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Criminal Justice Research: Police Officers and Their Jobs

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You are interested in conducting research concerning police officers and their jobs. The information you want to gather, including job satisfaction or job hazards, is up to you as long as you clearly state the goal of your research. The method you use should be appropriate for the goal of your research.

Develop a 1,050- to 1,750-word paper addressing what you have learned about criteria for criminal justice research, specifically with regards to what research method is appropriate in your proposal.

Address the following questions:
-What is the goal or purpose behind your proposed research?
-What type of interview structure would you use? Why?
-What would be some questions you would ask? Why?
-What are some distinct advantages of a qualitative data-gathering strategy, such as participant observation, over more quantitative approaches?
-When conducting survey research, how important is informed consent and confidentiality?

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Solution Preview

The research topic is job satisfaction among police officers in the state of _____. We can define satisfaction as a general feeling of happiness and fulfillment in police work, the knowledge that one is serving the community and, importantly, stopping crime. Like everything else, variables must be defined weather we're using quantifiable data or not.

What is the goal or purpose behind your proposed research?

The normative purpose is to figure out why police might be unhappy and hence, fix the problem at some point. The normative issue is primary because there would be no reason to worry about this topic unless you thought you can help bring about change.

More academically, the goal is to isolate those variables that are most salient to officer satisfaction (or dissatisfaction). What could those variables be:

1. Crime. We would have to control for the level of criminality in an area. It stands to reason that officers under that much pressure would be less happy than a country sheriff. High - medium - low would be a simple scale to use.
2. Family life. Officer's perceptions might be clouded if he is getting a divorce, or his son is ill. I don't expect this to be significant, but that does not mean it should not be used as a control variable. This could be a simple scale of good - average - poor
3. Turnover. High turnover rates suggest unhappy people. The opposite is true as well. Turnover is actually a quantitative variable, but what we want here are perceptions of turnover. In other words, a department can stay stable for years, then see 5 officers quit the same month. It's easy to make the error that turnover is a "serious problem" here. So its the perception not the fact.
4. The judiciary. How tough are judges locally? If a policeman risks his neck to bring a gangbanger into court, only to see the judge let him go with a slap, he is likely to begin hating his job. Tough or not tough might be easy enough.
5. The prosecutor: same here - prosecutors that do not like cutting deals might make police far more happy than those that do, for the same reason as the above. Same dummy-variable here.
6. Recidivism rates. This is particularly salient for high and mid-level crime areas. Job satisfaction will be altered if the police are arresting the same people over and over again. This can be expressed either as a percentage, or as a ...

Solution Summary

The expert examines the police officers and their jobs. Criminal justice research is analyzed. The types of interview structure would you use are determined.

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