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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78732 Find in a Library
Title: Police in the Class Structure
Journal: British Journal of Law and Society  Volume:5  Dated:(Winter 1978)  Pages:166-184
Author(s): R Reiner
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 19
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: This paper analyzes the impact of the British police force's class position on its involvement with trade unionism by examining class structure, conditions of police work, the history of police unionism and police attitudes toward unions in 1973.
Abstract: The police occupy a contradictory place in the British class structure. Although economically working class, they contribute to the political and ideological domination of the capitalist class. The financial status of police officers varies, depending on political and economic factors, but their security and mobility prospects are better than those of most workers. After 2 probationary years, a constable can be dismissed only for a serious disciplinary offense or criminal conviction, and the police elite are generated internally. Police work is characterized by a peculiar combination of strict internal discipline coupled with considerable autonomy in the actual work situation. Most officers feel that the unit beat system and other innovations introduced during the 1960's have relaxed supervision and encouraged teamwork. Numerous studies show that police are highly esteemed by the public, although other surveys have indicated that police officers themselves perceive public opinion as hostile. The history of police unionism reflects the contradictory role of police in the class system. The Government squashed the first police union in 1919 through a generous pay raise, the establishment of a compliant representative body -- the Police Federation -- and victimization of the militants. The police force was a highly sought occupation in the Depression, but manpower shortages after World War II enhanced the Police Federation's position. In the 1970's, inflation eroded the real value of pay and faced with high unemployment police became more militant rather than quitting. The Federation, however, rejected union affiliation in 1977, and anti-union sentiment among police officers has increased. A 1973 survey of the police force showed that most were satisfied and involved with their work. They found unionism morally objectionable because of the force's special role in society, but also felt it would be ineffective. Economic and political developments in subsequent years made police officers more receptive to trade unionism, but they did not see themselves as aligned with other working class forces. The composition of the police force is not monolithic, and circumstances would radicalize its outlook. The article includes 47 footnotes.
Index Term(s): Great Britain/United Kingdom; Police attitudes; Police personnel; Police unions; Social classes
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