Police culture is an example of an occupational culture
to which new recruits become socialized through socialization.
It is thought that police culture is one of several demand
characteristics which shape routine decision-making by the police.
The term "police culture" can refer to several
different aspects of policing. It can refer to the "us versus them" attitude
that is attributed to police forces almost everywhere, where by "them" can be
variously meant "society at large," "criminals" and "senior
police officials." It can also refer to police attitudes towards the use of their
discretionary powers, especially where the end (protecting society from criminals) is
thought to justify the means (for example, unlawful searches, excessive use of force and
Finally, it can refer to the strong feeling of loyalty
towards and solidarity with fellow officers, a feeling which goes beyond what is normally
encountered among employees, even other professionals.
I use "police culture" in this last sense. Police
Culture and the "Code Of Silence" By John Westwood, Ph.D.
A Brief Discussion of Police Culture and How It
Affects Police Responses to Internal Investigations and Civilian Oversight.
While most elements of police culture are universal, each
agency possesses its own personal and distinctive organizational culture. So then, what is
police culture? Ive yet to discover an uncomplicated definition. The definitions I
have found are many and varied, some extremely complex. McDonald et al have held:
The concept of police culture is comprised of the merging of two major components a)
the image of impartial and professional crime fighters that the police have of themselves,
and b) a system of beliefs and behaviour not described in published manuals or agency
This definition, while not necessarily identifying a compelling positive element, does
recognize more than just the negative.
The public demands all professions be held to a high standard, but for obvious reasons
policing has an even higher threshold to meet. All police officers must accept this higher
standard. An integral part of the process of police acceptance of this higher standard is
understanding the police culture, while retaining the resilience to both resist the
negative and champion the positive.
Discussion of police culture is more apt to be centered upon the negative traits than the
positive, so we may as well begin with the negative. Police culture is the sum of numerous
subcultures, The Blue Wall being an unfortunate byproduct. Robert Reiner, in THE POLITICS
OF POLICE, talks about the strength of the culture being based upon police work being a
mission and therefore anything done in pursuit of this mission is serving the greater
good. He argues that this foundation makes police culture so hard to reform. - Inspector
Robert G. Hall, Winnipeg Police Service - September 19th, 2002 cacole.ca.
Shedding Light on Police Culture: An Examination of
Officers Occupational Attitudes - Eugene A. Paoline, III, University of
Research on police culture has generally fallen within one of two competing campsone
that depicts culture as an occupational phenomenon that encompasses all police officers
and one that focuses on officer differences. The latter conceptualization of police
culture suggests subcultures (or at least segmentation) that bound or delimit the
occupational culture. Using survey data collected as part of the Project on Policing
Neighborhoods (POPN) in two municipal police departments, the research reported here
examines the similarities and differences among contemporary police officer attitudes in
an effort to locate some of the boundaries of the occupational culture of police. Seven
analytically distinct groups of officers are identified, suggesting that officers are
responding to and coping with aspects of their occupational world in different ways. The
findings call into question some of the assumptions associated with a monolithic police
Using oral history to investigate police culture, Tom
Cockcroft, Canterbury Christ Church University College.
This article focuses upon the use of oral history methodology in relation to studying the
work of the police and, particularly, the culture or cultures of the police. An overview
of oral history is followed by a discussion of the application of such techniques to
investigating police work. This, in turn, is followed by an assessment of the advantages
and disadvantages of such methodological techniques when used in a piece of research which
investigated the culture of the Metropolitan Police Force between the 1930s and
This paper reviews the concept of police culture and its utility for analysing the impact
of police reform. The persistence of police culture has been considered a serious obstacle
to reform, but the concept itself has been poorly defined and is of little analytic value.
Drawing on Bourdieu's concepts of field and habitus and adopting a
framework developed by Sackmann, this paper suggests a new way of conceptualizing police
culture, one which recognizes its interpretive and creative aspects, as well as the legal
and political context of police work. Thus, police culture results from an interaction
between the field of policing and the various dimensions of police
organizational knowledge. The utility of this framework is discussed in relation to a case
study of reforming police/minorities relations in Australia.
A social constructionist account of
police culture and its influence on the representation and progression of female officers:
A repertory grid analysis in a UK police force
Dick P. Jankowicz D. - Source: Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and
Abstract: The police organisation receives much media attention regarding its record on
Equal Opportunities. Research suggests that the organisational culture in police
organisations plays a major role in impeding the progress of women. Using repertory grid
technique, the culture of a police force, conceptualised at the level of performance value
judgements or recipe knowledge was investigated. It is argued that rank, rather than
gender has the greatest influence on the content of performance value judgements and that
this is attributable to the way that hierarchy influences the way in which the grass-roots
role is constructed. We argue that women's progression is impeded not because of dominant
constructions of the role per se, but by the way such constructions intersect with broader
socio-cultural constructions of women's domestic roles.
Police Culture and the Learning Organisation: A Relationship?
Both police culture and learning organisations are amorphous concepts. This paper examines
the basic elements of police culture and the learning organisation and looks at their
relationship in the context of the South Australia Police. The question is raised, does
the culture of SAPOL affect its ability to evolve into a learning organisation? If there
is a relationship between the two, is police culture an impediment or advantage to the
The general intent was to explore the relationship between police culture and learning. I
have examined the concepts of both police culture and the learning organisation. Research
using the resources of the 3,600 strong South Australia Police to explore my thesis that
there was a relationship between police culture and learning on the way to becoming a
Briefly, my methodology consisted of a quantitative survey of 10% of the organisation,
stratified across rank, gender and location. The return rate for this survey was 55%. The
results of this quantitative survey were analysed with the use of the SPSS program.
Results that showed statistical significance and significance in their description of
SAPOL's culture and learning were then further analysed in order to determine if they
showed any common cultural themes.
I have broken down both the police culture and the learning organisation literature into
useable elements so that any links may be easier to both establish and box. My model of
the learning organisation is described in this paper, as are what I consider to be the
most important generic elements of police culture. Analysis of the results of this
research is not yet complete and this paper serves as the foundation upon which my thesis,
exploring police culture and its influence on SAPOL as a learning organisation, is based.