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Identity performance and gendered culture: becoming and being a Neighbourhood Officer

Bennett, Paul Anthony 2011. Identity performance and gendered culture: becoming and being a Neighbourhood Officer. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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In recent years the police service has undergone a number of changes with the introduction of neighbourhood policing (NP) being one of the most significant. NP represents the latest in a long line of government endorsed attempts to introduce a more community orientated and customer focussed approach to policing. NP encourages police constables (PCs) and, the recently introduced, police community support officers (PCSOs) to spend more time engaging with the public, supporting vulnerable members of community and working in partnership with other agencies. This style of policing represents a significant departure from established understandings of policing which have become synonymous with ‗response policing‘ with its focus on maintaining public order and arresting criminals. A great deal of research over the last 30 years has referred to the highly gendered culture of policing which has also been the subject of a great deal of criticism. This research focuses on the identity performances of NP officers and the different ways that NP is enacted within different contexts and situated interactions. My conceptual framework draws on both ethnomethodological and poststructural approaches in understanding how officers in different contexts constructed, reconstructed and resisted discourses in the performances of particular identities. This framework is therefore sensitive to how power and resistance works through discursive constructions within particular contexts. To further improve our appreciation of context, emphasis is given to the importance of cultural meanings as an important source of discursive constraint. However, the research clearly shows that while some discourses may be dominant in influencing identity performances, these are always contested and it is though the clash of competing discourses that the agency of NP officers is revealed (Holmer-Nadesan 1996). The study adopts an ethnographic methodology, using participant observation and semi-structured interviews to examine four broad NP contexts. These are the PCSO training course and the three neighbourhood teams, all of which are located in a different policing environment. Drawing on ethnomethodology, my approach focused on the front and back stage contexts of neighbourhood policing, examining the relationships between discourses and performances within these contexts. The findings reveal the strength of dominant policing discourses linked to gender, police professionalism, ‗real‘ policing and community and also shows the ways that these discourses are also infused and subverted by different sets of meanings and ways of being. The PCs and PCSOs involved in the study were seen to manoeuvre and navigate these contested discourses in the ways they enacted NP in different contexts. The research also reveals the contested and fragmented nature of policing cultures and how these cultures may be best understood as a coexistence of multiple constructions of discourse (Mumby, 2011). The concluding discussion of the thesis presents a number of contributions in relation to the discursive construction of identities, the influence of gendered cultures as well as the challenge of introducing NP into British policing.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 22:45

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