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Police culture, individualism, and community policing: Evidence from two police departments *

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According to the conventional wisdom, the police culture consists of a set of values, attitudes, and norms that are widely shared among officers, who find in the culture a way to cope with the strains of their working environment. Some research implies that the conventional wisdom is overdrawn, and recent research has begun to question it more directly. Changes in the composition (i.e., the race, sex, and education) of police personnel, as well as philosophical and organizational changes associated with community policing, could be expected to further fragment police culture and to shift the distribution of police attitudes. Here we examine variation in outlooks that, according to conventional wisdom, are part of the police culture, using survey data collected in two police departments. We also examine the relationships between these outlooks and characteristics of officers—sex, race, education, length of service, community-policing training, and community-policing specialist assignment—that are associated with the changes in policing. We find that officers' outlooks do not conform to the pattern that we would expect on the basis of conventional wisdom. We also find that the variation in officers' occupational attitudes is not patterned to a great extent by their characteristics. We conclude with directions for future research on police attitudes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Nothern Iowa 2: University at Albany, SUNY

Publication date: September 1, 2000

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