Explaining torture and its reduction in a police department: A view from below
This is an ethnographic study of police deviance and police reform. This study investigates how organizational members rationalize the torture they perpetuated in the past, how they explain their sensemaking process and organizational identity change during the change process using empirical data from a counterterrorism division of the metropolitan police department (MPD) in a prospective member state of the EU.
In order to understand how MPD members explain the reasons for the improvements in human rights practices, the counterterrorism division of the MPD was selected as the focus of the ethnographic research. After completing the data collection process, the data were analyzed to find possible answers to the defined research questions. During this analysis, it became evident that the informants (police officers and managers) used several rationalization techniques to justify the torture practices they had used in the past. As the informants tried to explain why their division had used torture in the past, their explanations provided good examples of how deviant practices are normalized and rationalized among the police.
Furthermore, this study analyzes how CTD members explain the improvements in human rights practices that require major shifts in their cognitive understandings. This enabled us to explore police officers’ and managers’ sensemaking process within the change process as well as their perceptions about organizational identity change. In addition, while analyzing MPD members’ sensemaking process of change, this study explored MPD members’ reactions to the change initiated from above. While talking about the practice of change, informants provided valuable information about their resistance to change, which mostly arose from their organizational identity.
As a result, the problem to be addressed in this project is how police officers rationalize the torture they perpetrated in the past and how they perceive their identity reconstruction process. Whereas analyzing the rationalization of torture contributes to the police deviance literature by providing empirical data on the rationalization techniques of torture by the police, examining the identity construction process adds new knowledge about organizational identity change as well as identity resistance to the police management literature.
Keywords: Torture; Rationalization; Police Deviance; Human Rights; Identity Change
0703: Organizational behavior