It is not a complicated term although it is one with many theories behind it giving a vast variety of interpretations of just what deviance is and is not.
Psychologically, police must be able to justify and rationalize their involvement in deviant activities. Socially, deviant police must also be able to project a conformist image to the public.
The police subculture facilitates deviance by providing officers with the beliefs, values, definitions, and affirmations necessary to depart from society's expectation of acceptable behavior. Various techniques are used by the police to break the bonds of society's norms while permitting them to maintain a law-abiding master status and public image.
Motives, reasons, and justifications are all mechanisms that permit police to "explain away" their involvement in deviant acts. The police culture instructs police on the use of several "neutralization" techniques to justify their involvement in illicit activities.
These techniques provide deviant police with after-the-fact justifications for their conduct. Police may deny responsibility for committing a deviant act. Police may deny that anyone was injured by their deviancy.
Police may deny that there was a victim of the deviant act. Police may condemn those who question police involvement in deviant acts. Finally, police may appeal to higher loyalties in an effort to justify their wrongdoings. It is important that the public accept the justifications provided by police for their involvement in deviant activities.
One way police prepare the public to accept police wrongdoing is by portraying crime as a deepening problem that threatens to take over society.
Police may overemphasize or misuse statistics that show increases in certain forms of criminal activity. When police heighten concerns about such things as organized drug rings and violent youth gangs, the public is prepared to accept future deviant acts by police.
The police may also influence public sentiments by portraying victims of police deviance detrimentally. Here, police characterize victims of police wrongdoing as drug addicts, ex-convicts, violent criminals, or mentally ill.
When victims of deviance are portrayed as serious, violent, dangerous, or unstable offenders, the public tends to be skeptical of claims of abuse and may even rationalize the actions of the police.
If the public rejects justifications provided by police for police deviance, one of two reactions must follow. Either the justification provided by the police must be modified, or the police behavior must be adjusted or discontinued.
It describes the process by which the norms and values of the police are negotiated, as well as those for larger society. Motives can be expressed before, during, or after an act. Provide an example of a motive that police might use before, during, or after stealing items at the scene of a burglary.
Do the police use motives to justify their behavior to themselves or to others? Some theories are designed to explain certain types of criminal and deviant behaviors.
Is Sykes and Matza's theory best used to explain police crimes against property, crimes against persons, or both? The police, often in very subtle ways, prepare the public to accept police justifications for engaging in deviant acts.
How has the public been prepared to understand the need for police to use extraordinary measures to fight the "war on drugs?
Is there any situation where a police officer would be justified in slapping an offender? Would your peers, parents, teachers, or friends agree with your answer? Why or why not? Is the general public more or less tolerant of police brutality than it was in the s?
What specific factors led to the change? Are information restrictions on the media's access to officers' work histories necessary?
Police use various mechanisms to account for their involvement in deviant activities.
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