American Policing and the Danger Imperative
50 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2016
Date Written: November 1, 2016
Despite the fact that policing is growing safer in the United States, the danger associated with police work continues to structure departmental training and police behavior. This article describes how police are socialized into a cultural frame conceptualized as the danger imperative — the preoccupation with violence and the provision of officer safety — and the unintended, deadly consequences of their perception through it. Using nearly 1000 hours of participant observation and 94 interviews across three urban police departments, the author demonstrates that officers are formally and informally socialized into this frame, and learn both policy-sanctioned and policy-deviant behaviors to protect themselves from violence. However, policy-deviant behavior such as not wearing a seatbelt when driving, though justified as necessary to allow officers to defend themselves from violence, places officers at grave risk of injury and death in high-speed car crashes.
Keywords: police, social control, deviance, danger, ethnography
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