married that is similar to the national average. I believe the divorce rate is much higher than my survey showed as many of the officers joke that you have to have at least one divorce under your belt in order to be promoted.

Religious Patterns

Of the participants in the study 18 out of 20 (90%) said they believed in a higher power and the other 2 people (10%) said they were unsure how they felt. Of the individuals who recognized there being a higher power, ten (50%) identified themselves as Protestants; seven (50%) identified themselves as Protestant Christians, more specifically two (14%) as Lutherans and one (7%) as Pentecostal while three (21%) identified themselves as Catholics and one (7%) as Roman Catholic. Of the remaining individuals, one (5%) identified themself as Buddhist and five (26%) didn’t specify what religion they practice. Of the 14 sworn peace officers who identified themselves as Christians of one sort or another,4 attend services regularly (29%) but 9 said their schedules deter them from attending services(64%).

It is safe to conclude that many officers identify themselves as Christians but do not regularly attend services or practice religion. The schedule they have at work causes many officers difficulty in getting to a service however the individuals who were on day shift and did not have conflicting schedules still did not typically attend services regularly. In the career path that sworn peace officers have they deal with many life threatening situations so it is easy to see why most officers did identify themselves as believing in a higher power.

Food Features

All officers (100%) stated that they eat out occasionally while on the job; the average officer spent just over $81.00 each month on food while at work. Of the officers, 10 (50%) stated that they drink coffee regularly however a majority of them stated that they bring coffee from home or contribute to an office fund that supplies coffee for them; only one officer (5%) reported drinking tea. Of the 11officers (55%) who said that they do drink alcohol on occasion, the average amount that officers reported drinking at one sitting was three drinks however some reported that they may drink as many as 10 drinks in an evening. Of the officers, 16 (75%) reported that they preferred going to eat with other people while two (10%) preferred hosting people in their homes and three officers (15%) said they regularly did both, host people in their home and go out to eat with other people.

Officer C shared that it can be difficult working night shift as it relates to eating out because many restaurants are not open but it saves a person some money because they are forced to bring in their own meals for part for of the time if you do not want to eat “gas station food” every night. Evening shift does allow for some bonding time amongst officers though, on Thanksgiving officers from three bordering departments all brought food for a pot luck dinner since they were unable to spend the whole holiday with their families. Officers also often bond over meals after each quarter or trimester of work during the year; they get their families together to spend time sharing a meal and a couple drinks (if desired).

In relation to food and drinking patterns some similarities can be identified amongst officers. Most officers eat out at least some of the time while they are working and most drink coffee but bring it from home or receive it complimentary from companies within the cities that they work. Most officers enjoy drinking alcohol on occasion and most of the officers only have a couple drinks and keep themselves under control. Many officers enjoyed going out to eat with other people while they were off of work.

Transportation Features

All of the officers (100%) that were surveyed owning their vehicles as opposed to leasing. Regarding the vehicles that were owned by officers, 11 individuals (55%) reported only one vehicle, 8 individuals (40%) reported owning two vehicles and one individual reported owning three vehicles (5%). Of the 19 officers who specified the years their vehicles were manufactured, all 19 (100%) had at least one vehicle that was made in the year 2000 or newer. Concerning the companies that manufactured the vehicles owned by officers, 12 officers (60%) owned “American” cars; six officers (30%) owned “foreign” vehicles and two officers (10%) owned a combination of both types of vehicles.

Sworn peace officers conclusively owned their vehicles and did not lease them, there wasn’t a pattern that could be seen amongst the manufacturers of vehicles that they owned except for the fact that they all own newer vehicles. Some cities provide their supervisory officers with a take home vehicle; many officers would like to reach higher positions since it would save them money to have a take home vehicle.

