Police Subculture Term Paper 3 pages

individuals join the police academy, they undergo rigorous training. This training teaches these individuals about many subjects such as criminal law, defensive tactics, and verbal judo amongst many others that the individuals may be required to apply during the course of the job. However, regardless of these teachings the professional culture influences the behaviors of these individuals separately creating a bias in the learning techniques. The police subculture is not taught as a curriculum, but adopted by the individuals. The police subculture impacts the behavior of the individuals in a powerful way. This means that studying this subculture makes it easy to understand the behavior of the members of the police force.

Purpose Statement

This paper is the study of this subculture. It will briefly talk about the various characteristics of this subculture.


Communication is a very important dimension of this subculture. Officers rely heavily on communication as they are surrounded by critical situations where communication helps them align their strategy. Thus, police officers have developed an ‘argot’ ‘understandable by them. Indecipherable statements like “He’s in pocket” (used to ask whether suspect is in possession of narcotics), phonetic alphabets and codes are often used to steer safe of interpretation where civilians are involved. (Barry, 1999)

Esoteric knowledge

The training of the police officers in the squads involves teaching the officers the subjects on the curriculum (like marksmanship, investigative techniques, state penal codes et cetera) and many not on the curriculum (like acceptance of police roles). It is significant for the officers to learn the skills and knowledge before they can join a real squad. Thibault says that “the acquisition by initiatives of the body of esoteric knowledge and the appropriate behavior patterns before the novices are accepted by the initiated” is required by the officers. (Thibault, Lynch, McBride, Lynch, 2000; Barry, 1999)


Barry (1999) identifies Arthur Niederhoffer’s work in connection to cynicism in the police. The author identifies various stages of cynicism a recruit goes through as he or she moves from the idealistic police role model to the realistic one on the streets. The first stage (pseudo-cynicism) is when the recruit trains for the job. The second stage (romantic cynicism) steps in during the initial five years of the police service, while the third stage (aggressive cynicism) take about 10 years to show. (Thibault, Lynch, McBride, Lynch, 2000; Barry, 1999)

Internal Sanctions

The police subculture gives officers the power to exert force on the civilians when it comes to criminal / legal matters. However, there are internal sanctions defined by the subculture which define the acceptable and unacceptable acts by the officers. For instance, officers using excessive force on the civilians are held accountable, which means that they are bound by sanctions / restrictions and investigations which keep the conduct of police inline. (Barry, 1999)


The police subculture requires the officers to maintain the solidarity of the culture (including their peers). This characteristic compels an officer to cover up the illegitimate behavior of a fellow officer. The extent of solidarity ranges from high (which is judged by the severity of the fellow officer’s misconduct) to a mere courtesy extended to off-duty officers (such as not issuing a traffic ticket). (Barry, 1999)

Social Isolation

Being a part of the subculture, the officers feel socially isolated. This behavior is triggered by many reasons such as the confidential nature of investigations, high stress levels and officers often being asked to do favors. The nature of job demands the officer to work unusual hours (e.g. late nights), which often limit social interactions. However, it has been noticed that officers tend to remain isolated from the general public even if working regular hours. Therefore, it is often so that officers can better associate with other officers than the public. (Barry, 1999)

Perception of Violence

Notice that when the police use force to control the violence on the streets, it is not termed as violent behavior. This means that the officers consider acts of violence as those acts that may cause or tend to harm the public or individuals but help them in achieving their job objectives.

Perception of Psychological Distance

This distance in their perception of violence is characterized by a fine line between the situation being an offense, or a minor excusable mistake. Even though, in such situations officers are not the ones to decide whether the act is punishable or not, regardless of their personal association with the suspect. Such situations demand the need for officers to distance themselves psychologically from the public in general.

Hawthorne Experiments and the Relevance

The Hawthorn experiments basically deals with the issue that if people are being observed, they tend to be more productive or effective. The relevance of these experiments to the subculture is significant. If the officers are monitored (and encouraged) while they are at work, this could maximize their efficiency. The Hawthorne effect may play up and characteristics such as cynicism, social isolation, esoteric knowledge attainment, internal sanction implementation et cetera can be improved upon to generate better results. (Thibault, Lynch, McBride, Lynch, 2000)

Importance of Understand the Police Subculture

Understanding the above is necessary as it would make the management of these subgroups easier. Officials can identify the weaknesses of the police force or individual officers through monitoring the officers and rectification programs can be introduced to make the officers service the public better.

Works Cited

Barry, Daniel Patrick. Handling Police Misconduct In an Ethical Way. December 1999. [Online] Available at http://www.unlv.edu/Colleges/Liberal_Arts/Ethics_and_Policy/barry.html

Thibault, Edward A. Lynch, Lawrence M.R. McBride, Bruce Lynch, Lawrence. Proactive Police Management. Prentice Hall. 11 August, 2000. Isbn: 0130225193

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