Journal Article

Performance Rituals

Peter K. Manning

in Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice

Volume 2, issue 3, pages 284-293
Published in print January 2008 | ISSN: 1752-4512
Published online January 2008 | e-ISSN: 1752-4520 | DOI:
Performance Rituals

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Policing in Anglo-American countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA) has been redefined as a corporate activity. As a result of this metaphoric shift, it is expected to be efficient, effective, transparent and accountable. These expectations place the police in market competition and places pressures on them to meet objectives, goals and performance indicators. While this pressure has been greater outside North America, where individual performance is of concern and the focus is upon untoward actions, managerialism is shaping police rhetoric and diverting attention to meeting standards, rather than what patrol officers call ‘doing the job’. The police mandate in Anglo-American societies is collective, rooted in a semi-sacred history of connection to the law, the state and morality (Manning, 1977). The practices of policing—a focus on the incident at hand, cynical approach to citizens and trust in colleagues, eschewal of paperwork and organizational records in particular—sustain its craft-like manner. The supervision of sergeants sets out what is valued and why, and this varies from sergeant to sergeant and across organizations.1 These issues militate against performance assessment and suggest that when performed, it is a ritual celebrating the occupational sub-culture of patrol. Performance evaluation in the police is by and large absent as a systematic, comparable, transcendental practice that yields valid, reliable scores even within an organization. The current situation, at least in the USA, is a reflection of the police mandate: the reality of the police as an organization and occupation; the misleading focus on individual malfeasance rather than auditing and rewarding good conduct and the very local nature of American policing.

Journal Article.  5707 words. 

Subjects: Policing

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