Geographic Orientation

Concerning locations in which officers live, the average amount of miles that officers drive between work and home is just over 21 miles. Although some officers would prefer a shorter commute, less than half of the officers (nine out of 20 or 40%) said that they would be willing to live in the city in which they work; seven officers (35%) stated that they would not live in the city where they worked and four (20%) answered they might be willing to live in the city which they worked in. Eight of the officers (40%) stated that they would be willing to take a job with another city if it shortened their commute.

Sworn peace officers typically live within a half an hour drive to work and most would be willing to change the city that they worked for in order to shorten their commute time. Most officers would prefer not living within the city they work because they prefer not running into people who they arrest or ticket at work.

Political Ideology

Regarding political affiliation, 12 officers (60%) said that they most identify with republican ideology; one officer (5%) identified with democratic ideology while six officers (30%) stated they took an impartial status related to politics and one person (5%) declined to answer.
Officer G shared that the police union may sometimes recommend who the officers should vote for if there is a specific candidate that is pro-union or will be an advocate for the officers. The candidate may be democrat, republican or having any affiliation, the union and the officers themselves typically endorse the candidate who stands behind the issues that affect the officers directly. Most officers, though they identify with republican ideology, share that they vote on issues, not solely on affiliations.

Most officers identify with the ideology related to being republican however several officers said that they would vote more based on issues than political affiliation. One officer pointed out that on some issues they must vote more democratic because sworn peace officers are part of a union.

Experiential Patterns and Coping Mechanisms

The most significant event in the last 50 years according to 15 of the 20 officers (75%) was September 11th, 2001; some officers said that this event impacted their career path. All of the officers (100%) stated that they have personally seen someone die; some said they have seen many people die. Relating to stress, 14 (70%) of the 20 officers reported feeling that their job as a sworn peace officer is more stressful than other jobs as well as feeling their life was in jeopardy. On the job, three (15%) of the officers have had to discharge their firearm but two of the three discharges were aimed at animals. Off duty, 18 officers (90%) carry their weapon on average 50% of the time, while two officers (10%) do not carry their weapon off duty.

Officers all handle stress in different ways, 13 of the 21 (65%) studied officers reported occasionally playing video games, many mentioned war or “first person shooter games” like Call of Duty. Amongst the methods of dealing with stress that were mentioned most officers said that they tried to leave their work at work; nine out of 20 officers (45%) believe that taking anti-depressants reflects negatively on one’s ability as a police officer, some even mentioned believing that it can impact your reaction time. Another way of coping with stress is talking, 10 out of 20 (50%) of the officers mentioned talking to friends, spouses or family as a way that they personally dealt with stress; seven out of 20 (35%) officers stated that they believed seeking professional counseling reflected on your ability as a sworn peace officer.

Chief B shared that there was recently an incident in his city that put one of his officers in a compromising situation and the officer had no option but to fire his weapon at an assault suspect. They knew that the suspect had already hurt someone and came at the officer with a knife. The researcher commented that it will take a lot of time to get past this sort of situation, especially when the officer will be required to be placed on administrative leave while the department completes their investigation. The Chief stated that the officer is likely to need intensive therapy to handle the situation and return to duty.

While Chief A had this to say about whether seeking counseling or taking anti-depressants affects your ability as a sworn peace officer, “The answer is dependent upon the reason for taking prescribed medications or attending counseling. If the goal is to just escape, no. If the goal is to resolve issues negatively impacting the person or to return to a former state or to gain greater understanding in order to overcome problems in either personal or work then the individual will benefit from it. The key is understanding and realizing what is best for that person and immediate family. That may include leaving LE and choosing another career path.”

Some inferences can be made about the experiential patterns and coping mechanisms used by the surveyed, sworn peace officers. Officers encounter stressful situations on a daily basis, they have to witness unfortunate circumstances and come across things that most of the people in this country will never have to see first-hand. Officers see people die, they put their life on the line each day; these are stressors that most of us will never have to deal with. September 11th was recognized by most officers as the most significant event in the last 50 years, many officers were lost that day trying to save people in the Twin Towers; only people in this line of work can really understand the willingness to sacrifice themselves for the safety and well-being of others. Thankfully most officers will never be faced with a situation of that magnitude and most officers will not even ever have to fire their weapon at someone. However, for those who do encounter trying situations of all sorts they must have a way of coping with the stress and the hyper vigilance associated with their jobs.

