Understanding Police Culture


  • John Crank

Police culture has been widely criticized as a source of resistance to change and reform, and is often misunderstood. This book seeks to capture the heart of police culture-including its tragedies and celebrations-and to understand its powerful themes of morality, solidarity, and common sense, by systematically integrating a broad literature on police culture into middle-range theory, and developing original perspectives about many aspects of police work.
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Book information

  • Published: October 2004
  • ISBN: 978-1-58360-545-5

Table of Contents

Part I: Understanding Police Culture


1. Culture and Knowledge

2. Issues in the Study of Police Culture

3. Culture and Cultural Themes

4. Articulating Police Culture and Its Environments: Patterns of Line-Officer Interactions

Part II: Themes of Police Culture

Section I: Coercive Territorial Control

5. The Moral Transformation of Territory

Theme: Dominion

6. Force Is Righteous

Theme: Force

7. Crime Is War, Metaphor

Theme: Militarization

8. Stopping Power

Theme: Guns

Section II: Themes of the Unknown

9. The Twilight World

Theme: Suspicion

10. Danger Through the Lens of Culture

Theme: Danger and Its Anticipation

11. Anything Can Happen on the Street

Theme: Unpredictability and Situational Uncertainty

12. No Animal Out There Is Going to Beat Me

Theme: Turbulence and Edge Control

13. Seductions of the Edge

Theme: Seduction

Section III: Cultural Themes of Solidarity

14. Angels and Assholes: The Construction of Police Morality

Theme: Police Morality

15. Common Sense and the Ironic Deconstruction of the Obvious

Theme: Common Sense

16. No Place for Sissies

Theme: Masculinity

17. Mask of a Thousand Faces

Theme: Solidarity

18. America’s Great Guilty Crime Secret

Theme: Racism

Section IV: Loosely Coupling Cultural Themes

19. On Becoming Invisible

Theme: Outsiders

20. Individualism and the Paradox of Personal Accountability

Theme: Individualism

21. The Truth Game

Theme: Deception

22. Cop Deterrence and the Soft Legal System

Theme: Deterrence

23. The Petty Injustice and Everlasting Grudges

Theme: Bullshit

Section V: Death and Police Culture

24. Thinking About Ritual

25. The Culture Eater

Theme: Death

26. Good-bye in a Sea of Blue

Theme: Police Funerals