Police Subculture

Police Subculture

Values and perceptions shared by members of a police department, which are shaped by unique existence of the police officer and taught to new members

i. Socialization of a rookie police officer begins on the first day of the job through learning of values and rules of police work

a. Attending a police academy

b. Working with a senior officer

c. Making an initial felony arrest

d. Using force to make an arrest for the first time

e. Using or witnessing deadly force for the first time

f. Witnessing major traumatic events for the first time

ii. “Blue curtain” or “Blue wall of silence” will separate police from the civilians they protect

B. The Physical Dangers of Police Work

i. Police officers face threats of physical harm daily

ii. In 2012, there were 53,000 assaults against police officers, 28% of which resulted in injury

Media Tool

“Traffic Stops: Control your Risk Factors”

· https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZLmCM5LlbI

· A short clip about the risk factors involved in traffic stops.


C. Stress and the Mental Dangers of Police Work

Police work entails considerable mental pressures and stress

i. Police Stressors

a. The constant fear of being a victim of violent crime

b. Exposure to violent crime and its victims

c. The need to comply with the law in nearly every job action

d. Lack of community support

e. Negative media coverage

ii. The Consequences of Police Stress

a. High blood pressure

b. Heart failure

c. Burnout

d. Post-traumatic stress disorder

e. Re-experience the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks.

f. Become less and less involved in the outside world by withdrawing from others and refusing to participate in normal social interactions.

g. Experience “survival guilt,” which may lead to loss of sleep and memory impairment

h. Officers experience unusually high levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone, which can lead to such issues as heart problems and diabetes

D. Authority and the Use of Force

i. Symbols of authority, including the uniform, badge, firearm, and nightstick, establish that a police officer has authority over civilians

ii. It is accepted that police use of force is inevitable, and that police must use force under certain circumstances to do their jobs effectively

iii. Use of Force in Law Enforcement

a. In general, use of force by law enforcement personnel is very rare

b. Police officers are often justified in using force to protect themselves or other citizens

c. The Christopher Commission advised that an officer only use force when faced with a credible threat, and only use the minimum amount of force necessary to control that threat

d. Nearly every agency has designed a “use of force” matrix to provide officers with proper use of force options

Media Tool

“Albuquerque police routinely use excessive force – DOJ”

· https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWAisW6tGJ0

· A short clip about excessive use of force among police officers.

iv. Types of Force

a. Nondeadly force

1. Regulated by the concept of reasonable force

2. When a reasonable person deems that force was necessary

b. Deadly force

1. Force that an objective police officer realizes will place the subject in direct threat of serious injury

2. May result in death

v. The United States Supreme Court and Use of Force

a. Tennessee v. Garner (1985) mandated a change in the fleeing felon rules

b. Graham v. Connor (1989) increased the argument for reasonable amounts of force needed

Class Discussion/Activity

Ask students to talk about the Supreme Court ruling in Tennessee v. Garner. Why did the Court rule that way?

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