Us vs The World

Muir’s study into the typologies/ attitudes of policemen was eye-opening for me in terms of helping me understand the mentality and culture in the police workforce. So often after a policeman or woman has ‘mishandled’ a situation or committed a transgression in the eyes of the community, we see the entire police force band behind them in support. Muir theorizes that this “us versus them” reaction comes from frequent exposure to “severe moral problems” (Muir 1977, p. 208). Yet the bond runs deeper than simply shared experiences. Police are frequently seen as the outcasts in society, doing the “dirty jobs” nobody else wants to do. Their association with crime and criminals casts them in a negative light. In impoverished and minority communities, they are widely feared and hated for their part in incarcerating members of said community and imposing their authority on the overall populace. In affluent communities, they are looked down upon as “lesser.”

 

This perspective into police psychology does much to explain police reactions to movements such as #BlackLivesMatter (countering with #BlueLivesMatter), or their united refusal to admit any wrongdoing in cases where unarmed young black men were killed. They are always on the defensive because they see themselves as outcasts, part of a marginalized group that ensures the peacekeeping in society, yet is thoroughly unappreciated by all sides. They believe that ordinary citizens can not possibly understand the enormous pressure they withstand day-by-day. Maybe they’re right, or maybe there needs to be a concerted effort on behalf of both the police force and the community to understand each others’ worries and fears. Police attitudes towards society and marginalized communities need to change, that is certain, but there needs to be some level of understanding as to where they’re coming from, rather than painting the entire force with a broad brush.

One thought on “Us vs The World

  • May 6, 2017 at 4:48 pm
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    I like how you apply the work on police isolation developed by social psychologists in the 1970s to our contemporary moment.

    Police face occupational risks, but so do people in many other occupations. The fact is that police have relatively low occupational mortality, and are nearly as likely to die in a car accident as they are to die from gunfire. While they perceive themselves as being in danger, they are–in fact–not very likely to actually experience any sort of lethal danger.

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