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, 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 (protecting society from
criminals) is thought to justify the means (for example, unlawful searches, excessive use
of force and untruthful testimony).
Finally, 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 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 belief and behavior not described in published manuals or agency values statements.
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 many a subculture, 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
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 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. 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.
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
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?
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
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. 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.