Police Socialization and Police Culture in German Police

An international comparative perspective

This post-doc research project deals with police socialization and police culture in Germany in an international comparative perspective with three European countries (France, Britain, and Germany).
Project category: Research project
Organisational status: Departmental project
Status of Project: planning stage

Head(s) of project

  • Damien Cassan
Organisational socialization can be defined as a process through which a novice learns the skills, knowledge, and values necessary to become a competent member of an organisation or occupation. In the police context, through socialization, police recruits will learn various types of cultural knowledge including assumptions, values, cognitions, and behavioural norms of the organisation. Learning the law, the rules, and various codes are just part of the process. The recruit also need to learn some skills, attitudes, and assumptions that are "compatibles" with the other members of the organisation.

One can argue that police socialization process is long, complex and multi-dimensional. It is best understood through various stages, as analysed by Van Maanen in USA or Chan in Australia, particularly so in the comparative perspective. Relevant steps would be the police recruitment process, the initial training within police school, on the job apprenticeship with experienced tutors, and progressive socialization to occupational police culture.

The research project is a follow-up study to a doctorate research which has raised relevant questions concerning each of theses steps within the police in France and in England. Concerning recruitment, main questions are: What kind of police selection process is used in Baden-Württemberg police and what qualities or skills are sought in their recruits? (For instance, are communication skills emphasized like in England?). What does it tell us about the internal conception of police role in Baden-Württemberg? What about the recruits profile (age, sex, ethnicity, life experience, etc.)? What about their motivations to join compared to France and Britain?
As far as initial training in Baden Württemberg police is concerned, what do they learn at training school? How formal and strict is initial training? Is it a kind of “military style training” (rigid hierarchical relations, authoritarian) similar to France? What’s the role of police initial training? How does the organization try to socialize recruits? How low/high is the recruit informal and what does this informal status tell us on the conception of the “police skills and knowledge”? In other words, to what extend an inexperienced police officer means an “incompetent” one (as it is somehow in France)?

Concerning on the job apprenticeship, it will be asked for instance to what extend initial training is relevant to "real police work" in Baden-Württemberg police ? How is on the job training organized (individual tutor, etc.)? The investigation could also look at how recruits are evaluated: which criterion are most important to tutors or experienced officers (proper uniform and respectful attitude towards hierarchy as in France or more formal monitoring based on "core tasks of policing" like in Britain)?

The research will also look at issues such as: How is a recruit confirmed as a regular officer? What does he need to do to achieve that confirmation? How does the informal status of the recruit change? How does he progressively adopt occupational assumptions? What are these assumptions and attitudes? What does happen when he “refuses” some of theses assumptions? Etc.

The research will analyse data from German police through an international comparative perspective with fieldwork materials previously gathered from France and Britain, which both constitute recognized policing models. One can argue that both models are opposed on several grounds. French police is known as the "military" or “continental” model, characterized by centralisation, the police is armed, accountable towards the government (more political role), and is not focused on a problem solving perspective but on crime fighting and public order maintenance. By contrast, England is called the “community policing” model, decentralised, insisting for instance on the use of minimum force (unarmed police), the emphasis is put on prevention and service (the police is more accountable towards the community). As a consequence, the police have a better legitimacy and a better image. And although if not denied, some of these aspects could be discussed and some say that English police legitimacy is a myth. The previous research findings have shown significant and fascinating differences on every aspects of the police socialization process. These differences tend to confirm the opposition of the two models.

In that regard, final analyse of the proposed research will tell to what extend (and on which aspects) is German police close to the French model of policing, and how similar is it to British polices. These differences in policing models suggest analyses in terms of police occupational culture, which is one of the most discussed issues in policing literature. What will the findings tell about German police occupational culture? What are common cultural features to all police previously investigated (for instance a “sense of mission”, a distinction between the “rough” and the “respectable”, a constant suspicion, a social isolation and therefore a strong internal solidarity, cynism, machism, sexism or racial prejudice)? What is more/less emphasized compared to the European police studied? And what is specific to German police?

  • Last update: 16 July 2015
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