Police Culture and Oversight



Police Culture and Oversight


Misconduct Regarding the Negative Aspects of Police Culture is an Unavoidable Result of the Nature of Police Work

As with every organization, there is the basic life and the cultural life that is the background that explains the reality that happens on the outside.  Much work about the analysis of the police culture started in the 1970s but has leaned on the critical side (Crank, 2014).  The work took into consideration the sociological concepts of the police work and their role in the society. The core assumptions that the early literature posed was negative and remained undisputed for a long time. However, with further organizations and ethnographic studies, much has been revealed that the critical side is mostly related to the nature of work they are exposed to. This essay will focus on the nature of the police work that results in misconduct in their culture.

Police Culture

The central values of the police structure are secrecy, self-protection, isolation, and solidarity. They, therefore, have ranks that are separated from the outside world. The use of force and violence is a nature of their work and not only do they use it frequently but also see it as a norm. While most people join the force with the aim of helping people, they gain the entitlement to power over the rest of the population. Police training is, therefore, an activity that gives one a new identity and strips them of their old one. The badge and gun are used to signify the new found power (Crank, 2014).  Donning of the new uniform and the badge define the new police personality that they gain. It is experienced by every police officer and thus gives them all a unique culture. Some responsibilities come with the newly found character and badge.

Nature of Police Work That Leads to Objective Circumstances

Dangerous Police Work

The police officers are sent out on duty with the warning that translates to “come back safe.”  84% of the police officers agree that they worry about their life during the mission while 86% of them think that the public doesn’t understand the situation. Physical confrontations with individual resisting arrest is a common phenomenon. 27% of the police officers have shot at someone in their line of duty excluding during training (Nhan, 2014). While serving at these levels, a more significant percentage of the police are abused verbally in relation to their tasks and very few are thanked for their contribution.

The most recognizable danger to the police are the dangerous people.  They are the people who are armed or violent and when caught outside the law will refuse to comply with arrest procedures.  Some groups of people are intentionally aiming at killing police officers. In the USA alone, the number of police officers killed by criminals between 1980 and 2014 was 64 (Nhan, 2014).  But in 2013 alone 50, 000 police officers were assaulted (Nhan, 2014). Since the police officers never know how the encounter will be with any citizen, they tend to implement harsh methods of interaction or arrest. Traffic police officers are also under considerable risks from accidents especially those within the traffic enforcement. The police pursuits by cars further provide situations for danger. Training activities for the police involving shooting, defensive tactics expose them to injury or even death. The health of the police officers is affected by primary causes of stress, poor sleeping habits, and fatigues. Destructive encounters with citizens also bring about post-traumatic stress. These dangerous situations develop a culture of violence among the police officers as the people do not understand their predicaments.

Proving Masculinity

The police work involves lots of dangerous work that would include the dominance character of the masculine gender.  The masculinity attributes that are imitated by the police are the strength, bravery, and autonomism. For the officers to fit into their culture and role, they have to take up a method of enforcing their authority.  They have to downplay the social service aspects of the police job and adapt the image of a physical crime fighter.  The positives derived from nature are the self-control, stoicism, and composure (Rahr, & Rice, 2015). Anger is the only acceptable emotion of the masculine police officers; otherwise, one would be regarded as weak.  The outcome of this behavior is the behavior is the marginalization of the female police officers, alienation from the concerns of health, poor relationships and emotions. The other outcomes that are objective and lead to a negative police culture are the increased risk-taking and violation of human rights.

Solidarity and suspicion

Police are involved in investigations within their community even in their immediate social constructs.  The police culture, therefore, prescribes that they cannot trust someone new neither should they share any information with anyone.  There is a blue wall of silence created between them and the general public. There is the creation of a ‘them versus us’ mentality between the two groups.  Some police officers interpret the attitude to refer to the public as a group of people who don’t share their values and conspire against them since they have little regard for their authority (Prenzler, 2016). It leads to the arrest of the individual for bogus infractions so that they feel the command of the police. Some police officers go to great extents to prove their authority because of the mentality. The mentality is however cooled down by the presence of role model supervisors.

The wall of secrecy also falls between the police colleagues. It is thought to be the dark side of policing and would even maintain it in their investigations pertaining their colleagues. However, within the police culture, there is a new brotherhood bond that states that there should be solidarity when there is need to defend and watch each other’s back. Whenever police misconduct occurs within their ranks, it will, therefore, be hard for them to report it (Brewer et al., 2016). The solidarity that they create because of being alienated from the other part of the community becomes a binding force and prevents them from turning against each other. Eventually in countries where the police force is not well enlightened of the consequences of the misconduct and reporting, the cases of officers reporting each other ar5e low. However, some countries such as Canada have 66% of the police officers who are willing to report a case of misconduct of their fellows.


