Making sense of policing identities: the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’ in policing accounts of victimisation

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New recruits within policing are involved in a process of negotiating and creating meaning within their newly shaped identities. Within this identity formation, members engage in both categorisation and comparison in an attempt to sustain the group and to enhance the self-image of the group member. The benefits of inclusion and enhanced group identity however must be analysed alongside the inevitable exclusion and ‘othering’ that also occur. Using the framework of social identity theories, this paper seeks to consider new police recruits in England and their perceptions of, and attitudes towards, victims and potential victims of crime. It does this through an analysis of qualitative data obtained through a piece of longitudinal, ethnographic research which focussed upon new police recruits to an English police force. The research followed the police recruits for four years and in doing so, attempted to produce a holistic description of their developing cultures. What emerged from the findings was an enthusiasm for assisting victims of crime but within the context of culturally defined notions of what a ‘victim’ might constitute. By sharply delineating between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ victims of crime, police officers are contributing to the ‘diminishing status’ of certain potential victims through privileging certain identities over others. Police officers are one of the key definers of victim status and through this process of ‘informed neglect’ are contributing to the discrimination and alienation of certain parts of the community. This has the potential to add to the exclusion of those who are already socially, educationally and economically ostracised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-97
JournalPolicing and Society
Issue number1
Early online date3 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2020


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