POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


Milan Pagon
Branko Lobnikar

The paper reports findings of a study of the reasons for joining and beliefs about police among the Slovenian female police rookies. Twenty-seven female police trainees participated in a survey at the end of their basic police training. It was hypothesized that their beliefs about police were the result of their experience during training and the resulting cynicism; support and encouragement from their relatives and friends; as well as their femininity and self-esteem. The hypotheses were confirmed. The results are discussed in terms of their practical value for police recruitment and training.


Police organizations have traditionally been dominated by males. When police organizations started to admit women at the end of the nineteenth century, it was not because they would believe that integrating women into policing would attribute to improved quality of police services; rather, it was due to a pressure from women rights groups or even courts (Schulz, 1989). Even in those settings where women achieved the right to work in police, their role was quite limited. Typically, women were assigned to work with victims of sexual crimes, juvenile and female offenders, missing persons and abused children (Sulton & Townsey, 1981). A substantive improvement was achieved in the United States in the sixties and early seventies when equal opportunity laws declared discrimination based on gender (and other protected classifications) an unlawful employment practice. However, while de iure the problem of discriminating against women in police was solved, it de facto remained to exist, due to a large resistance from the police themselves. According to Warner (1989), there is strong evidence of hostility toward the idea of female police officers. Feinman (1980, cited in Warner, 1989) suggests that as long as women remained in the prescribed, traditional roles in criminal justice (i.e., secretarial and dispatch) they were generally accepted. However, when women sought to break out of these confines, serious obstacles appeared (see Pagon & Lobnikar, 1993, for a review of women issues in police).

The results of a survey by Daum and Jones (1994) suggest that female police officers continue to struggle to gain acceptance from their male counterparts. The prevailing opinion among respondents was that they did not receive equal credit for their job performance, even though they believed that they were as capable as male officers. They also sensed some degree of ostracism from the male social network, which had a negative impact on their morale.

In Slovenia, the situation is not much different. The first six female police officers were admitted into police (called militia at that time) in 1973. In 1975, the Police Training Center started to conduct basic police training for female trainees. By 1983, when the decision was made in the Slovenian police to no longer admit women, 176 female trainees completed their basic police training in the Center. The idea to start admitting women in police again had to wait until 1992. Analyzing the needs and possibilities to readmit women in police, the Police Headquarters at the Slovenian Ministry of the Interior noted that while women were needed to work with female and juvenile victims and offenders, as well as with victims of sexual crimes, there were some reservations and negative opinions regarding readmitting women among police units. So even after the idea started to get more and more popular, it was not until the end of 1994 that-after an 11-year pause-24 women were again admitted to the Slovenian Police. In January 1995, they started a six-month basic police training at the Police Training Center. Additional three women were admitted and trained in 1996.

Working in a male dominated environment has been shown to impact women. Ninety- seven percent of the female officers surveyed by Daum and Jones (1994) firmly agreed that becoming a police officer has changed them in significant ways. Exposure to police work produced a change in their social attitudes. Some become more confident, more socially comfortable and less naive, but others become colder, less trusting and less tolerant of others. One of the commonly described consequences of police work, both for males and females, is police cynicism (see Pagon, 1993, for a review of police cynicism). Police cynicism has been shown to negatively impact police officers' job satisfaction (Lester, 1987; Lester et al., 1982). Some authors believe that cynicism is fostered by the organizational-socialization system of policing (Bayley & Mendelsohn, 1969; Niederhoffer, 1967; Westley, 1970; cited in Yarmey, 1990), while others challenge these sociopolitical beliefs and support the hypothesis that personality factors and social background are more important than occupational socialization (Rokeach, Miller, and Snyder, 1971, cited in Yarmey, 1990). The truth is most likely between these two explanations. Anson and his colleagues (1986) found support for a reference group theory of police cynicism which claims that cynicism is functional in the police officer subculture and that it is positively reinforced by superiors and peers. Rafky, Lawley and Ingram (1976, cited in Singer et al., 1984) found that there was a significant increase in cynicism among recruits towards the end of the 24-week training period.

