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Police culture: changing the unacceptable
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Celeste Lawson
When Sir Robert Peel proclaimed in 1829 that the police are the public and the public are the police he could not have foreseen that his ideals would promote the evolution of modern police services all around the world. Although the ideal of policing “with” the community was the intent, the dramatic development of technology in the 20th century resulted in a policing “of” the community. The police organisation became separate from the community it was trying to police. From this separation evolved a police culture that strongly held to beliefs about the role of police. Police culture promoted arrest and prosecution as the dominant role of police, and police who reinforced those beliefs conducted training and recruitment of officers. This police culture promoted a stereotype of what it was to be a “policeman”. The result was a police “force” which bore little resemblance to the ideal so carefully articulated by Robert Peel. The Queensland Police Service is one of many police services that experienced such a culture. Eventually confronted with a Commission of Inquiry in 1989, the Queensland Police Service had its sordid culture exposed to a community who had lost faith in the ability of the police to undertake its role. The police (and its culture) had become “unacceptable”. This paper considers the nature of police culture in Queensland 20 years after this Inquiry. Focussing on “community policing” within the Queensland Police Service, this paper considers the effects of a reactive driven culture in a proactive policing model. Using policy analysis and interviews with police officers, the paper presents evidence to suggest a paradigm shift has taken place in Queensland, that although “typical” police culture still exists, it exists in a growing harmony with non-reactive police sections.