Racist Notions of Certain Communities in Police Subcultures


Community policing entails a set of strategies put in place at an organizational level to create a cooperative link between the police and the citizenry in providing various services to citizens in the community (Mirsky 1). As a result, in the United States, the police community service has been in place for the past 100 years. Through the police community service, police officers have been actively involved in providing first-aid services, rescuing trapped and injured animals, guiding tourists and other visitors, offering road assistance, and safeguarding vacationers’ homes. To achieve these responsibilities, the police officers use foot patrols, ministrations, beat meetings, and other operational styles (Regoli and Hewitt 109).

Therefore, the main objective of community policing entails promoting and sustaining strong relations between the community members and the police officers (Mirsky 1). However, current research studies and media reports record increased cases of police officers promoting racist notions of certain communities especially the minority and marginalized communities in the United States. As a result, these racist notions and police practices influence community policing in the affected populations in different aspects. Conversely, caution is required when assessing police behavior and culture relative to media reports because, despite the reports exposing hidden police practices to the public eye, they can also exert a damaging impact on the police image to the public (Garland and Chakraborti 112).

This essay looks at the police subculture relative to the perceived racist notions held by police officers against certain communities. In addition, the essay presents discussions on how these racist notions develop into police practices. Subsequently, the essay looks at different ways of overcoming the embedded notions in the police subculture. Finally, the essay describes the positive impact of these racist notions on the implementation of community policing.

The Police Subculture and Racism

In the 1960s, studies show that the relationship between police officers and the community was characterized by civil disobedience and social unrest. As a result, presidential commissions were set up to look into the root causes of the sour relations between the police and the community. One such presidential commission found out that lack of trust between the minority communities and the police officers was the root cause of the social unrest and riots of the late 1960s (Gelder 113).

Therefore, the commission recommended that the government should hire more police officers from the minority communities and educated women to replace the uneducated, white, male police officers working within the minority communities. Here, the commission was working under the assumption that minority officers and educated women will be less aggressive and more understanding to minority communities as opposed to their white counterparts. Contrary to these assumptions, studies show that the behavior of minority police officers and educated women is not much different from the white, uneducated, male police officers who were in service during the riots of the 1960s (Gelder 119).

As a result, several cultural explanations accounting for racial profiling against the minority communities show that certain aspects of the police culture and subculture inform different policing practices as opposed to individual characteristics of police officers (Hickman 1). Moreover, there is evidence linking the police culture and subculture to the cultural biases and racist notions that influence the relationship between minority communities and the police.

Here, racial prejudice as cultural practice in police-community service reflects a problem that has a wider societal inclination. As a result, cultural practices such as societal racism that divides different communities into social ranks do also inform certain aspects of the police culture (Hickman 10). For instance, most minority communities together with drug addicts, alcoholics, and prostitutes form the lowest level in social ranking, which on several occasions predispose them to police brutality because they are regarded as police property. Therefore, certain social practices and work environments generate characteristic cultural patterns that inform the nature of policing as opposed to individual police characteristics (Garland and Chakraborti 114).

Development of Racist Notions into Police Practices

Given the foregoing discussions, it is clear that the probability of police personality in informing a police officer’s policing practices is very low. Thus, the evidence seems to point at the police culture and subcultures as being at the center of police practices because it defines the nature of policing. Here, police subculture refers to certain attitudes, beliefs, and values, which are shared by all police officers. In addition, these beliefs, values, and attitudes serve to differentiate police officers from other community members (Hickman 12).

Furthermore, the police subculture is transferred from one generation of police officers to another through socialization. Here, research studies show that a police officer is exposed to the conventions of policing right from the time one joins the police force through training in the field. Thus, apart from an officer’s individual personality, police officers obtain a working personality from the street experience through interacting and assimilating new experiences from colleagues in the field (Hickman 17).

Therefore, the working personality in policing entails a certain unique perspective that guides police officers in viewing the world from a different angle as opposed to other community members. In so doing, the police officers develop an attitude of ‘us against them’, which implies that these officers view themselves as being different from the citizens. As a result, police officers are known to work with distinct characteristics, standards, and principles such as secrecy, bravery, solidarity, isolation, and autonomy (Hickman 25). In addition, within a single police organization, there could be several competing subcultures that inform policing practices in different departments.

Furthermore, different attitudes, beliefs, and values learned through training and work experiences are reinforced by certain organizational factors such as peer pressure, which compels a junior officer to conform to certain set standards and values in a particular department. Thus, it is common to see police officers who start with a much different attitude being socialized into adapting the behavior of a large group of people (Hickman 27). Consequently, a junior African American police officer may start with a different understanding of his/her community members but as time goes by, the police officer becomes assimilated into acting and behaving like the other dominant white police officers.

Therefore, police subcultures, organizational factors, and police socialization play a pivotal role in developing and maintaining certain racial inclinations and notions in different police departments. Moreover, studies show that most police officers including the assimilated African American officers adapt the social beliefs, values, and attitudes of the dominant white communities in the United States. As a result, these police officers tend to view issues from the perspective of the traditional ways of problem-solving in the dominant populations while ignoring the diversity of the American culture (Garland and Chakraborti 120).

