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The three aspects of police culture

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

For many years police culture has been a subject of interest for researchers across the world, with the underlying assumption that police culture is the same, irrespective of the country. Research primarily focused on often negative characteristics of what was referred to as ‘occupational police culture’. The aim of this thesis is to critically examine the impact of occupational, organisational and national cultures on police values (primarily acquired early in life on national or societal level) and practices (learned through socialisation processes within the occupation and organisation).
This study reports findings from a mixed-methods research, which administered an online questionnaire targeting an international sample of police officers as a quantitative method, and which also included semi-structured interviews conducted with European police officers as a qualitative instrument. The questionnaire responses from 206 primarily European police officers and the results from 20 semi-structured interviews show similarities and differences between police officers from various countries. The findings indicate a close link of their values and practices to their national culture.
What has been described as ‘police culture’ so far, is a conglomerate of national culture, the culture created by and within the various organisations police officers work for and in, and of the actual occupational culture of the police profession, which is in fact the first major finding of this research. Cultural values and practices are acquired during different stages of the socialisation process, on national, occupational and organisational level. The second major finding of this research is the lack of a sharp divide between occupational and organisational socialisation in the police, caused by the early exposure of police recruits to the policing environment.
The ‘Three Aspects of Police Culture Model’ was developed from the analysis of the findings. There are three cultural aspects, on a national, occupational and organisational level, which determine the values and practices of police officers and influence the development of police culture. The model allows for the identification of the source of negative cultural characteristics, helps to better understand police culture and provides new opportunities for change. This is an important, fresh and unique contribution to the existing body of published research exploring police culture.
Original languageEnglish
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Award dateNov 2019
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ID: 20609319