Police Culture and Behavior
The study of police culture has traditionally been from two perspectives: the sociological; and the psychological. In recent years, however (ever since the Christopher Commission report that studied the Rodney King incident), we have witnessed the emergence of another perspective – the anthropological.
Worldview -- This is a mentality or cognitive orientation involving how people see themselves and see others.
Police are said to have a "we-they" or "us-them" worldview. This in-group, we (police) v. they (civilians). Solidarity is associated with the idea of police subculture, but in practice the more general term culture is commonly used to describe everything police share in common.
Ethos -- This is the idea of a spirit or force in the organization that reflects an unwritten (and largely unspoken) value system. It's what makes daily life worth living.
Police culture is said to have the following elements in its ethos: bravery, autonomy, and secrecy.
Theme -- this is the idea of a belief system that regulates or guides the kinds of relationships or social interactions (scripts, roles) that people have inside and outside of their culture.
In the case of policing, for example, the belief that you are never off duty would be a theme constraining a full interactive life with the general public.
Postulate -- Postulates are beliefs the integrate (homogenize, or make alike) the people in the culture. They do this by being neat little proverbs that simplify a vast amount of complex information. For example: "don't talk too much or too little" would be a postulate.
Postulates are the things closest to norms that are threatening by police deviance.
Traditional approaches to the study of police culture have been twofold:
Cynicism -- this is a kind of "hardened", institutionalized kind of outlook. There are many varieties of it, running from tragic to comic extremes. It is believed that there are 4 stages of it: (1) overidealism (2) frustration (3) disenchantment (4) full blown cynicism. It's highest during the middle part of a police career.
J. Skolnick (1966) in Justice Without Trial describes the cultural characteristics of isolation (bluewall), brotherhood (an attack on one is an attack on all), and action (the ability to recognize danger and symbolic assailants). Skolnick also gave us the concept of working personality (a potentially useful on duty, off duty distinction). Stress -- most of the studies of police stress as unique or not (divorce, alcohol, suicide) are from a social causation point of view (the organization produces the kinds of personalities it needs).
Authoritarianism -- this is a set of attitudes and beliefs that was first observed in people who blindly followed Hitler. You can think of it as fascism, if you want, because in fact, it's measured by something called the F-scale. There are at least 9 basic components to it: (1) conventionalism (2) submissiveness (3) aggressiveness (4) being unreflective (5) being superstitious (6) toughness (7) destructiveness (8) projection (9) sexual exaggeration.
Believe it or not, college students also usually score high on this trait which is not about dishing out authority (well, aggressiveness and toughness are) but preferring crystal clear lines of authority and following it to the letter.
Stress -- most psychological studies have emphasized the self-selection point of view, or predispositional model (the organization attracts certain people with the personalities it needs).
Syndromes -- They are not syndromes in the clinical sense, and are perhaps better understood as examples of role strain; e.g., it was Ramsey Clark who said that police have to be "lawyer, scientist, medic, psychologist, athlete, and public servant." Examples of a few syndromes are:
the Wyatt Earp syndrome - badge heavy, macho, victim of image
the John Wayne syndrome - overserious, coldness, tunnel vision
the Doc Holliday syndrome - suspicious, bitter, quick-tempered
the Custer syndrome - defending police work, anti-rest of system
the Parker syndrome - defending thin blueline, anti-society attitude
the amotivational syndrome - a term for police burnout
the Ganzer syndrome - type of battle fatigue involving humor to ward off horror
In the actual life cycle of a police career, a syndrome is more likely to appear before cynicism does, in the TV cop stage. Here's a table showing the career life cycle:
(1) Idealists - college educated, high ideals, social order commitment
(2) Enforcers - ends oriented, least likely to choose or recommend police career
(3) Optimists - people oriented, management aspiring "yes" person
(4) Realists - just a job/heck with it attitude, retired in place
(1) Professionals - proper integration of coercion and sympathy
(2) Enforcers - both cynical and coercive
(3) Reciprocators - wishy washy, can't make up mind, oversympathetic
(4) Avoiders - avoids work, just collects paycheck, shirker/slacker
(1) Tough Cop - outcome oriented
(2) Problem Solver - pays attention to people's needs
(3) Crime Fighter - zealots, on a mission to wipe out a certain kind of crime
(4) Rule Applier - goes strickly by the book, would give own mother a ticket
(1) Legalistic-Abusive - extremely rigid/has to be right all the time
(2) Task-Oriented - concerned that rules and regulations cover everything
(3) Community Service - interested in documenting how community is helped
Reuss-Ianni's Typology (commonly called the "4-World Syndrome"):
Ianni's distinction between us & them is a version of the "we-they" mentality which anthropologists call a worldview, but "us" in this case means willingness to work with the public. The street v. station distinction refers to whether or not the employee has a "patrolman's mentality"; e.g., if an officer assigned to the station most of the time (a sergeant) still keeps and uses a patrol car. The 4-world syndrome holds that officers must adjust to life in all 4 worlds: the inner (defensive) world of policing; the outer (cooperative) world of the public; the street (quick response) world; and the station (paperwork) world.
Adapted from http://faculty.ncwc.edu/toconnor/205/205lect02.htm