Most people lie when questioned, would steal if they knew they wouldn’t get caught and are untrustworthy and dishonest.
This is the majority opinion of South African Police Services (SAPS) officials with more than 10 years’ experience who were interviewed during research conducted by UKZN academics.
The College of Humanities academics, Dr Jéan Steyn and Dr Sazelo Mkhize, published their research in the SA Crime Quarterly on three decades of SAPS culture, questioning whether police officers’ attitudes change with years of service.
Their research explores core elements of early police organisational culture models – solidarity, isolation and cynicism – among a representative sample of SAPS officials from Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo with 10, 20 and 30 years’ experience.
‘Police culture is perceived to have an impact on the behaviour of the police officials which affects the manner in which they conduct themselves,’ said Mkhize. ‘Community policing was developed as a new strategy to bring effectiveness in policing by working with the public.’
Said Steyn: ‘Police organisations recruit individuals aligned with SAPS culture and their cultural attitudes reach a relative peak through socialisation. Encouraging interaction between police and the public increases dissonance (catch-22 policing), and police officials attempt to reduce the associated anxiety through solidarity, isolation and cynicism.’
The findings of the study revealed that SAPS officials display attitudes in support of police culture themes of solidarity, isolation, and cynicism. However, police officials with 10 years’ experience interviewed during research believe most people lie when questioned, would steal if they knew they wouldn’t get caught, and are untrustworthy and dishonest.
‘This study does not assume a direct relationship between attitude and overt behaviour, nor does it draw conclusions about the SAPS as a whole,’ said Steyn. ‘Further research needs to be conducted to uncover non-sociodemographic factors that shape these attitudes, such as actual SAPS member practices and on-the-job experiences.’
The academics hope the research will aid the SAPS as an organisation to be able to understand the impact of police culture in policing and assist in making amendments.