The Culture of Being a Police Officer – Criminal Justice Essay
Our text explains that the police culture is often described as isolationist, elitist and authoritarians. “According to the conventional wisdom, the police culture consists of a set of values, attitudes
and norms that are widely shared among officers, who find in the culture a way to cope with the strains of their working environment” (263). Growing up in a military family, the feeling is much the same. I feel as if we have a community of our own. To me the job of a soldier is of honor and strength, a job that speaks pride.
Police culture is sustained through the way new members are selected, trained, and accepted into the police ranks. By being put through a rigorous selection process, an individual is subjecting themselves to a group or organization in which is the beginning of the police cultural assimilation. A considerable amount of police research over the past thirty years has chronicled the tendency for police to become isolated. Isolated from previous friends, isolated from the community, isolated from the legal system, and even isolated from their spouses and families (Drummond, 1976 and Skolnick, 1966). Police impose social isolation upon themselves as a means of protection against real and perceived dangers, loss of personal and professional autonomy, and social rejection (Skolnick, 1966). Skolnick found.
The element of danger is generally credited with causing officers to be suspicious. In an attempt to be attentive to any possible violence the officer becomes generally suspicious of everyone. Likewise, many officers begin to distance themselves from previous friends as they do not seem to understand and appreciate the rigors of being a “cop”. Administrative factors such as shift work, days off during the week, and court time tend to isolate the officer from persons other than other police. Police also become isolated due to their authority. One impact is the potential that isolation provides for officers to engage in deviant behavior.
An area that has been the subject of concern by the courts, legislatures, and citizens is that of the amount of discretion that police officers have in administering the laws. The reason for concern has been that bias on the part of individual officers can result in a wide variance as to how laws are administered. Leadership can begin to change the culture of isolation on the individual level by breaking down the culture of isolation on the organizational level. Police isolation tends to build an arrogant attitude towards dealing with criticisms and complaints (http://www.pamij.com/harrison.html).
Cultural characteristics are the man-made aspects of social organization, as distinct from structural institutions, but both structure and culture influence personality and behavior. As the Anthropological Concepts of Academic Studies of Police Culture, Worldview is a mentality or cognitive orientation involving how people see themselves and see others. This is when Officer’s begin to segregate themselves from the public. They are no longer able to identify with the civilian style of life. The Officer’s begin to cling to and depend on each other for support and a style of living.
The Ethos is the idea of a spirit or force in the organization that reflects an unwritten value system. This is that spirit that comes with the Officer in uniform. There is a code that can not be broken it is as if they exist within themselves. Almost as if they are their own gang and they come with many strengths and courageous acts. The Theme is the idea of a belief system that regulates or guides the kinds of relationships or social interactions that people have inside and outside of their culture. An Officer continues to live the cop life inside the uniform and outside the uniform. He always remains looking over his soldier, as if he is among enemies. The Postulates are beliefs that integrate the people in the culture (http://faculty.ncwc.edu/toconnor/205/205lect02.htm).
In conclusion, there are a range of negative and positive beliefs that go with the police community and culture. A lot of those negatives have a lot to do with police segregating themselves from the rest of the world. They make themselves seem untouchable. Of course, it has to be this way being that they do fall under an elite group of people with extreme circumstances to the work they perform. Because of this untouchable appearance, it is understandable to assume that police officers must stick together and rely on one another, for they are only understood by each other. The text speaks of the fact that conflict can occur between officers who see themselves as crime fighters and those who prefer the social-service role, despite this conflict they still remain a force to be reckoned with and they will remain together.
Harrison, Stephen J. Police Organizational Culture: Using Ingrained Values To Build Positive Organizational Improvement http://www.pamij.com/harrison.html
Police Culture and Behavior http://faculty.ncwc.edu/toconnor/205/205lect02.htm