Using ethnographical methods, this thesis examines the prevalence and character of an occupational culture among patrolling police in terms of frames of reference, conduct and attitudes, a culture which overrides or is in opposition to the official mandate of the police force.
It is suggested that the occupational culture of the patrolling police should not be regarded as a homogenous culture but be seen as describing a continuum from a legalistic to a more autonomous perspective.The legalistic perspective is founded on the official social mandate of the police. The autonomous approach on the other hand is regarded as an independent social power with a clearly partisan interest in defending an often idealised segment of society loosely termed ”the general public” by fighting alleged troublemakers and criminals. This partisanship legitimises what from the autonomous perspective is considered ”real police work”. This primarily involves dealing with crime within the patrolling officers’ area of competence, with clear boundaries between right and wrong.
The ”real police work” can be linked to another term within the autonomous perspective:”practical police work”. This includes procedures where immediate results are emphasised at the cost of legally and/or institutionally imposed working practices, a special ”police eye” for what can be seen as different (deviant) and therefore threatening, a relative independence in relation to the code of laws, use of repressive powers to maintain respect for the police and finally a mutual code of silence among policemen.
You can also discern three sets of opposing attitudes in the taxonomy. The first one is an alienated ”tired” attitude as opposed to a dedicated ”hungry” attitude. The second one concerns a repressive tough attitude that emphasises the police as a violent power versus a helpful soft attitude that lays more stress on co-operative structures. Finally there is a distinction between a reflective, intellectual approach open to change and an automatic intuitive response where the individual officer tends to generalise the cognitive patterns of the immediate situations so far that it dominates his whole outlook on the surrounding world. This also comprises a general distrust of the surrounding world combined with a view of other people based on simple (facile?) categorisation.
The study suggests that when police officers speak about police work more generally the autonomous perspective often dominates.
In practice however police on the whole follow a legalistic perspective in terms of following police regulations. Departures from this are nevertheless recurrent
and the factors that decide whether an autonomous perspective will prevail are on the one hand the police officers’ level of commitment to their task and on the other an appraisal of the risks of being personally punished for their actions.
Lund: Socialhögskolan, Lunds Universitet , 2004. , 350 p.