The shattered image : a study of occupational socialization experienced by municipal officers of the Vancouver and Ottawa police departments


Cooper, Joseph D.




This study presents the results of an investigation into the process of formal and informal occupational socialization as it has been experienced by the officers of the Vancouver and Ottawa municipal police departments. In order to carry out this investigation a group of 183 police officers who were either about to retire, or had retired, from their occupation were interviewed in order to determine:

1) their personal backgrounds and motivations that prompted them to become police officers;

2) the career management strategies that were developed in order to assist the officers in overcoming many of the problems encountered in occupational structure and operations that would hinder the completion of that career;

3) the effects of the preparation for, and enactment of, career termination and retirement upon the behaviour and attitudes of those contained in that process; and

4) the nature and sources of information on occupational expectation and procedure provided by the socialization process found in the work environment, and ascertain how the officers adapt to this knowledge by way of the role they choose to take during their careers.

The purpose of this investigation was to categorize the various types of roles found in the behaviour of the police officers through the models of adjustment suggested in the works of Merton and Rosow, and then determine how a particular role either assisted or hindered an individual's attempts at career management. A further investigation was made to determine the effects of the occupational environment upon the career paths of the officers as well. It was determined from the results of  this study that the majority of officers had entered the occupation in order to gain financial security, and that the more successful strategy for career completion was one in which the officers had developed a personal life which had a different identity to that provided by their occupational role. It was also found that this strategy greatly assisted the officers in their transition into the retirement period by preparing them for new social roles. It was found that their old occupational roles also served a function in terms of providing a transitional role that has not been previously identified in the literature, in order to assist the ex-officers in establishing themselves in their new situation. The conclusions that are drawn from these findings suggest that a re-evaluation be made of some aspects of police behaviour, such as the phenomena of comradery and social insularity that are reported to be present amongst its members, and that attention be given to the differences between the image of policing as it has been presented to us in popular culture, scholarly literature, and various police organizations, with that presented to us through an officer's own experience, in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the police function in Canadian society, as well as the various expectations that have been brought to it by various groups.


Professional socialization -- Canada.
Police -- Canada.




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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