5 Police Stud.: Int'l Rev. Police Dev. 47 (1982-1983)
An Analysis of Police Perceptions of Supervisory and Administrative Support

handle is hein.journals/polic5 and id is 49 raw text is: An Analysis of Police Perceptions
of Supervisory
and Administrative Support
Susette M. Talarico and Charles R. Swanson, Jr.
University of Georgia

In the social science literature, perceptions of
opinion, events and relationships have long
been regarded as potentially critical variables.
In studies of congressional voting behavior, for
example, research has demonstrated that repre-
sentative perceptions of constituent opinion
often play a more significant role than actual
public preferences (Miller and Stokes, 1963). In
the recent burgeoning criminal justice litera-
ture, recent research emphasizes that percep-
tions of social problems play a critical role in
resulting public policy efforts. The politicali-
zation of crime in the 1960s, for example, has
been partially attributed to pervasive, public
concern about the escalating crime rates (Har-
ris, 1968). Other strong perceptions related to
the benefits of plea bargaining, the efficiency of
the criminal law process, and the effectiveness
of correctional efforts have all been shown to
influence assessments of public policy efforts
and to contribute to the clamor for reform
(National Center for State Courts, 1978). This
occurs in spite of limited and sometimes contra-
dictory empirical evidence (e.g., Ulhman and
Walker, 1977), on the criminal justice process
in question.
Police have long been suspicious about the
extensiveness of public and political support
for law enforcement. Corbett and colleagues
point out that . . . police perceive themselves
as a minority within an unsupportive environ-
ment (Corbett, et al., 1979: 451). Skolnick
observed that they are generally and occupa-
tionally  suspicious  (1967), while  Westley
remarked that they are hypersensitive to any-
thing that might affect their self-respect
(1970). Research has demonstrated that police
are particularly wary of courts, citizen atti-
tudes, and officials in the police bureaucracy
(Tifft, 1974).

Recent investigations demonstrate that
police suspicions vary according to assigned
tasks. Tifft, for example, has pointed out that
perceptions are not uniform across levels of
assignments and has suggested that patrol of-
ficers do not necessarily share the dispositions
of tactical force, investigative, or traffic per-
sonnel (1974). Furthermore, Chang has demon-
strated that police have positive self-concepts
but view the pertinent others in their work
environs in quite negative fashion (1976).
Police perceptions and the validity of con-
comitant distrust of political and institutional
support are open to empirical validation or
refutation. It is clear, for example, that there is
great support for the police by the public
(Wilson, 1976; Garofalo, 1977; Ennis, 1967;
Reiss, 1967; Cruse, 1972).1 It is equally clear
that authorities in pertinent social and politi-
cal institutions have taken pains to demon-
strate understanding of and support for the
pressures of law enforcement (Graber, 1977a
and 1977b; Gruhl, 1978). But it is important to
recognize that this general evidence is limited.
It may be that in some cities, public and politi-
cal support is not extensive and that police
perceptions are well founded.
Whether substantiated or not, police feelings
of estrangement and alienation carry serious
and substantive consequences. Juris and Feuille
argue that these feelings contribute to militancy
in police unions (1973). Hahn observes that
police perceptions of antagonism and estrange-
ment probably contribute to many aspects of
law enforcement conduct (1974), while others
point out that social order cannot be achieved
if there is no sense of viable cooperation be-
tween police and the community (e.g., Crom-
well and Keefer, 1973; Fink, 1974).
Our interest is in patrol officers' perceptions

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