Gender within a specialist police department
: an examination of the cultural dynamics of a firearms unit

  • Debbie Cain

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the cultural dynamics within a specialist policing department with a particular focus on the issue of gender. It explores the experiences of a sample group of police officers working within the firearms unit of one metropolitan police force. Culture, the history of policing, specialist departments and the introduction of women are considered in order to gain an in depth understanding of the organisation. Previous research into police culture suggests masculine values remain intensely dominant, particularly within the firearms arena, ultimately creating an environment, which outwardly appears unattractive to women.
Semi-structured interviews were carried out with twenty-one police officers including eleven male and ten female officers from Constable to Inspector rank. The research focused on the pre-joining experiences of the officers involved and also their personal experiences of life on the firearms unit. The study identified that the issues within the firearms unit appear not to be about gender: there was little evidence to suggest that officers within the firearms unit were treated differently or unfairly due to their gender. What was apparent was the presence of in-group/out-group distinctions, with an overwhelming desire from both genders to be accepted and to "fit-in‟. This has implications with regards to the research concerning occupational cultures, including police culture in particular.
Date of AwardNov 2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSarah Charman (Supervisor)

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