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Police Force or Police Service? Gender and Emotional Labor

NCJ Number
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Volume: 561 Dated: January 1999 Pages: 111-126
Susan Ehrlich Martin
Date Published
January 1999
16 pages
This article explores the feeling and emotional display rules that regulate the expression of emotion in police work, the ways these rules reflect an image of masculinity, and how this affects occupational and organizational norms.
Police work involves extensive "emotional labor," as it requires an officer "to induce or suppress feelings in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others" (Hochschild, 1983). To be effective, officers must control both their own feelings and the emotional displays of citizens in crisis while maintaining order, providing service, and controlling crime. Even more than bravery and physical strength (qualities associated with masculinity), police work demands communication and human relations skills that often are both unrecognized and undervalued by police managers and officers themselves. This is largely because these skills are associated with femininity. Skills traditionally associated with male and female traits and abilities are all required for effective police work. Police officers must have a command presence that enables them to act decisively to maintain control in volatile situations, and they must also have the ability to actively listen and communicate sensitively with citizens. Female officers feel the pressure of the police masculine subculture as they attempt to restrain their emotions in responding to volatile situations. In informal interaction with other officers, however, women are cast in the traditional feminine role of sensitive listener for male officers who need to vent suppressed emotions. There is little appreciation for the value of these "feminine" traits in police work on the streets, however. 34 references