A Summary of Skolnick’s “Working Personality”
In “A Sketch of the Policeman’s Working Personality,” Jerome Skolnick discusses and analyzes how a police officer’s personal outlook is affected by his or her involvement in police work, creating an “us versus them” mind-set, as well as the frequent inability to “turn off” the police mentality outside of a work environment. While he states that a person’s work has an impact on his or her outlook of the world according to a recurring theme in the sociology of occupations, police work has a particularly strong impact on those cognitive lenses (Skolnick, 1966, p. 2). Because of the nature of their job, police have a tendency to look at the world in a way that makes it distinctive to themselves. This can be associated with the danger that they face on a day-in, day-out basis, how their position as a police officer affects their social relationships, as well as how they are generally perceived by the public. Contributing to the overall working personality of a police officer is the need to be efficient, the continuous presence of potential danger, and the need to establish authority in the face of ever-present public relations issues. Skolnick (1966) likens a police officer to a soldier, a school teacher, and a factory worker because of the dangers he faces, his issues with establish his authority, and the need prove his efficiency, but points out that this overwhelming combination of tasks is unique to police culture. Thus, the “us versus them” mentality begins to take shape, making officers feel the need to separate themselves from civilian society. The propensity now is that police work is no longer a job, but a way of life. Janowitz refers to the military profession as a “style of life” because the duties of the job extend pass occupational boundaries, and that any position that performs “life and death” tasks furthers such claims (Skolnick, p. 3). These split-second decisions that police...
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