August 14, 2012
The Similarities and Differences in the Criminal Subculture and the Police Subculture
A police officers job is to protect and serve. An officer is to offer assistance to those in need and to enforce the laws established by the law makers. A police officer’s job is not the monotonous 8-5 job that most have…..it is ever changing, 24-7. It is not a normal environment. Think about it, a police officer runs into a gun fight…….normal folks run away from it!
A criminal is the exact opposite of a police officer. They often do not have jobs and those that do are normally using their job to commit their crimes! They are interesting in protecting and serving themselves and those in their group but that’s where it stops. A criminal is normally self-absorbed and is obviously not enforcing laws but rather breaking them. However, a criminal’s “job” is rarely monotonous and is certainly not normal. As for the gun fights that cops run to, the criminals are the ones having it in the first place!
So you see, while the goals and objectives of a police officer and a criminal are polar opposite, they also have many similarities. They are both a subculture of the population as a whole.
A subculture is a subdivision of a culture defined by occupation, ethnicity, class, or residence. A subculture forms a functioning group, unified by shared values, beliefs, and attitudes. The police subculture and the criminal subculture are both based on shared expectations about human behavior (Lyman, 1999). It is interesting to research how these subcultures develop. The police subculture develops from a work environment. Officers see multiple problems and are placed in situations where they must grapple with the serious problems in life. These include the problems of injustice, pain, suffering, and death. This environment begins shaping an officer’s interpretation of events. What they would normally view as heart wrenching over the years becomes “just another day” (Lyman, 1999). Police officers have an incredible amount of authority. Police officers are a symbol of authority that must often be assertive in establishing authority with citizenry. This can lead to conflict, hostility, and perhaps overreaction and police brutality. Officers are expected to remain detached, neutral, and unemotional even when challenged and in situations of conflict. There is a high sense of morality in the law enforcement subculture. Morality helps police overcome dilemmas. These dilemmas include the dilemma of contradiction between the goal of preventing crime and the police’s inability to do so, the dilemma of using discretion to handle situations that do not always strictly follow established procedure and the dilemma officers’ face when they must invariably act against at least one person's interest, including the possibility of injuring or killing someone. Morality is helpful in encouraging police to serve the public under difficult conditions, but may also lead to negative impact if police use morality to engage in categorizing people (Hickman, Piquero, and Greene, 2004). Police officers are also constantly faced with danger. Officers become what a normal person might see as paranoid because they are so attentive to signs of potential violence because they work in dangerous situations. The socialization process starts from the beginning and teaches recruits to be cautious and suspicious. Orientation toward watching and questioning can also contribute to tension and conflict in contacts with the public. Police officers are constantly on edge watching for unexpected dangers, on duty and off duty (Lymann, 1999). Based on all of the factors and even though the public is generally supportive of the police, the police often perceive the public to be hostile. For this reason, officers tend to socialize primarily with...