Psychology and Policing

By Neil Brewer; Carlene Wilson | Go to book overview
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"You can't teach an old dog new tricks," the old saying goes. Never has this been less true of policing than at present. As social workers, law enforcers, and crisis counselors, police have always had to rely on skills such as bluff, cunning, common sense, their understanding of human behavior, and communication to enforce the law. Traditionally there has been a suspicion of academic solutions, but as more police gain tertiary qualifications and confront the reality that traditional policing doesn't always work, they are looking to a range of new tools to add to their armory. Psychological theory and research provide a number of such tools that can benefit many aspects of policing. The following provides just a few examples.

Psychology is specifically concerned with the study of human behavior, and trying to understand human behavior is now a core component of police training. These days it is imperative that police recognize that negotiation, conflict resolution, cultural awareness, and sensitivity are skills, which are more valuable than the weapons and powers we equip them with. Elsewhere in policing, we have seen interviews of suspects and victims become more sophisticated, particularly with the use of audio and videotaping. But, in an era where police are dealing with sophisticated crime and a legal system that quite properly expects best evidence, it is important that interview techniques, identification tests, and the like are not only fair, but also elicit the maximum amount of accurate information. Psychological research has much to offer in areas such as these. And, at the broader organizational level, as society looks for police recruits who epitomize the community's image of police (i.e., tolerant, patient, perceptive, nonracist, etc.), police services are using psychologists in recruiting to ensure the selection of members of the community who have those particular skills, which allow


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Psychology and Policing


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