n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - The universality of the "police canteen culture"

Volume 17, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Police culture is a topic that has received its fair share of attention and scrutiny. The official policing institution in South Africa, the (former) South African Police (Force) (SAP), which was eventually renamed as the South African Police Service (SAPS), posed a specific topic of interest in the recent past and specifically so during the periods of transition and democratisation. South Africa's apartheid legacy (racial segregation and oppression) made the situation in South Africa exceptional in terms of the South African Police's instrumentality in enforcing apartheid laws.

Even when the ideal of a democratic dispensation was already vigorously pursued, "the dominant ethos within the police force was believed to have remained traditionalist, conservative, and resistant to change". According to this view, the South African Police, remained a "colonial" police force while the culture of the South African Police was believed to be unique and irreconcilable with a more universal conception of police culture(s).
It is common case that the dominant South African historical context of colonialism remains British imperialism. The underlying assumption, therefore, is that the public police services of England and Wales "reformed" themselves, or were never police forces comparable to those policing the British colonies.
Contrary to the abovementioned views it transpired that even in liberal democracies police officers are working in a culture that many ordinary citizens would find oppressive, violent and depressing.

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