Outsiders inside: ethnography and police culture

Westmarland, Louise (2015). Outsiders inside: ethnography and police culture. In: Brunger, Mark; Tong, Stephen and Martin, Denise eds. Introduction to Policing Research: Taking Lessons from Practice. London: Routledge, pp. 163–174.

URL: https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781315795294/...


This chapter considers the issues around researching police culture. One of the tried and tested methods of researching police culture is to use an ethnographic approach. The study of police culture using ethnographic methods includes two studies. In the first case, the study was to be about ethical decision-making in cases of homicide investigation. The second case study is an earlier ethnographic set of observations of front line police officers in north-east England. Ethnography can cover every possible area of police culture, or provide any solutions to the so-called problems it poses, but it probably offers more insights than any other method could conceivably achieve. Ethnography is expensive, time consuming, difficult to arrange and carry out; it is problematic in terms of ethics and researcher safety. They provide the researcher with the feeling they have seen the inside of an occupational culture.

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