Women entering this predominantly male occupation are facing resistance mainly from their male counterparts. If we want to study women in this predominantly male world, the first question that we need to address is what are the reasons for their decision to join police. Several authors have found significant differences in the social and emotional styles of boys and girls that carry on into adulthood, summarized by Wilson (1993, cited in Kay, 1994) as follows: boys are more inclined to emphasize justice, fairness and duty in their moral reasoning, while girls are more likely to emphasize sympathy, care and helping. Based on these findings, we hypothesize that reasons connected with opportunity for care and helping are more important for women in their decision to join police than reasons connected with opportunity to provide justice, fairness, and duty.

Once women join police in Slovenia, they have to attend a six-month basic training course before they start working in police units. They come out of the training program with a certain level of police cynicism and certain beliefs about police. We hypothesize that the level of cynicism at the end of the training program is negatively correlated with the quality of trainees' experience during the training. The basic police training is the female trainees' first exposure to the police organization. If they are satisfied with the training, they are expected to become less cynical toward police decision makers and rules. In addition, according to the above mentioned reference group theory of police cynicism, cynicism is positively reinforced by superiors and peers. Trainees who are more satisfied with the training and their instructors, are more likely to be influenced by the cynicism expressed by their instructors and peers.

We further hypothesize that cynicism, shown to negatively affect police officers' job satisfaction, also negatively affects the female trainees' beliefs about police. In addition, in a situation where women are entering not only a dominantly male profession, but also an organization that was not admitting women for 11 years, we hypothesize that reactions from their important others (parents, siblings, friends, etc.) in terms of either support and encouragement or opposition and discouragement, significantly influences the female trainees' beliefs about police.

In terms of individual characteristics of the female police trainees, we believe that two characteristics should play an important role in determining their beliefs about police, namely femininity and self-esteem.

Femininity is here understood as the possession of personality traits considered to be socially desirable in both sexes, but females are believed to possess them to a greater degree than males (Lenney, 1991). Femininity is characterized by gentleness, helpfulness, kindness, awareness of others' feelings, warmth, and understanding. Femininity is usually perceived as an undesirable trait by male police officers. Brown (1994) reports that feminine policewomen tend to permit male domination on the job and are not taken seriously by men. Considering the kind, gentle, and understanding nature of feminine trainees, we hypothesize that their beliefs about police are more positive than those of more competitive, independent, and self-confident masculine female police trainees.

Self-esteem reflects an individual's global feelings of self-worth and self-acceptance. It is the evaluative component of a broader representation of self, the self-concept. (Blascovich & Tomaka, 1991). Self-worth or self-esteem is derived from person's confidence in what she does or believes. While individuals low in self-esteem may be reluctant to be critical of other people and organizations and tend to explain failure more in terms of themselves, individuals high in self-esteem dare to be more critical of their surrounding and attribute negative outcomes more in terms of external causes (cf. Lalljee, 1996). We therefore hypothesize that female trainees higher in self-esteem are more cynical toward decision makers, rules, the legal system, and public opinion of police, than trainees lower in self-esteem.

Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine the female trainees' reasons for joining the police force and their beliefs about the Slovenian Police, as well as explaining some of the factors that shape the female trainees' beliefs about police.


Participants and Procedure

All female police trainees completing their basic police training at the Slovenian Police Training Center in 1995 and 1996 were asked to participate in the study. There was a total of twenty-seven female trainees--twenty-four in 1995 and three in 1996, all of whom decided to participate. Participation in the study was voluntary and anonymous. The questionnaires were administered by the researchers in two groups (n1=24, n2=3), at the end of a respective basic training course, immediately after the trainees completed the program. All participants within a group filled-out the questionnaires at the same time, in a classroom at the Police Training Center.


Beliefs about police. Measures of beliefs about police were obtained using 16-item scale developed for this study. Each item on the scale is a characteristic of police, represented in a seven-point bipolar format (e.g., rigid/flexible, unprofessional/professional, disrespected/respected). Scores can range from 16 (most negative beliefs about police) to 112 (most positive beliefs about police). An internal consistency coefficient (Cronbach's Alpha) of .86 was obtained for this scale.

Police cynicism. Police cynicism was measured using a 16-item scale developed by Regoli and colleagues (1990). Responses are anchored on a five-point Likert-type scale (1-strongly disagree, 5-strongly agree). Although the scale was designed to measure four dimensions of police cynicism (toward decision makers, rules, legal system, and public opinion), all items loaded on one factor in this study, so we used it as a unidimensional scale. Scores can range from 16 (no cynicism) to 80 (high cynicism). The coefficient alpha for the current study was .87.

