Transforming the Culture of Policing: Thoughts from South Africa
Shearing, C. 1995. Transforming the Culture of Policing: Thoughts from South Africa. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology (special issue), 54-61.
Posted: 4 Sep 2019 Last revised: 13 Sep 2019
Almost every discussion of the transformation of the way policing is provided considers the issue of the police occupational culture (ways of seeing, being and doing - Bourdieu's habitus, 'mental and corporeal schemata of perception, appreciation and action' (Wacquant 1992:16 cited in Chan forthcoming)) that shapes the way in which police officers practice policing. Equally universal is the conclusion that for policing to be transformed this culture must be reshaped in ways that will promote policing that conforms with the rule of law. Sometimes these discussions also question the nature of the formal law and policy on the grounds that law and policy provide an enabling rather than a limiting framework that promotes deviation from the freedom and equality that the rule of law is designed to protect (Ericson 1981; Brogden, Jefferson & Walklate 1988:170). Whether this additional argument is made or not, there is near-universal agreement that if policing is to be reshaped then the culture of the police must be transformed. I do not want to quarrel with either of these arguments but I will locate my remarks within the context of the discussions and initiatives that are taking place within South Africa to transform policing there. The argument I am going to develop builds upon and elaborates the arguments of Brogden and Shearing (1993). The Discussion will be in two-part. First I will review our understanding of police culture and how it operates to shape policing. Second I will explore the implications of this analysis for the question of transformation and how it might be accomplished.
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