Police Officers as Warriors or Guardians

Police Officers as Warriors or Guardians: Empirical Reality or Intriguing Rhetoric?
National Institute of Justice
Kyle McLean, Scott E. Wolfe, Jeff Rojek, Geoffrey P. Alpert, Michael R. Smith
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Policing experts have suggested that shifting from a warrior mindset – officers viewing themselves as warriors fighting crime – to a guardian mindset – officers valuing working with the public to reduce crime – is a valuable method for improving police-community relations across the United States. However, little empirical evidence has been used to inform this debate. To address this gap, we examined survey data from two U.S. police departments to assess the validity of the Warrior/Guardian framework. Factor analyses suggested that the warrior and guardian mindsets are distinct, but related concepts. Furthermore, these mindsets are associated with different attitudinal outcomes (e.g. the guardian mindset was associated with greater prioritization of communication during citizen encounters). Thus, the Warrior/Guardian framework is supported empirically. Overlap between the Warrior/Guardian framework and existing police culture literature is discussed and police culture is offered as a potential explanation for variation in warrior and guardian orientations.