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Learning and practicing police craft

Mike Rowe (Department of Management School, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)
Elizabeth Turner (School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)
Geoff Pearson (Law School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

ISSN: 2046-6749

Article publication date: 10 October 2016




The authors consider current policy debates in the UK about the professionalisation of the police to respond to changing patterns of crime and, specifically, the suggestion that officers be educated to degree level. Drawing on the ethnographic evidence, the purpose of this paper is to focus attention on how officers learn, and continue to develop the applied, that is the craft aspects of the work of uniformed constables.


The authors draw on a long-term ethnographic project observing officers during the course of their duties. The focus is on the use of discretion and of particular powers. But in the course of the research, the authors also observe the way officers behave and the way they talk about their job.


The authors suggest that, while there may be a role for degree qualifications, attention needs to be paid to the practices the authors observe, practices that have long been the core craft skills of uniformed officers.


The authors suggest that, despite the emergence of cybercrime and other new forms of crime/threat, the evidence suggests that much has not. Not least, crime is not the only focus of police work.



Rowe, M., Turner, E. and Pearson, G. (2016), "Learning and practicing police craft", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 276-286.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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