Encouragement and support. The amount of encouragement and support for the respondents' decision to become policewomen was measured using 20-item scale developed for this study. Items relate to the amount of support and encouragement by various important others (e.g., father, mother, brothers, sisters, friends, coworkers). Responses are anchored on a five- point Likert-type scale (1-opposed/disappointed, 5-supportive/proud). Scores can range from 20 (opposition and disappointment) to 100 (encouragement and support). The coefficient alpha for the current study was .87.

Quality of experience during training. To measure whether the respondents' experience with their basic police training was a positive or a negative one, a 16-item scale was developed for this study. Items measure the respondents' experience regarding various aspects of the training (e.g., emphasis on order and discipline, intellectual and physical demands, effective organization of training, respect for trainees, required level of effort, fulfillment of expectations). Responses are anchored on a five-point Likert-type scale (1-not at all, 5-to a great extent). Scores can range from 16 (most negative experience) to 80 (most positive experience). The coefficient alpha for the current study was .73.

Femininity. Femininity was assessed using the 8 femininity items from the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (Spence et al., 1974). Each item on the scale is a personality characteristic, presented in a five-point bipolar format (e.g., Not at all emotional/Very emotional, Not at all helpful to others/Very helpful to others). Scores can range from 0 (least feminine) to 32 (most feminine). An internal consistency coefficient of .78 was obtained for this scale.

Self-esteem. To assess the respondents' self-esteem we used the 10-item Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965), measuring global feelings of self-worth and self-acceptance. Responses are anchored on a four-point Likert-type scale (1-strongly disagree, 4-strongly agree). Scores can range from 10 to 40 with higher scores representing higher self-esteem. The coefficient alpha for this study was .74.

Reasons for joining the police. A 22-item questionnaire was developed for this study. Items correspond to various possible reasons for joining the police force. Responses are anchored on a five-point Likert-type scale (1-no influence at all, 5-a deciding influence).


Table 1 presents the ranking of reasons for joining the police. As can be seen from the table, the most important reason is a diverse nature of work, followed by the opportunity to help people and interact with them. Also of great importance is the opportunity for further education and promotion. As we predicted, the influence upon events in society and the opportunity to enforce laws and regulations are less important to female trainees than social dimensions of police work (helping people and interacting with them).

Table 1 - Reasons for joining police

              Reason                                     Mean


 1. Diverse nature of work.                              4.22    

 2. Opportunity to help people.                          3.89 

 3. Opportunity for social interaction.                  3.74   

 4. Opportunity for further education.                   3.44     

 5. Opportunity for promotion.                           3.22     

 6. Positive previous experience with 

    police and police officers.                          2.74     

 7. Danger.                                              2.74     

 8. Influence upon events in society.                    2.67    

 9. Opportunity to enforce laws and regulations.         2.44     

10. Socializing with other police officers.              2.30     

11. Employment security.                                 2.30     

12. Opportunity to prove own capabilities.               2.26     

13. Respect for police officers.                         2.18     

14. Good reputation of police.                           2.18     

15. Wearing the uniform.                                 2.00     

16. Salary.                                              1.96    

17. Carrying firearms.                                   1.92    

18. Influence of friends and acquaintances.              1.74     

19. Influence of the family.                             1.67     

20. The image of police portrayed in movies.             1.56     

21. The image of police portrayed in media.              1.56     

22. Opportunity to use force.                            1.50     


The typical attributes of police organizations, such as wearing the uniform, carrying firearms, and the opportunity to use force, did not score high on the list (fifteenth, seventeenth, and twenty-second place, respectively). Also, the general attitude toward police and its public image (respect for police officers, reputation, the image portrayed in movies and other media) contributed little to the reasons for female police trainees' decision to become police officers. Much more important than this general attitude toward police is the respondents' positive previous personal experience with police and police officers. Other people (friends and family) also have little to do with this decision. Employment security and salary are much less important than one might expect. It is encouraging to see that the above mentioned opportunity for personal growth (further education and promotion) is much more important to the female trainees than salary and employment security.