Consequently, the problems facing the relationship between the police officers and the minority communities are attributable to a lack of understanding and mutual antagonism between the two groups. For instance, the dominant communities and police officers view African American community members as being aggressive while the African Americans view the police as using excessive force against them. Overall, these cultural misunderstandings and racial profiling have developed into actual policing practices to the disadvantage of minority groups.

Overcoming the racist notions in Police Subcultures

The discussions above rule out any possibility of racial profiling being solely caused by the individual characteristics of police officers. As a result, racial profiling in police subcultures is a deeply rooted problem in police organizations, and it is sustained by the police subcultures, police socialization, and other organizational factors. Furthermore, the studies reviewed above show that police reforms have had little or no effect in changing the racist notions in almost all police officers regardless of their cultural and social affiliations. Therefore, to overcome racist notions in police subcultures, there is the need to initiate cultural change in police recruitment, police training, and the work environment (Mirsky 10).

As mentioned earlier, the behavior of junior police officers depends on group behavior in police departments. Furthermore, during police recruitment and training, selection of police officers entails screening out those individuals who show attitudes that do not conform to organizational values and beliefs. In addition, most police officers are affiliated with the dominant white communities in the United States.

As a result, the race-oriented values, beliefs, and attitudes that govern the recruitment, training, and policing practices are informed by the traditional practices of the dominant groups. Here, the problem trailing the police departments is that most minority communities feel that they are left out in contributing to the forces that represent their interests (Mirsky 11). Therefore, there is the paramount need to change the cultural practices associated with police recruitment, police selection, and police training to overcome racial prejudices in police subcultures.

Additionally, several organizational factors should be reconsidered to allow for cultural change in police departments. For instance, most police officers work with formal and informal policies that govern their policing practices without considering their fair judgment of different situations. These policies have several loopholes that allow for racial profiling to set in because these formal policies allow officers to use force, high-speed pursuits, and to perform mandatory arrests in certain circumstances.

Conversely, informal policies, which are unwritten and associated with different police departments, present police officers with the opportunity to perpetuate racial profiling in different aspects (Mirsky 13). As a result, there is the need to revise these policies to limit any chances of police officers using their influence against innocent minority community members.

The Positive Impact of racist notions in police subcultures on Community Policing

Different racist notions associated with police subcultures inform behavioral changes in different police officers. In so doing, the notions enable the police officers to develop a characteristic pattern of values, practices, and perspectives, which inform the police behavior and conduct relative to different situations. Here, police officers develop a culture characterized by a strong sense of mission, solidarity, and suspicion. In addition, the police culture can be regarded as being supportive of racial prejudice, conservatism, and pragmatism (Garland and Chakraborti 117).

These elements of police culture and subcultures have several positive implications on community policing despite being overshadowed by their negative implications. For example, through police officers becoming aware of their mission on the streets, they can help in apprehending criminals who will always behave in a suspicious manner regardless of their cultural or social affiliations. On the other hand, some elements of the police subculture support commitment, bravery, and collective responsibility in accomplishing the goals of community services (Garland and Chakraborti 122).

Additionally, the notion that most aggressive criminals are affiliated with minority communities cannot be ignored during community policing. Though most critics will argue that approaching members of certain communities with a lot of caution and suspicion is a form of racial profiling; this element of the police culture helps the police to rid the communities of criminals who enlist the support of their community members and use their economic status to perpetrate criminal activities against innocent citizens. In addition, studies show that most minority communities have more negative perceptions of the police officers than the other dominant communities, and they, therefore, tend to be more aggressive to police officers (Mirsky 7). As a result, there is the need for police officers to approach members of these communities with a lot of caution in order to accomplish their duties.


The essay presents discussions on community policing relative to the prevalence of racist notions of certain communities in different police subcultures. Additionally, the essay looks at the development of different racist notions into police practices. Furthermore, the essay recommends different ways of overcoming these notions, which are embedded in policing practices. Lastly, the essay describes the role played by these notions in enhancing the implementation of community policing.

The discussions above show that community policing entails different strategies used by police officers in providing community service, which entails collaborating with community members in service delivery. In addition, different police departments have various values, beliefs, and attitudes, which inform their policing strategies. Conversely, these strategies may have both positive and negative implications on the process of the community. As a result, caution is required when assessing the degree of racial profiling relative to the police culture and subcultures.

Works cited

Garland, Jon and Chakraborti, Neil. Hate crime: impact, causes and responses. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc., 2009.

Gelder, Ken. Subcultures: cultural histories and social practice. New York: Routledge, 2007. Print.

Hickman, John. “On the context of police cynicism and problem behavior.” Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, 4.1 (2008): 1-44.

Mirsky, Ian. “Community oriented policing.” Internet Journal of Criminology, 2.1 (2009): 1-14. Print.

Regoli, Robert and Hewitt, John. Exploring criminal justice: essentials. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2010. Print.

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