Sociology Index


Police culture is an example of occupational culture to which new recruits become socialized. 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" meant "society at large," "criminals" and "senior police officials." Police culture also refers to police attitudes towards the use of their discretionary powers, especially where the end justifies the means. Police culture is the sum of many a subculture, The Blue Wall being an unfortunate byproduct. 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.

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.

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. 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 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.” - McDonald et al.

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.

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.

Using oral history to investigate police culture, Tom Cockcroft. 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.

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

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, social segmentation that bound or delimit the occupational culture. Using survey data collected as part of the Project on Policing Neighborhoods 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. The findings call into question some of the assumptions associated with a monolithic police culture.


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.


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.

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. 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.

Police Culture and the "Code Of Silence" By John Westwood.