THE POLICE SUBCULTURE: A STUDY OF THE INFORMAL STRUCTURE OF POLICE BEHAVIOR (NEW YORK)

DOMINICK A SACCO, Fordham University

Abstract

The study identifies those factors which influence police officers to follow guidelines or use "discretion" in the carrying out of their work. Specifically the study asks: Is the predominant use of police guidelines or the exercise of discretion determined not only by the public context in which the police perform, but also their functioning as members of a police subculture or in-group? The study identifies a variety of ways in which the police respond to the pressures of the community and/or the police subculture in the carrying out of their duties.^ The study was conducted in New York City (1984-1985). There were two sources of data: the first from three months of observing police on patrol in a representative sample of twenty-five neighborhoods in the five New York City Boroughs; the second, from a survey of N.Y.C. community groups who were asked questions about how they wanted the police to function in a variety of situations. Variables evaluated included: age, sex, and race/ethnicity of police and age, sex, race/ethnicity and social class of the publics they encounter.^ Police are using much more discretion (over 60% of incidents observed) than they acknowledge or the public suspects. In the survey, a slight preference for adherence to guidelines was found. However, there was considerable variation by sex and ethnic group.^ The "underclass hypothesis" was supported in that it was found that minorities and low income groups receive less law enforcement both on a group and individual basis. Although, in minor disputes, which occur more frequently in poor communities, it was shown that this is often what minorities prefer. The study also found that when a minority member is the offender, there is stricter enforcement than when the offender is white. In most cases, this racial difference reflected class bias as well.^ Police behavior was found to be influenced by the sociological factors of police subculture and public context. It is suggested that police use radio car crews of mixed race/ethnicity, since these were found to be more productive and impartial in the enforcement of the law. ^

Subject Area

Criminology

Recommended Citation

SACCO, DOMINICK A, "THE POLICE SUBCULTURE: A STUDY OF THE INFORMAL STRUCTURE OF POLICE BEHAVIOR (NEW YORK)" (1986). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8615732.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8615732

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