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Police Culture, Individualism, and Community Policing: Evidence From Two Police Departments

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 17 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2000 Pages: 575-605
Date Published
September 2000
31 pages

The authors explored variations in outlooks--that according to conventional wisdom were part of police culture--using survey data collected in two police departments, and they also investigated relationships between these outlooks and characteristics of police officers (sex, race, education, length of service, community policing training, and community policing specialist assignment).


The Project on Policing Neighborhoods surveyed police officers in the Indianapolis Police Department (IPD) and the St. Petersburg, Florida, Police Department (SPPD). To better understand the distributions of police officer outlooks and their associations with police officer characteristics, the work environments of the IPD and the SPPD were considered as police officers experienced them subjectively. Attention was then focused on central tendencies and the dispersion of police officer outlooks on the police role and on citizens, and patterns of association between police officer outlooks and their characteristics were analyzed. It was found that police officer outlooks did not conform to patterns expected on the basis of conventional wisdom and that variations in police officer occupational attitudes were not patterned to a great extent by their characteristics. More specifically, even though most police officers believed that law enforcement was an important responsibility and that a good police officer should patrol aggressively, many police officers did not consider law enforcement to be their most important responsibility and many police officers expressed at least some reservations about aggressive patrol. Most police officers accepted responsibility for handling incidents of disorder and a substantial number extended their role to handling problem conditions for which police executives only recently assumed responsibility as part of problem-solving policing. Many police officers also expressed favorable views about the likelihood of cooperation from citizens. Although divergence from traditional depictions of police culture were found in the IPD and the SPPD, these differences were not patterned by such police officer characteristics as sex, race, education, length of service, training, and assignment. Implications of the findings for the further implementation of community policing are discussed. 56 references and 3 tables

Date Published: September 1, 2000