Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Donald McLellan


Decisions made by street-level police officers during encounters with the public have an immediate and long-lasting effect. Bad choices can cause a loss of trust, respect, and legitimacy for the police in a community and lay a foundation for violent confrontations between officers and citizens. Layers of culture that shape human decisions consist of social and institutional culture, including interactions that shape an individual's culture and beliefs and demographics and technology that affect cultural development. Police culture (which includes these layers of culture and factors like rank, units, and history) shapes attitudes and opinions about communities and people in a police jurisdiction, leading to barriers to officers' acceptance of training initiatives to implement new methods of dealing with the public. Understanding police culture is the first step in making positive changes in police decision-making and improving trust, respect, and legitimacy between officers and the community. Acker's theory of social structure social learning provided the theoretical framework for understanding police culture, which could lead to positive changes such as training programs that address police culture's influence on decision-making. A qualitative research method with a phenomenological approach for interviewing officers was used to investigate police culture and how it affects decision-making. Results indicated that officers think of culture as a family or brotherhood and not a culture. The most significant impact on decision-making is experience. These findings can lead to positive social change by making officers stakeholders in developing training in positive social relationships with the community.