n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - The meaning of professionalism in policing : a qualitative case study

Volume 23, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



The vision of police professionalism as police officials who perform their work in an impartial and skillful manner is often marred by the stark reality of their work environment. The focus of this study is on the attitude of police officials towards their way of being professional, which is reflected in the manner in which they conduct their work. The research has been approached from a constructionist worldview, with appreciative inquiry as the meso-philosophical perspective. The process of appreciative inquiry is vested in the notion that organisations are sustained by best practices, instead of focusing on problems, gaps, and inadequacies. This article attempts to contribute to the knowledge base of professionalism in policing by exploring the meaning of professionalism for police officials, in a particular context. Making meaning of a lived experience is associated with the explorative and descriptive design of this study, which provides insight into the life world of the participants. The research context is a suburban police station, which is regarded as a priority station in Gauteng. A purposive convenient sample of 12 participants was used and in-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted. The analysis technique of Tesch was utilised and independent co-coding and member checking contributed to the trustworthiness of the research results. The participants identified seven characteristics that were central to their professional way of being, and cited negative ways of professional being that they encountered at the police station. They voiced their opinion about the challenges in the police officials' work context that need to be corrected and called for the constructive implementation of regulations to foster a sense of pride of place, discipline, and respect for themselves and others. They identified the instalment and maintenance of a core value system based on the characteristics of professionalism and their way of being professional, as being at the foundation of professionalism in policing.

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