Taking Police Culture Seriously: Police Discretion and the Limits of Law

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73 Citations (Scopus)


‘Police culture’ tends to be seen negatively, as a contrary and perverse influence upon the ‘proper’ exercise of police discretion. It is seen, quite correctly, as often subversive of the ideals and demands of legality. Yet most modern societies are essentially dependent upon rule-based forms of police accountability. This paper suggests that the police culture needs to be approached more positively, as a potential resource in the formulation of rules governing police powers and practices. This requires that police administrators and police officers participate in negotiated rulemaking, a process similar to collective bargaining, in which police culture perspectives are drawn upon in formulating rules regulating aspects of police practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-114
Number of pages24
JournalPolicing and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Discretion
  • Limits of law
  • Negotiated rulemaking
  • Police culture
  • Self-regulation
  • Semi-autonomous social field


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