Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Sociology

Supervisor

Adams, Tracey

2nd Supervisor

Shuey, Kim

Abstract

Police officers in Canada continue to publicly expose toxic work environments, misogyny, racism, criminal acts such as sexual assault, stigmatized mental illness, cover ups, and retribution for those who come forward. Marginalized members of the public report similar experiences in their interactions with the police, indicating a connection between the internal workplace environment and public service. Canadian police leaders, their affiliates, and government bodies are aware of the systemic issues present in the institution. Yet, little has changed in a meaningful way.

In light of these challenges and lack of change, a framework to better understand the mechanisms, scope, and impact of marginalization processes in the institution is needed. This framework must capture how the institution’s historical legacy of white supremacist patriarchy operates currently to support the dominance of white, cisgender, heterosexual men. This study asks why there has been limited progress (and for whom), how the institutional status quo is maintained, and the impacts at individual, group, and institutional levels.

To address these questions, this exploratory study analyses data from 116 interviews from 31 police services across Canada and a national, on-line, self-report survey with 727 participants. An inter-disciplinary approach using theoretical frameworks from sociology, psychology, intersectional feminism, and organizational theory with concepts from critical race theory and masculinity theory offer new theoretical contributions to the body of work on police culture. Overall, this study finds hypermasculinity, whiteness, assimilation and conformity, and a resistance to change remain at significant levels in police services across Canada. The institution remains a gendered and racialized organization, which negatively impacts the personal and professional lives of those who do not “fit.” Strong evidence of assimilation and conformity expectations were found, including varying acts of retribution for those who deviated. As a result, a culture of fear and silence was prominent for most officers regardless of gender, ethno-racial identity, rank, and their intersections. This led to significant reluctance to report mental illness and internal misconduct such as harassment and discrimination. A deeper understanding of why and how the status quo remains is the first step in dismantling the power structures that uphold it.

Summary for Lay Audience

Police officers in Canada continue to publicly expose toxic work environments, misogyny, racism, criminal acts such as sexual assault, stigmatized mental illness, cover ups, and retribution for those who come forward. Marginalized members of the public report similar experiences in their interactions with the police, indicating a connection between the internal workplace environment and public service. We know that police leaders and government bodies are aware these issues exist, so why has there been such little change? To better understand the minimal progress, we need to examine who has power (and who does not), the organizational culture, and structural policies and procedures that have upheld white, cisgender, heterosexual male dominance since the institution's beginning. This study asks why there has been limited progress (and for whom), how the institutional status quo is maintained, and the impacts at individual, group, and institutional levels.

Available for download on Thursday, November 30, 2023

Share

COinS