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The culture of the police service (Continued)

4 The role of training and socialisation

Moreland & Levine (1989) suggest that newcomers to a group adopt the role of "new member" displaying greater actual (or seeming) anxiety, passivity, dependence and conformity than established group members, and in so doing facilitate their own socialisation.

The culture of the police service is inculcated through the initial training process ("the planned efforts of the organisation to transform recruits into novice members" Fielding, 1988: 1) and consolidated through informal socialisation occurring in contact with existing members (Fielding, 1988). In essence socialisation represents the process of identity transformation (Fielding, 1988).

As the service operates as a closed system all of the basic, and much of the specialist training, is carried out in-house by personnel who will themselves have undergone a similar exercise in previous years reflecting the assumption that "he [sic] who has been accustomed to submit to discipline will be considered best qualified to command" (Miller, 1977:40). This coupled with the policy of promoting from within serves to ensure continuity and cultural knowledge but it also encourages insularity and weakens ties with the outside world.

According to Trice & Beyer (1993) the socialisation process shapes individuals to fit within and continue the prevailing social order by imparting the knowledge to new members of how to think and behave to conform to the needs of the social group. This would seem to be supported by Berg (1990) who noted that training was so structured as to limit individual initiative thereby increasing individual levels of insecurity and uncertainty and exposing recruits to the effects of peer pressure and group norming.

The training of new police recruits includes a twelve-week residential course at a dedicated centre removing them from familial and familiar surroundings and immersing them in both the formal and informal rules of police conduct. During their time at the training centre it has been noted that in addition to the formal lessons of policing covering issues such as procedures, policies and practices elaborated through Force Orders, the attention to smartness and the emphasis on adherence to discipline teach the recruits the importance of compliance within the organisation (Fielding, 1988).

This same training and socialisation process also exposes recruits to an unwritten agenda on the informal rules of policing such as the code of silence and loyalty to fellow officers. There is some evidence to suggest that at least a proportion of this informal cultural knowledge is at odds with the stated organisational ideology. An extreme example would be the anti-social behaviour noted at Hendon Police Training Academy (Marzouk, 2004) where Commander Stephen Allen of the Metropolitan Police Diversity Directorate, confirmed a problem with racism and bullying within the centre, but other examples also exist. For instance Prokos & Padavic (2002) noted that, although the service specifically embraces gender equality so that both the student policy manual and the explicit programme are scrupulously gender-neutral, recruits receive oblique instruction inflating the role of masculinity in the service and denigrating women. Their study makes two important contributions to the understanding of why police culture might foster bullying: a) it draws the distinction between the formal and informal line, and b) it lends support to Waddington's (1999a) assertion that masculinity is one of the core elements of the culture. As such it also provides a possible explanation as to why bullying could represent a recurring problem within the service.

Mention has already been made of the rites designed to put under pressure probationers who may prove to be unreliable colleagues (Fielding, 1988). Similar activity has been recorded in the construction industry where work teams were seen to use teasing and ridicule to push new apprentices to the limit as a means of testing their ability to surmount their difficult working conditions (Riemer, 1979). In this way psychological stressors are used as informal tools testing the resilience of recruits in terms of masculine traits. Supposedly this is to ensure their suitability for the job, but in the process this also serves to signal and perpetuate the culture of masculinity.

It might be argued that, as initiation processes are a time-limited rite of passage experienced by all recruits to the organisation, they are qualitatively different to bullying and that as such their study contributes little to the understanding of the bullying phenomenon. The counter-arguments are that a) initiation rites are an example of informally socially sanctioned behaviour of an aggressive, oppressive or exclusory nature conforming to those indicated in the bullying literature; b) as such they are likely to be experienced as bullying by at least some of the recipients; and c) that this process might set a pattern for behaviour against which subsequent intra-organisational inter-personal behaviour is measured. In other words barracking, teasing and ridiculing might be seen as the cultural norm.

Within the police setting, practices testing the resilience of recruits have been defended on the grounds that "whatever the police organization dishes out the public can exceed" (Fielding, 1988:68). This suggests a perception of the public as hostile thereby validating the need for 'strong' officers. As such it also emphasises the perceived divide between the police and the public ('us/them').

