Uniforms and the Police Family

Prof. Mike Rowe1

1Northumbria University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom

This paper reflects upon the series of material artefacts that a group of police officers and staff selected to represent their occupational identity and the cultural, social, and political meanings that surrounded these items. In particular, the paper focuses upon the common tendency for research participants to identify artefacts that were related in some way to the police uniform, or aspects of that such as caps, badges, and epaulettes. The paper makes an important contribution to the research literature by exploring the cultural and identity work that police uniforms perform for officers and staff themselves, unlike most of the extant work that explores the impact of uniform on public perceptions of police and related occupations. The interview transcripts reveal that material artefacts related to the police uniform were discussed in terms of familial relations: both in connection to the much-noted construct of the ‘police family’ but also in respect of the kinship families of respondents. In different ways, but across both occupation and kinship families, the interviews showed that workplace identity included elements of emotional labour that were significant to our participants. Familial relations were cited as motivations for officers and staff, often expressed in terms of a public service ethos, but also as an important mechanism in responding to stress and danger seen as inherent to the police role.


Michael Rowe is Professor of Criminology at Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. He is Director of the university’s Centre for Crime and Policing and his research interests focus on police culture and organisation, governance and ethics.


Dec 08 2021