Rethinking Police Culture: Officers' Occupational Attitudes

Rethinking Police Culture: Officers' Occupational Attitudes

Rethinking Police Culture: Officers' Occupational Attitudes

Rethinking Police Culture: Officers' Occupational Attitudes

Excerpt

Police culture has been a topic of study for over forty years. Since the seminal work of William Westley (1970), characterizations of culture have focused on describing the widely shared attitudes, values, and norms that serve to manage the strains created by the nature of police work and the punitive practices of police management and supervision. The occupational attitudes associated with this culture include a distrust and suspiciousness of citizens and a prescription to assess people in terms of their potential threat, a lay-low or cover your ass orientation to police work that discourages the initiation of citizen contacts, a strong emphasis on the crime-fighting elements of the police role, a “we vs. they” attitudes toward citizens, and loyalty to the peer group. This has become part of the conventional wisdom about police; it can be found in textbooks (e.g., Crank, 1998; Peak and Glensor, 1999: 146–149) and heard at conferences.

Other police research has found that culture differs among organizations (Wilson, 1968) and across ranks (Reuss-Ianni, 1983; Manning, 1994a). Additional typological studies of police note that officers vary along a number of important attitudinal dimensions. This research, which was conducted over twenty five years ago, found that officers varied in their attitudes toward citizens and supervisors, role orientations, legal restrictions, and policing tactics (see Reiner, 1985; R. Worden, 1995). These studies suggest that officers may cope differently with the strains of their work environment. With the changes that have occurred in the composition of police forces and in the philosophies of policing over the past two decades, we should expect even more differences among officers. Representation of racial minorities, females, and college educated personnel, all of which bring to the policing . . .

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