As Fielding's (1988) research was carried out some time ago it might be hoped that this attitude has changed, but more recent research in the Fire Service, which is comparable in many ways to the Police Service has highlighted similar activities (Archer, 1999).

The informal education of a police officer that runs in parallel with the formal component taught in training school is continued in the police community through the socialisation process. Early patrol experience is often gained in the company of tutor constables (TCs) who impart valuable knowledge on the practicalities of policing, some of which may well diverge from approved procedures (Fielding, 1988). For instance Smith & Gray (1983) describe how newcomers may be exposed to minor infringements of organisational policy as a test of their reliability and solidarity with the group. Newcomers acquiescing with the group might be acting in such a way in order to avoid conflict whilst at the same time retaining their previous attitude, i.e. compliance without internalisation, or their actions might indicate a change in their attitudes at a deeper and more permanent level, i.e. internalisation of the cultural values. Socialisation provides the means by which recruits absorb and are absorbed into the culture, although there is some debate as to the degree to which this is effective (Fielding, 1988) and as to whether these processes occur throughout the service or only within segments of the police ranks (Cochran & Bromley, 2003).

By this stage the recruits have been separated from their traditional support network of family and friends and have been physically and socially relocated so that their separation extends beyond the work and training environment. Cain (1973) points out that the role of police officer sets individuals apart from society and that it is difficult for them to manage non-police relationships which might be compromised by the requirements of the job or which, according to Stanley (2002), might compromise their job. This leads them to develop off-duty friendship networks with fellow officers thereby strengthening their bonds with the police and isolating them still further from their communities and even families. With so much overlap between the social and professional network there is a strong motivation for officers to understand and to adhere to the police occupational culture. This is reflected in Fielding's (1988:190) observation that "probationers might go along with expressions of racial prejudice in order to 'fit in' with occupational culture": the same could be said of bullying.

Through this process of training and socialisation officers become bonded together, sharing views of the world, social ties and commitment. The cultural group becomes a reference group for its members who look to each other for emotional support and confirmation of the meanings they ascribe to events. Members thereby develop an awareness of their own and others' position and identity in terms of the cognitive, emotional and social framework provided by their cultural beliefs and practices (Trice & Beyer, 1993). A change of social group with a different culture or sub-culture will result in a change of self-image. Sub-cultures may arise when members develop competing ideologies regarding for example the nature of the work the choice of appropriate techniques the correct stance toward outsiders or the best way to treat people (Van Maanen & Barley, 1985). In an organisation such as the police service, where officers may make vertical and horizontal moves for instance to a higher rank or a different department with particular requirements the possibility of sub-cultural differences needs to be considered.

5 Evidence for sub-cultures in the police service

The core elements of the culture of policing might be universal but there is "a growing body of knowledge on the police that highlights cultural segmentation over homogeneity" (Paoline, 2003: 206).

Research has identified cultural differences associated with the various management roles of policing. However, the findings depend upon the way in which these roles are defined. For instance Reuss-Ianni & Ianni (1983) noted that differences could be identified between so-called 'street cop culture' and 'management cop culture'. In such a cultural division the behavioural norm is more likely to be determined by the numerically superior group, i.e. the street cops, who also paradoxically have more discretionary powers than their superiors. As such it would be expected that in terms of categorising bullying, the management contingent would be more influenced by organisational culture and therefore closely aligned to policy definitions of bullying, whereas the 'street cops' would be more influenced by the occupational culture and therefore more likely to base their assessment on the behavioural norm.

Manning (1993) identified a different set of subcultures of policing within the service reflecting command, middle-management and lower participants. The HMIC Inspection Report of Dyfed-Powys Police (HMIC, 2001c: 3.10), which recorded that middle managers developed a culture of bullying through their emphasis upon performance at the expense of working relationships, suggests that such a cultural divide may be relevant to the present study. Wortley & Homel, (1995) note differences in regional or station management reflecting the prevailing local conditions. It is possible to explain these differences in terms of Sackman's (1992) 'axiomatic knowledge', which describes knowledge in the form of those guiding principles held by management not necessarily shared or even communicated across all organisational levels.