The culture that slowly develops inside the police force is directly related to the police misconduct. Some of the personal police characteristics such as seeking masculinity and using secrecy to protect their colleagues are their own doing. However, some aspects such as their nature of work and the perceptions that people have towards them are not controlled by them. Their misconduct caused by those reasons would thence not be judged as their doing. Therefore, not all aspects of the negative police culture are as a result of their police work. Some of it is self-imposed.



Question Two

Identify the difficulties in monitoring police behavior and ensuring personal police accountability through an external monitoring body? Given these difficulties, discuss how police misbehavior can be tackled effectively

Police accountability is the responsibility that individual police officers and their law enforcement agencies have towards the delivery of crime control and order maintenance, and to treat members of the public fairly and within the constructs of the law. It is crucial for the public so that they maintain they have in their law enforcing agencies. Police non-compliance is a serious issue and raises a lot of concern from the public and the media (Porter & Prenzler, 2015).  The work of police accountability could be done by internal bodies within the police service who check within the system to ensure the laws and order that apply to law enforcement are followed. There are also options where an external body or organization ensure the police accountability. The latter is the most favored option by the public.

External Monitoring Bodies

Internal processes within the police department to ensure accountability have mainly failed because of the numerous shortcomings they have. The method is filled with political patronage and ends up being corrupt and the inclusion of favoritism. It is also vital to prevent the inclusion of political leaders such as mayors within the police department thus an independent body would sever the purpose best (Newburn, 2015). These groups are independent and lack external interference with their oversight authority. The main factors they took into consideration in their process is discretion and code of ethics, use of force, vehicle pursuits, and body-worn cameras (Brewer et al., 2016). The external bodies of police oversight include Monitor and evaluate performance based models, Compulsory monitoring models, investigative and quality assurance models and the civilian review boards. This external however have their limitations in the tasks they served.

Limitations of External Bodies of Police Oversight

These external models including civilian review boards have limited power in their scope.  Their primary activity is confirming that procedures within a case are done according to the required standards.  After that, they only are allowed to make recommendations on how to improve the methods. In the case of investigative oversight bodies, they are limited to some instances, and the broad issues are not tackled.  Limiting the capabilities of external monitoring bodies makes them fail in their task. Some police reforms would require significant changes within the whole department including their policies and management. The oversight authorities are limited to performing these substantial changes within the police organizations. Once recommendations towards changes in methods of police work get presented, it then shifted the responsibility to the internal police oversight authorities to implement them (Brewer et al., 2016). While some domestic groups will be prudent in their implementation of the reforms; some will be reluctant. Therefore, there is no confirmation that these groups would make an impact in the police culture regulation.

External bodies of review that do not constitute of police officers lack the necessary information regarding tactics, policy, and strategy pertaining the work of the police.  They, therefore, are rendered ineffective to handle the job of oversight in the departments. Technical proficiency in the work of supervision would require training in the field of law, ethics and the duties of the law (Crank, 2014). Training also helps to remove the barrier that exists between the police and the external groups that would introduce bias within their functions. There is also limited information on policy related to information gathering, prevention and decision making. The police departments are custodians of vital information on various government ranks and unprofessionalism in work within the investigation of the cases may lead to compromise of the police work.

The review groups and external boards have been starved of the necessary funding and resources to carry out their mandate. The resources would have been used in training of the members on matters pertaining the police work. They therefore moreover, when the funds are unavailable, the external boards are only limited to investigative efforts rather than the research and creation of new policies. Underutilize their power in the overall process. New strategies are essential in the regulation of police procedures when the previous have failed in their mandate. Therefore, when the bodies are not provided with the capability, their work is limited. Sustaining these groups eventually becomes a great struggle and most end up in dissolution. Another level of resources needed by these groups is the connection with relevant policy-making bodies such as the parliament so that their recommendations may be put to use (Crank, 2014). When there are no efforts to connect the groups with government offices or methods of tracking the oversight they give towards policy making result to the work of the external bodies ineffective.


Several alternatives are available for the creation of external bodies involved in police oversight. All the methods have several strengths that make them stand out above the internal strategies. They are however struggling with their overall implementation of the recommendations they present to the departments. Moreover, they should pump resources into the organizations to ensure that they are equipped to deal with the police oversight issues.




Crank, J. P. (2014). Understanding police culture. Routledge.

Brewer, J. D., Wilford, R., Guelke, A., Hume, I., & Moxon-Browne, E. (2016). The police, public order and the state: policing in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic, the USA, Israel, South Africa and China. Springer.

Nhan, J. (2014). Police culture. The encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice.

Newburn, T. (2015). Literature review: police integrity andcorruption.

Porter, L., & Prenzler, T. (2015). Improving police behaviour and police–community relations through innovative responses to complaints. In Accountability of policing (pp. 49-68). Routledge.

Prenzler, T. (2016). Democratic Policing, Public Opinion, and External Oversight. In Civilian Oversight of Police: Advancing Accountability in Law Enforcement (pp. 51-72). CRC Press.

Rahr, S., & Rice, S. K. (2015). From warriors to guardians: Recommitting American police culture to democratic ideals. US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.

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