The incorporation of obedience to authority into New South Wales police force recruit training

Kenneth Wooden, John Nixon

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This article draws on a longitudinal study of Australian (New South Wales) (n=286), Canadian (n=116) and Chinese (n=91) police recruits to discuss participants understandings of the concept of obedience to authority. Results for this study, which was conducted within the early stages of the recruits' training, indicate a significant degree of uncertainty amongst participants from all three jurisdictions when faced with varying situations involving obedience to authority issues. Policing researchers have long observed that recruits enter training with noble intentions and this is enhanced through elements of academy training, such as ethics education. In contrast, however, other researchers have found that once recruits commence their policing roles the negative aspects of police culture can impact adversely upon ethical decision making. In addition, the hierarchical nature of policing coupled with the authoritarian nature of academy training can instil in recruits obedience to authority attributes which can also erode ethical decisions. It is contended that understanding the perceptions of recruits and, in particular, those from New South Wales (NSW), concerning obedience to authority issues, may have implications for recruit training. By incorporating an understanding of obedience to authority along with associated practical scenarios within the academy training curriculum, inexperienced officers when faced with obedience to authority dilemmas in the field may be assisted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-62
Number of pages20
JournalSalus Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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