Cop Culture - Does Prison Work

How Has The Term
“Cop Culture” Helped Us To Understand The Role of The Police Service In Maintaining Social Divisions In Our Society?
How would you change this situation?


Caroline Theodorou

This essay explores the notion of how ‘cop culture’ has assisted in maintaining social divisions in our society. The expression ‘cop culture’ is used as generic term to describe the intrinsic culture within the police service. The essay will briefly discuss Reiner’s interpretation and critique of Skolnick’s model of police culture, outline the motivational factors within ‘cop culture’, and examine the idea of internal and external influences. The essay will proceed to illuminate this ideology by demonstrating how social divisions are maintained. Finally, there will be a discussion on what changes may improve the situation in future.

As far back as the 1890’s the tough life of the police officer appears to have contributed to a tough masculine culture. Officer’s rely on each other professionally and socially due to the isolation which accompanies the profession. It is through the process of socialisation that new recruits learn to protect and support each other from internal and external attacks, i.e., discipline from senior officers and attacks or complaints from the public. Reiner (1992) describes the notion as being ‘internal solidarity’ based on the need to rely on each other in hazardous situations and to act as “a   protective shield of armour” so that minor indiscretions can be kept from the public and higher ranking officers. Reiner argues that Skolnick's model doesn’t account for varying kinds of solidarity and conflict. For example, between operational and managerial sections and between differing specialist units and uniform officers.

Reiner draws on Skolnick’s (1966) model of the police ‘working personality’ to explain ‘cop culture’. However, Reiner argues that while Skolnick’s model sets up the...