Sociology Index

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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. Police culture can refer to the "us versus them" attitude that is attributed to police forces almost everywhere, whereby "them" can be variously meant "society at large," "criminals" and "senior police officials."

Police culture can also refer to police attitudes towards the use of their discretionary powers, especially where the end justifies the means. End is thought to justify the means. Police culture can refer to the strong feeling of loyalty towards and social solidarity with fellow officers, a feeling which goes beyond what is normally encountered among other professionals. Police culture is used in the last sense. Literature that discusses police culture has been highly critical of the police culture, blaming it for many of policing's problems.

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? I’ve 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 belief and behavior not described in published manuals or agency values statements.”

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.

The blue wall of silence or the blue code are terms used in the United States to denote the police culture rule that exists among police officers which mandates that a colleague's error, misconduct, or crime should not be reported.

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 many a subculture, The Blue Wall being an unfortunate byproduct. Robert Reiner, in THE POLITICS OF POLICE, talks about the strength of the police 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.

Shedding Light on Police Culture: An Examination of Officers’ Occupational Attitudes - Eugene A. Paoline, III, University of Central Florida.

Research on police culture has generally fallen within one of two competing camps, one 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 social 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 or police culture.

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 culture. 

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 1960s.

Changing Police Culture. Janet Chan.
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 Pierre Bourdieu, the 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 Management.

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.

Police Culture and the Learning Organisation: A Relationship? Peter Shanahan.

Both police culture and learning organisations are amorphous concepts. This paper examines the basic elements of police culture. If there is a relationship between the two, is police culture an impediment or advantage to the evolutionary process. 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. Briefly, my methodology consisted of a quantitative survey of 10% of the organisation, stratified across rank, gender and location. The results of this quantitative survey were analysed with the use of the SPSS program. Results that showed statistical significancant difference 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. This paper serves as the foundation upon which my thesis, exploring police culture and its influence on SAPOL as a learning organisation, is based.