Sexual Harassment in American Law Enforcement: An Assessment of Workplace Liability in the Southeastern United States

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Criminal Justice

First Advisor

William Banks Taylor

Advisor Department

Criminal Justice


The purpose of the study is to assess sexual harassment as a workplace liability issue within law enforcement agencies in the southeastern section of the United States. The assessment is three-fold. It (1) addresses actual occurrences of sexual harassment experienced by study participants, (2) gauges proactive agency efforts to educate personnel about sexual harassment, and (3) measures organizational tolerance to charges of sexual harassment. Using written survey data drawn from law enforcement personnel representing 246 local law enforcement agencies in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina, eight hypotheses were evaluated using either point biserial correlational coefficient analysis or Pearson product-moment (Pearson r) correlation coefficient analysis. The researcher conducted correlational analyses to assess the relationship of the variables, which included gender, receipt of the law enforcement agency's anti-harassment policy, unwelcome touching, sexually-suggestive gestures, sexually-offensive teasing or jokes, sexually-offensive comments, and whether an agency knew or should have known of sexually-inappropriate conduct within the agency. Using the Bonferroni approach to control for Type I error across the eight correlations, the researcher found that five of the eight correlations were statistically significant. The findings indicate that there is a significant correlation between instances of sexually harassing conduct and gender. Also, findings indicate a significant correlation between an employee's receipt of the agency's anti-harassment policy and the reporting of instances of sexually harassing conduct. The researcher offers explanations concerning the variables for which no association was found. Consulting the data accumulated, related literature and the holdings of the courts of law, the researcher arrived at several conclusions of practical importance to law enforcement agencies. The most urgent of them is the need for agencies to promulgate and publish a specific sexual harassment policy that (1) includes a grievance procedure, and (2) is enforced to both prevent and correct harassing behavior, thereby promoting conciliation rather than litigation.