Given that Trice & Beyer (1993) suggest that subcultures are more likely to be realised under conditions of collective socialisation, high task interdependencies and physical proximity between individuals, it is not surprising that support has also been forthcoming for the existence of sub-cultures founded on departmental membership. Manning's (1980) work on the drug squad suggests that the departure from the normal police environment leads to a change in officer's interpretative apparatus, and Skolnick & Fyfe (1993) in trying to explain the beating by Los Angeles Police Department officers of Rodney King in 1991 attributed police over-zealousness in the use of violence to the peculiar demands and distinctive cultures of certain police departments. The links have already been drawn between masculinity and bullying, so it would be anticipated that there would be differences in perceptions of bullying between departments, depending on their relative emphasis on a 'macho' culture.

A logically extension of the findings of the research demonstrating sub-cultural influences in particular departments would be that there is a widespread network of department-specific cultures, reflecting differences in their operational roles and missions (service or law enforcement).

Apart from differences between management levels and departments, sub-cultural influences have also been found in a number of other areas of policing, for instance between officers serving in community policing and their counterparts serving in traditional roles (Fielding, 1995) and between officers serving in urban and rural settings (Websdale & Johnson, 1997) with those in the urban community showing a higher degree of detachment than their rural counterparts, and therefore being more likely to share the notions of bullying with their colleagues.

6 Anti-bullying policies

It should not be presumed that the culture to which an organisation aspires as might be indicated in various work policies and declared values, is an accurate reflection of the organisation's cultural reality as measured by managerial attention and rewarded behaviour (Hagberg & Heifetz, 2000). Fielding (1989) draws attention to the analytic distinction to be made between formal and informal aspects of organisation. The fact that formal models do not square with what members actually do has led to descriptions of the informal organisation as a patchwork of unofficial work practices and norms. The problem that this difference represents was acknowledged in the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report :

    "I think that the problem is not one of individual predisposition to wrongdoing but of structure, or what I have earlier called cultural failure. The culture of the police and some procedures in the criminal justice system actually make it totally improbable that all police officers will behave as the system lays down that they should." (MacPherson, 1999: 6.61)
Hoel (1999) points to the importance of developing bespoke policy documents, reflecting cultural and organisational factors. This he suggests reduces the risk that employees will perceive the document as 'window dressing'.

Adams (1992b) drew attention to the gap between the way in which organisations describe their management and what they actually do in practice, and how this might have implications for bullying within the organisation. The publication of anti-bullying and / or diversity policies are ideals which might suggest to the outside world that the organisation has an ethos of fairness in the workplace, but if bullying behaviour goes unchallenged and managers experienced as bullies receive acclaim for meeting targets irrespective of the means by which these are accomplished, internally it is probable that staff will perceive a culture which tolerates, condones or even encourages bullying. Bruhn (2001) points out that when an organisation fails to match words and deeds, members become cynical and mistrust its integrity and ethos. Thus cynicism, which was listed as a core component of the occupational police culture (Waddington, 1999a), is the public signal that the members no longer perceive congruence between the words and action of the organization (Reiser, 1994).

Since the HMIC thematics on diversity, constabularies have been under pressure to develop formal policies outlining a positive attitude towards diversity, equal opportunities and training. During inspections the HMIC review such policies in addition to questioning the rank and file to assess the extent of awareness, e.g. "Despite real achievements in development of policies and procedures, the latest inspection indicated that uncertainty remains" (HMIC, 2000a: 2.5).

7 Survey of constabularies' anti-bullying policies and grievance figures

In April, 2003 an e-mail / postal survey was conducted of all constabularies countrywide (45 UK constabularies + Police Service of Northern Ireland), requesting details of any anti-bullying policies together with available figures on bullying grievances recorded over the last three years. Assurance was given that grievance figures and policy information would not be attributable.

Of twenty-eight constabularies responding (60.87% response rate) one had a policy not to take part in such research, one was not willing to take part, five had no specific document addressing bullying of officers per se, and one had such documentation as a 'work in progress'. There were noticeable differences in the comprehensiveness of approach, with the most thorough (Constabulary 1) describing the phenomenon, giving guidance both for those considering making a complaint and for members of staff dealing with such complaints, advising on confidentiality, representation, time limits, formal and informal complaints procedures, providing sources of advice and counselling services, and giving a flow chart of the pathway of grievance procedures.