Table 2 shows the mean scores for individual items on the scale measuring beliefs about police. For the majority of items, the means score is to the right of the mid-point (4). It can be seen from the table that respondents believe that police in Slovenia is more disrespected than respected, more bureaucratic than non-bureaucratic, and slightly more bribable and power- hungry than unbribable and not power-hungry. On the other hand, they are more inclined to believe that Slovenian Police is approachable, helpful, public, effective, professional, responsive, and expert.

Table 2 - Beliefs about police The police in Slovenia is:


On a scale from 16 to 112, the average score for beliefs about police is 71.63, indicating that the respondents' beliefs about police are above the mid-point (64). We believe that such a score is relatively low for newly hired police trainees. We will now examine factors that contribute to such beliefs about police.

Table 3 shows the descriptive statistics and correlations among all variables included in our study. We can see from the table that beliefs about police are significantly and negatively correlated with police cynicism. The more are respondents cynical toward police decision makers, rules, the legal system, and public opinion of police, the more negative are their beliefs about the police itself. Beliefs about police also exhibit significant negative correlation with the respondents' self-esteem. People assured of their own self-worth and acceptant of their own limitations, are at the same time more critical of their organization. On the other hand, those unsure of themselves dare less to be critical of their organization.

Table 3 - Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations among Study Variables

Variables                           Mean      Standard        1       2       3       4       5       6

(min. - max. score)                           Deviation


1. Beliefs about Police            71.63          12.23       -

   (16 - 112)

2. Police Cynicism                 55.07           7.80    -.62***    -

   (16 - 80)

3. Encouragement/                  65.78          10.65     .42*   -.31       -

   Support (20 - 100)

4. Quality of Training             56.33           7.42     .13    -.41*    .28       -

   Experience (16 - 80)

5. Femininity                      22.44           3.41     .41*    .12    -.01    -.11       -

   (0 - 32)

6. Self-Esteem                     30.63           2.66    -.47*    .51**  -.17    -.35     .09       -

   (10 - 40)


*** p<.001   ** p<.01  * p<.05

There is a significant positive correlation between beliefs about police and the level of encouragement and support that the respondents receive from their important others regarding their decision to become police officers. The attitudes toward police that important others exhibit through their approval or disapproval of the respondents' decision ultimately affect the respondents' beliefs about police.

There is also a significant and positive relationship between beliefs about police and the respondents' level of femininity. Warmth, understanding, kindness, gentleness, devotion, and emotion, typical of those high on femininity, obviously cause them to be more gentle, kind, and understanding in assessing characteristics of their organization.

Police cynicism is significantly and negatively correlated with the quality of training experience. Since the respondents did not have much exposure to the reality of police work, their level of police cynicism was derived mainly from their experience during their basic police training. Their trainers and instructors took on the role of police decision makers, the rules imposed during the training took on the role of police rules, while it can be assumed that the level of police cynicism toward the legal system and public opinion was passed on from their instructors during their lectures, exercises, and discussions.

There is a significant and positive correlation between police cynicism and the respondents' self-esteem. The respondents assured of their own self-worth are more critical of decision makers, rules, the legal system, and public opinion about police. Those unsure of themselves are more inclined to assume that other things around them are as they should be.

A stepwise regression with beliefs about police as the criterion and all other variables (police cynicism, encouragement/support, quality of training experience, femininity, and self- esteem) as predictors resulted in a 3-predictor model with R of .82 (F[3, 23] = 15.82, p<.0001), indicating that police cynicism, encouragement/support, and femininity accounted for 67 % of the variance in beliefs about police.

Quality of training and self-esteem, while exhibiting significant correlation with beliefs about police, did not stay in the model, indicating that they influence beliefs about police indirectly, through their influence on police cynicism. A regression with police cynicism as the criterion and quality of training and self-esteem as predictors resulted in R of .57 (F[2, 24] = 5.67, p<.01), indicating that quality of training and self-esteem explained 32 % of the variance in police cynicism.

Finally, a hierarchical regression was performed with beliefs about police as the criterion. First, femininity was entered in the model, followed by (a) encouragement and support and (b) police cynicism. Results are shown in Table 4. They indicate that encouragement and support explained slightly more variance in beliefs about police (17.9 %) than did femininity (16.9 %). The largest portion of the variance in beliefs about police was explained by police cynicism (32.6 %).

