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NCJ Number: 70085 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Police and Their Problems - A Theory
Journal: Public Policy  Dated:(1963)  Pages:1-19
Author(s): J Q Wilson
Date Published: 1963
Page Count: 19
Sponsoring Agency: US Dept of Justice
Grant Number: 068
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The police problem--corruption, brutality, and criminality--is discussed in terms of the relative failure of reforms and the nature of the big-city police role. Two adaptive responses for the police are examined.
Abstract: The dilemma of the big city is that different social classes with different expectations of public interest are expected to coexist harmoniously. Moreover, the police are expected to enforce the law and to not enforce the law at the same time; that is, they are required to protect the property and interests of the upperclass while maintaining compassion for the poor and disenfranchised who often break laws in order to survive. In what is termed the 'problem of the crusade,' it is almost inevitable that some civic goal, such as an anticrime crusade, will come to justify any police measure, despite specified procedures and otherwise expected adherence to those procedures. Thus the police cannot take formal rules too seriously because they know they must maintain good relations with criminal informants and know how to obtain information with rough and often illegal methods. Two major adaptive responses, providing different definitions of a 'good cop,' are suggested answers to the resultant police morale problem. The code of the system is a set of institutionalized rules and norms which acknowledges the officers' positions as members of a group which keenly feels its pariah status. This code distributes rewards and penalties according to how well a member conforms to the group's expectations. Value standards are particularistic; i.e., derived from the significance to a particular person of his particular relations with particular others. The professional code, based on principles external to the group, rewards proficiency in the application of these principles. Such value standards are universalistic; i.e., derived from a set of general, impersonal, and presumably valid rules whch are binding on all persons possessing certain attributes and not just a particular group. It is concluded that neither code alone can entirely satisfy the issues of police solidarity and function. Forty-three referemces are appended.
Index Term(s): Community relations; Morale; Police attitudes; Police corruption; Police internal affairs; Police internal organizations; Police organizational structure; Police reform; Police responsibilities; Professional conduct and ethics; Role perception; Standards
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