A call to duty: The social identity of law enforcement managers

Espinoza, Lucas
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Texas Woman's University

The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the social identity of law enforcement managers (LEMs). Qualitative research methodology, specifically in-depth interviews, was used for this study. An interview schedule guide based on Tajfel’s social identity theory (SIT) and the sociocultural approach of Westley’s law enforcement study was used to frame the social identity concepts, which are social categorization, social identification, and social comparison. Participants were recruited from the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT). Major themes were found across the social identity process. Results establish that a manager’s membership in the law enforcement group formalized their self-categorization. The law enforcement occupation provides the LEMs a steady income, a stable career, and job security. The LEMs reported a positive sense of honor/respect; making a difference/helping; having a commitment to one’s oath and duty; and using a specialized language in the occupation. The LEMs limited their association with colleagues outside of the occupation. Further, they expressed a clear identification with being a law enforcement officer and manager by noting similar qualities and distinct attributes related to law enforcement. Similarly, they identified feelings of connectedness with other LEMs, using their skills/knowledge to be “pracademics” in their workplace interactions, and communications with personnel. Results show the LEMs expressed feelings of belonging, being out-going, approachable, and being critical when at work. The LEMs also acknowledged distinctions between themselves and other law enforcement personnel. This study also found they held varied feelings (i.e., brotherhood or separate in duty) when asked about other first responders. In addition, the LEMs downplayed their occupation and aligned themselves as being private citizens. Furthermore, the LEMs have an active communication with their family and/or intimate partners in their efforts to do their job. Lastly, the results show LEMs as being supportive of their subordinates’ efforts to be collegial, to secure an education, to obtain specialized training, and to expand their learning. The LEMs balance their identity of law enforcement and manager, which is reaffirmed by their commitment to their occupation. This dissertation supports the usefulness of social identity theory to study LEMs and other criminal justice occupations.

Social sciences, Intimate partner relationships, Law enforcement culture, Law enforcement organizational management, Social identity, Socioculture, Sociological social psychology