Table 4 - Hierarchical Regression for the Dependent Variable "Beliefs about Police"

Variables entering             R2         DR2        df           F             p



Femininity                  .1685       .1685      1,25       5.067         .0334

Encouragement/              .3472       .1787      1,24       6.568         .0171


Cynicism                    .6736       .3264      1,23      23.004         .0001


The present study's findings are summarized in Figure 1. As can be seen from the figure, the quality of basic police training experience and the individuals' self-esteem influence the amount of their police cynicism. Police cynicism, encouragement and support from important others, and the level of femininity influence the individuals' beliefs about police.

Figure 1 - Summary of the study's findings


Several suggestions for recruiting women in police can be derived from this study's findings about the female police trainees' reasons for joining police and their beliefs about police.

First, in recruiting women we need to keep in mind differences between men and women. As Kay (1994) points out, "police work is perceived to be - and indeed is portrayed in the media as - primarily involving the enforcement of laws, and by implication morality, often through the use of force. From this perspective, police officers are involved in a morality play in which the forces of evil would prevail were it not for police officers. They form the thin blue line protecting civilized society from anarchy. Such imagery is much more compatible with the typical male orientation than it is with the usual female orientation. The issues of authority/status and the imposition of rules and order are precisely the issues and activities that are compatible with the male orientation. For women, however, this goes against the grain of their interest in being supportive and establishing relationships, so that police work is a less- preferred career choice." This study shows that in deciding to join police, women emphasize diversity and social dimensions of police work much more than enforcing laws and regulation, wearing the uniform, carrying firearms, and opportunity to use force. Therefore, recruiting efforts need to emphasize diversity of police work and opportunity to help people and interact with them, if they want to increase the appeal of police work for women.

Second, the study reveals that opportunities for further education and promotion are much more important to female police trainees than employment security and salary. An appropriate reference to opportunity for personal growth in recruiting materials might elicit greater response from female candidates than emphasizing employment security or salary.

Third, the results suggest that positive personal experience with police and police officers is much more important in influencing the decision to join police than general reputation and respect for police or the image of police portrayed in media. Therefore, if the police organization is interested in attracting female applicants, it is not enough just to try to improve its public image and reputation. It is even more important to provide for positive personal experience of potential candidates with police and police officers, especially by the means of community policing.

Fourth, considering the study's findings about the importance of quality of female trainees' experience during the basic police training for development of police cynicism and the subsequent beliefs about police, it becomes very important to emphasize that all aspects of this basic police training (organization, rules, content, instructors, degree of formality and rigidity, etc.) need to be selected and tailored according to the specific needs and characteristics of female police trainees. Specifically, the training has to reflect the trainees' preference for diversity and social dimensions of police work, while the instructors need to be carefully selected to assure proper sensitivity for the female specificity. Also, knowledge about gender differences may be helpful in defining training needs for female trainees. Kay (1994) points out that some female officers may be holding back because they are more reluctant to deal with the confrontational situations. Assertiveness training for female officers who appear restrained in the field could give them the tools they need to cope effectively with confrontational situations.

Fifth, in the light of this study's finding about the role that encouragement and support from important others play in development of beliefs about police, we suggest that appropriate psychological counseling be established for those trainees that lack such encouragement and support in their home environment.


Women join the Slovenian Police mainly because they perceive policing to be a diverse work that provides opportunities both for helping people and interacting with them and for their personal growth (further education and promotion). While at the end of their basic police training the female trainees believe that police in Slovenia is a disrespected and bureaucratic organization, they also believe that it is approachable, helpful, public, professional, effective, and responsive. These beliefs reflect the trainees' police cynicism, the level of support and encouragement from their important others, as well as the level of their femininity. The trainees higher in femininity, lower in police cynicism, and higher in support from their important others, have more positive beliefs about police. The trainees' level of cynicism is influenced by their self-esteem and the quality of their experience during the basic police training.

To attract more women into policing, the recruiting efforts have to emphasize diversity and social dimensions of police work, as well as opportunity for personal growth. Police also has to provide for positive personal experience of potential candidates with police and police officers. The training itself has to be tailored to meet the specific needs and characteristics of female trainees, while psychological counseling needs to be established for trainees that lack encouragement and support from their important others.

Table of Contents | "Breaking the Silence"

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