Officers all have a different way of managing the stress in their lives. Many of the officers enjoy playing video games, some mentioning it allows them to tune out the world and just play the game. Most officers try to make sure they leave work at work and focus on having a life outside of work. Officers often find relief from talking about things with friends, family or other sworn peace officers; some even enjoy making jokes about their jobs and find that therapeutic. Sworn peace officers typically don’t believe in seeking professional help though, most officers believe that taking medication or seeking counseling reflects on one’s ability as a police officer.

Final Conclusions

Sworn peace officers were at the center of an ethnographic study completed through observations, surveys and interviews; the study included twenty sworn peace officers. The study concentrated on these core areas: basic demographics, group identity and boundaries, communication features, educational patterns, marriage and family patterns, leadership structures and religious patterns. Additional research was done in elective areas as well which include food patterns, transportation features, geographic orientation, political ideology and experiential patterns and coping mechanisms. After reviewing the results there are many conclusions that can be drawn about law enforcement officers who work for suburbs in the twin cities area that employ 120 sworn peace officers or less.

Some conclusions that can be drawn are related to the core areas of concentration in the ethnographic study. Most patrol officers are English speaking, Caucasian males who are 35 or younger while most supervisory officers are also English speaking, Caucasian males but they are over 35 years of age. Most officers identify with Protestant religion or the awareness of their being a higher power however very few actually attend services regularly; most identified themselves as republican politics. Officers are typically married, if they started their career unmarried, they are highly likely to marry someone in a law enforcement related field. Educationally, officers are aware that they need to be as competitive as possible to be eligible for promotional opportunities so most officers plan to further their education within the next five years.

Officers enjoy spending time with other officers, from their own cities and from other cities and most reside outside of the city in which they work. The association with other officers begins in while they are in college or while they are employed as a community service officer, reserve officer or they are taking part in an Explorer program. Officers who took part in the aforementioned programs and they found employment sooner if they took part in any of those programs. Sworn peace officers considered themselves highly suspicious of all people and considered themselves to be cynical. Officers considered themselves to be private individuals who are frank in communication when it is necessary. They also find themselves being singled out for advice in a legal sense.

Most officers sought employment within the law enforcement field because they wanted to make a difference and they didn’t like the concept of the same tasks each day. They liked the excitement of not knowing what was going to happen each day; although this can cause stress it is what keeps them going each day. Sworn peace officers are people who seek to improve their community and make change in the world.


Basic Demographics


Law Enforcement Ranking:

Years as a Sworn Officer:

Age when you became a sworn officer:



