An investigation into the culture(s) of the Metropolitan Police force between the 1930s and the 1960s
The majority of published work in the area of police occupational culture follows the methodological template of Skolnick (1994) which utilises both participant observation and the interview. The way in which this approach has been used has proved problematic for a number of reasons. First, it has promoted a view that police occupational culture is static and unchanging. Second, it has failed to acknowledge that officers have a choice whether or not to engage in certain behaviours. Third, it has promoted a view that police officers display essentially negative behaviours. The aim of the present research was to investigate, by means of techniques drawn from oral history, the culture or cultures of police officers within the Metropolitan Police Force in London between the 1930s and the 1960s. Firstly, there was a desire to find out to what extent accepted correlates of police occupational culture applied to police work in the period prior to the 1960s when it was first investigated. Secondly, if there did appear to be differences between the findings of the present research and those of authors charting post-1960s police culture, ideas would be forwarded in an attempt to explain such variations. Examples of factors which could account for such variations might include changes in the relationship between the police and the public, changes in police practice or changes in legislation. Through 26 interviews with retired officers, it was found that the intensity of Skolnick's key factors for the emergence of police occupational culture (danger, authority and the need to appear efficient) appeared to be greatly influenced by wider societal factors manifested in the state of police/public relations. Similarly, the present research found great variations within the officers' apparent adherence to key parts of the police 'working personality' as proposed by Skolnick. In short, the great variation in police behaviours exhibited in the present research could be attributed to the fact that wider social factors served to affect the intensity of Skolnick's three key factors.