police subculture | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Policing

Police subculture refers to the shared values, attitudes, and behaviors that exist within law enforcement organizations and shape the way officers view their roles and interact with their communities.

Police subculture is a complex and often controversial topic. It refers to the values, attitudes, and behaviors that are shared by police officers and that can differ from those of the wider society. These cultural elements can be reinforced through various mechanisms, such as formal training, peer pressure, and shared experiences.

One of the defining features of police subculture is a strong sense of loyalty to fellow officers. This is often called the “blue wall of silence,” where officers are reluctant to report misconduct by their colleagues, fearing retaliation or ostracism from their peers. This can create a culture of secrecy and protectiveness that can undermine accountability and transparency.

Another feature of police subculture is a strong emphasis on using force as a necessary tool for maintaining public safety. Police officers are trained to use force when necessary, and this can create a mindset where force is seen as the default response to potential threats. This can lead to a “warrior” mentality prioritizing control and dominance over de-escalation and community engagement.

Police subculture can also lead to a sense of isolation and mistrust of the community. Officers may see themselves as “outsiders” who are constantly under attack by the public and the media. This can create a defensive and confrontational mindset that can make it difficult to establish positive relationships with community members.

Finally, police subculture can be influenced by various social and political factors. For example, officers may feel that they are being unfairly criticized or targeted by certain groups, such as the media or activist organizations. This can create a sense of resentment and defensiveness that can further reinforce negative attitudes and behaviors.

While police subculture can have negative consequences, it can also serve as a source of cohesion and support for officers. The strong sense of camaraderie and loyalty that exists within law enforcement organizations can be a powerful motivator and can help officers cope with the stresses and dangers of their job.

Overall, police subculture is a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon that can have positive and negative effects on law enforcement organizations and the communities they serve. Understanding and addressing the cultural factors that shape police attitudes and behaviors is essential for promoting accountability, transparency, and positive relationships between officers and the public.

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Last Modified: 03/13/2023


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