The Abstract Police and Occupational Culture

Rowe, Michael; Ralph, Liam; Millie, Andrew and Jones, Matthew (2022). The Abstract Police and Occupational Culture. In: Terpstra, Jan; Salet, Renze and Fyfe, Nicholas R eds. The Abstract Police: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Change in Police Organisations. The Hague: Eleven International Publishing, pp. 15–34.


This chapter uses data from qualitative interviews with serving police officers, police community support officers (PCSOs) and police civilian staff (herein referred to as staff) from four English police services to explore potential consequences of 'abstract' forms of policing for occupational identity, subculture and, relatedly, staff well-being. Terpstra et al. (2019: 340) use the concept of "abstract police" to describe a situation within contemporary policing where, "both internally and externally, the police have become more at a distance, more impersonal and formal, less direct, and more disconnected". They argue that forms of abstract police impact on relations, both internally with colleagues and externally with partners and the public.

In this vein, we identify changes to police working practices that make police more abstract. According to those interviewed, these changes to police practices could have a negative impact on mental and physical health in the workplace, in part because they have reduced opportunities for informal mutual support - identified as important for mitigating the impact of stressful, risky and dangerous experiences.

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