The timbre of all the policies received was clear: "Bullying and harassment will not be tolerated or condoned" (Constabulary 8); "Bullying is a disciplinary offence and in any form, for whatever reason, will not be tolerated" (Constabulary 12); "No form of bullying or harassment will be tolerated" (Constabulary 19); "Bullying of a physical or mental nature, whether or not amounting to sexual or religious harassment will not be tolerated" (Constabulary 24).

Where mentioned, the main responsibility for carrying out the policy was variously vested in: "all line managers" (Constabulary 12); "managers and supervisors" (Constabulary 6), and "all members of the Service" (Constabulary 18). Complainants were advised that the issue could be dealt with formally or informally. The informal approach suggested that they should attempt to stop or resolve the bullying issue at an early stage either personally or with help from their supervisor or some form of first contact advisor. If this failed, or if they preferred they were advised that they could opt for the formal procedure although once a complainant embarked on this route the constabularies reserved the right to progress any complaint to a higher, i.e. disciplinary, level, irrespective of the wishes of the complainant, if this was considered appropriate.

Many constabularies (e.g. Constabulary 2, 12, 15, 18) issue details of support bodies such as the Police Federation, Black Police Association, Equal Opportunities Commission etc., alongside their policy documents.

Statements such as the "transfer of a member of staff who originates an issue… should only be considered where it is requested, with care taken to ensure the move is voluntary and is what the originator really wants" (Constabulary 1), and that "The transfer of an aggrieved person or the person complained of should not be resorted to simply to resolve a grievance or disciplinary action…. In any such case the reasons for the move must be thoroughly investigated and recorded to ensure that the reasons for the move will not be misconstrued as discreditable…" (Constabulary 18), acknowledge that the relocation of parties involved in bullying might be perceived as additional victimisation.

Not all constabularies provide a definition of bullying in their policies. Where the anti-bullying policy is incorporated with 'Dignity at Work' guidance the emphasis may be placed upon how individuals should behave rather than on how they should not behave, e.g. "All staff have a responsibility as individuals to challenge inappropriate or bullying language or behaviour" (Constabulary 16). Where definitions do exist, there is a considerable amount of consensus as to which behaviours constitute bullying, for example:

    Constabulary 1: "Bullying can be defined as persistent offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable which undermines their self confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress."

    Constabulary 8: "[bullying is] and abuse or a misuse of power or position by one or more colleagues towards another or others which intimidates, oppresses or adversely affects the recipients dignity or self esteem. Abusive conduct may include behaviour that is offensive, intimidating, malicious, insulting or humiliating."

    Constabulary 15: "Bullying can be defined as offensive, intimidating, malicious, insulting or humiliating behaviour. It can also be abuse of power or authority which attempts to undermine an individual or group and which may cause them to suffer stress, interferes with job performance, undermines job security or creates a threatening or otherwise unpleasant work environment. Bullying can happen to anyone."

    Constabulary 19: "Bullying consists of offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair sanctions which make the victim feel upset threatened, humiliated or vulnerable. This can undermine self confidence cause stress and may affect health."

    Constabulary 28: "[Bullying is] an abuse or a misuse of power or status by one colleague towards another or more colleagues which intimidates, oppresses or adversely affects the recipients dignity and self esteem."

Research by Miller et al (1999) issues a caution to constabularies assuming that the adoption of a zero tolerance policy to bullying will improve the situation. They posit that, although this action might be seen as giving victims a means by which to challenge bullying behaviour, it also increases the profile of the bullied who become subjected to enhanced scrutiny. It also affords the socially dominant group the opportunity to establish barriers between themselves and the bullied minority through processes such as exclusion.

The thirteen constabularies giving actual figures regarding bullying suggest an average of 5.97 (range 0-26) formal complaints about bullying per constabulary per year. This figure contrasts with in-house surveys carried out by Constabularies 10 and 20, which record bullying rates of between 16 and 26%, although the figures for Constabulary 10 represent a five-year time period.

Copyright Dr. K.M.McIvor 2005

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