Police Culture: Histories, Orthodoxies and New Horizons

Cockcroft, Tom orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7249-7285 (2017) Police Culture: Histories, Orthodoxies and New Horizons. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 11 (3). pp. 229-235. ISSN 1752-4512

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1093/police/pax029


The idea of police culture has dominated academic and practitioner debate for the past half-century. This might appear, at one level, remarkable given the degree to which wider society, police organisations and policing itself has changed over this time. That said, the enduring appeal of police culture, as a concept, might be relatively straight forward to explain. The general principle of the concept, that specific yet informal values emerge amongst police officers and that these impact on how police work ‘gets done’, allow it to be applied to a broad range of areas of policing. It is, arguably, as relevant to contemporary debates about police education and training as it was to explaining police race relations in the 1980s. Furthermore, its popularity as a concept might also be explained by the fact that, for later iterations at least, it allows for the notion of cultural change. This idea that it is possible to modify, mitigate or reduce the culture and its impact has done much to make the concept attractive to police leaders, rather than just academic audiences. In doing so, it also tells us much about the new social and managerial contexts against which (or through which) police organisations operate. Increasingly, and as the papers in this special issue illustrate, scholars continue to find that police culture provides a helpful tool with which to understand these complexities associated with 21st century policing. Of interest here, however, has to be an understanding of how the context through which knowledge about police culture is generated has evolved over the last 50 years.

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