Highest Level of Education: Associate’s Bachelor’s Master’s Ph.D

Marital Status (Circle all that apply): Single Married Divorced Widowed


1. Why did you become a cop? 2. Do you socialize regularly with other police officers? · If so, do most work in your city or another? 3. Do you fraternize with police of different rankings in social settings? 4. What hobbies do you take part in your free time? 5. Do you play or watch any sports? (Please list) · If so, is this with other cops? 6. Do you play video games? · If so, what type of game, during what hours and for how long typically? 7. Do you regularly buy products from fellow officers kids? (ie cookies, wreaths, etc.) 8. Do you find yourself highly suspicious of all people or mainly the people groups you encounter at work? 9. Do you believe you are more cynical than when you started your career? 10. How do you believe others perceive you? 11. Do other people (outside of the field) ask for legal advice or favors? 12. Do you have any immediate family who have criminal records? 13. Do you believe taking anti-depressants or going to counseling reflects on your ability as a cop? 14. Were you ever in the military? · If so, please list branch and years of service. 15. Have you ever had to fire your weapon on duty? 16. Have you ever felt your life was in jeopardy at work? 17. Do you carry a firearm off duty? 18. Have you ever seen someone die? 19. What clubs or associations are you a part of? (FOP, reserves, fire dept, etc.) 20. What type of movies do you prefer? 21. Do you watch the news? 22. Do you have a facebook? 23. What is the most significant event that occurred in the last 50 years? · Did this impact your career path? 24. Do you hunt? 25. Do you vacation annually? · Do you go with family or with friends? 26. Do you consider yourself to look like a cop? · How so? 27. Do you have tattoos? · How many? 28. Are you private or an open book? 29. How many cities have you worked for? 30. How long have you worked for the city you are currently employed at? 31. Have you ever been a CSO, Explorer or Reserve officer? · If so, for how long and was it with the same city you work now? 32. For what benefits would you consider moving to another city? (ie closer to home, tuition reimbursement, etc.) 33. How many hours are your shifts? 34. How many days are your rotations? 35. What shift do you work most often? 36. What shift would you prefer? Why? 37. Do you consider yourself frank and forward or subtle and soft spoken? · Does this differ from work to home? 38. What type of music do you prefer? 39. Do you speak more than one language? 40. Is English your first language? (If not, please list your first language) 41. Do you consider yourself a social butterfly or a home body? 42. Do you plan to obtain further education? · If so, when do you plan to pursue it? 43. How much time passed between your graduation from college and being hired as an officer? · If not yet employed, how long have you been looking since you graduated? 44. Do you keep in contact with people you attended college with? · Do you see them regularly? 45. Do you regularly read books for entertainment? 46. Are your own parents still married to each other? (If deceased, state status at the time of death) 47. How often do you spend time with your extended family? (ie aunts, uncles, cousins) 48. Is there a history of law enforcement in your family? 49. Where do you meet people to date or where did you meet your significant other? 50. Would you want your child(ren) to become or marry a cop? Why or why not? 51. Do you have pets? (please list) 52. Who influenced you most to pursue this career path? 53. What is the highest ranking you hope to obtain before retirement? 54. Who most influences your decision making process? 55. Who do you confide in most often? (ie police friends, spouse, parents, etc.) 56. Do you believe your life has more stress from being a police officer than other jobs have? · How do you cope with this stress? 57. Do you find it hard to sleep right after a shift? 58. What do you do to unwind after work? 59. Were you a good student in high school? · Compared with high school, how did you do in college? 60. Do you believe in a higher power? 61. Do you identify with one specific religion? (If so, please name that religion.) 62. Do you regularly attend church services? 63. Do you find that your hours deter you from attending services regularly? 64. Which political group do you most identify with? (ie republican, democrat, etc.) 65. How many miles do you live from work? 66. Do you live in an urban or rural area? 67. Would you ever live in the city in which you work? 68. Do you typically go out to eat or bring your food to work? 69. Approximately how much do you spend a month on food at work? 70. Do you drink coffee? · Approximately how much do you spend a month on coffee? 71. Do you drink alcohol regularly? · At one sitting how many drinks do you usually have? 72. Do you regularly host people in your home or do you prefer eating out? 73. What type of vehicles do you drive? (Make, model, year) 74. Do you lease or own your vehicles? 75. Do you own any recreational vehicles? · If so, please list. (ie boat, fourwheeler, etc.)

If married:

Did you get married before you became a cop?

How long have you been married?

What age did you get married?

Is your spouse in a law enforcement related field?

Did you meet your spouse through work?

If not, how did you meet?

Do you believe your marriage faces unique challenges and extra stress because of the field you work in?

What do you believe is the biggest challenge for your marriage related to your job?

If you have child(ren):

At what age did you have your children?

Did you take time off when you or your spouse had a baby?

How much time?

Do you believe parenting is more difficult with the hours you have in your field?


Grant, S. (2006, October 4). When Cops Marry Cops: Is the Risk Worth it? Retrieved from http://officer.com/web/online/Police-Life/When-Cops-Marry-Cops/17$32856

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