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Shifting cultures: managerialism and the rise of “performance”

Tom Cockcroft (Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, UK)
Iain Beattie (Kent Law School, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 19 August 2009



The purpose of this paper is to explore the consequences that followed the introduction of a performance measurement regime that is introduced into a subdivision of an English police force. The police force under consideration is located in a county that covers over 1,500 square miles and envelops areas as diverse as large urban conurbations, small villages and considerable rural expanses.


Part of this research utilised semi‐structured interviews to gauge officers' reactions to the new system and the impact on their occupational behaviour.


The research found widespread resistance to the new system, due to a perception that the performance indicators did not fully reflect the breadth of the officer role. Similarly, evidence emerged to suggest that performance indicators can play a key role in focussing officers' attention on those core behaviours being measured and encouraging presentational and working styles which, whilst satisfying scoring criteria, might, arguably, be deemed inappropriate.

Research limitations/implications

The research is limited by its focus upon officers working under a pilot project in a solitary subdivision. Further research might seek to draw on the views of larger numbers of officers working under a variety of police performance measurement mechanisms. Such an approach would facilitate the development of guides to best practice in both the formulation and implementation of such regimes and would, conceivably, help overcome officer resistance to such systems.


The paper is original in that acknowledges, and focuses upon, the cultural dynamics of the police officer and uses this approach to chart the challenges of effective implementation of such strategies. As such, the paper should be of interest to middle and senior police managers tasked with implementing effective performance measurement. Furthermore, this paper, although originating from evaluation research, represents a more critical contextualisation of the interviews, which are conducted with officers. In doing so, it seeks to locate the practicalities associated with the introduction of “performance measurement” against the reality of police work.



Cockcroft, T. and Beattie, I. (2009), "Shifting cultures: managerialism and the rise of “performance”", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 32 No. 3, pp. 526-540.



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