The police culture literature suggests that police officers’ attitude towards the public is characterised by suspicion and an “us-vs-them” mentality. It also refers to the moral mission of protecting the public by being tough on crime. The traditional police culture model seems to imply that these aspects are typical for the police. There is, however, a lack of empirical studies to test this proposition. The purpose of this paper is to propose a different conceptual framework, based on grid-group cultural theory (GGCT), which not only broadens the lens of the police culture model, but also allows for comparative research between different professional groups.
The newly developed conceptual framework is tested in an ethnographic study in the Belgian police and labour inspection. The main data collection methods are observation, interview and informal conversation.
The results of this study show that there are similarities in the way in which Belgian police officers and labour inspectors interact with the public, which raises interesting questions concerning the (often implicit) claim of the police culture literature concerning the specificity of police culture.
More research is needed to gain deeper insight into similarities and differences of the occupational culture in the police and comparable professional groups. GGCT offers a useful conceptual framework for such a research agenda.
This paper addresses a number of criticisms against the classic police culture model and provides an innovative perspective to not only study aspects of police culture, but also compare the police with other professions.
This work was supported by the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders (FWO Vlaanderen).
Loyens, K. and Maesschalck, J. (2014), "Police-public interactions: a grid-group cultural theory perspective", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 37 No. 1, pp. 144-158. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-03-2013-0023Download as .RIS
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