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Dominant Culture Interrupted: Recognition, Resentment and the Politics of Change in an English Police Force

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 48 Issue: 6 Dated: November 2008 Pages: 756-777
Bethan Loftus
Date Published
November 2008
22 pages
This article draws on research conducted in an English police force in examining how greater political recognition of cultural and gendered identities has impacted the police subculture.
Two broad and opposing perspectives on the contemporary police working environment are identified. One perspective involves resistance to and resentment toward the new promotion of diversity in police recruitment, a perspective held primarily by White, heterosexual male officers. A contrasting perspective embraces and benefits from diversity and is held by female, ethnic minority, and gay and lesbian officers. Policing in England remains an overwhelmingly White, heterosexual, male-dominated occupation, and this poses significant challenges for females, ethnic minorities, and gays and lesbians who are already in the police force or aspire to be police officers. This circumstance persists despite two decades of equal opportunities legislation and policies aimed at changing traditional assumptions about the characteristics and practices of police officers. The recent history of the Northshire Police, for example, has involved a top-down drive to produce cultural change and diversity within the agency. Very few women, members of minority ethnic groups, or openly gay and lesbian officers occupy posts, particularly supervisory positions; and officers in these groups report experiences of discrimination from White, heterosexual male officers. In the Northshire Police force it is clear that the extension of recruitment and hiring of hitherto marginalized groups does not sit well within the entrenched culture of the traditional demographic of officers. They continue to express a resentful attitude and opposition to the presence of the new and diverse demographic being promoted for officers. Clearly, ways must be found to achieve a more extensive reform and erosion of the persistent traditional police subculture in order to achieve a welcoming acceptance and appreciation of an emerging diverse police culture. 60 references