Putting on a professional performance: the College of Policing and the construction of police legitimacy

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Surrey

Principal Researcher

Nicholas Pole

Level of Research


Project Start Date

April 2015

Research Context

Thisy research is about the 'appeal to professionalism' in British policing.

Against a background of extensive police reform, the thesis asks why, in what ways and with what effects the discourse of professionalism is being used in British policing to facilitate occupational change and control. At the centre of the thesis is an analysis of the ‘discursive practices’ of the College of Policing (COP) – the Professional Body for the police service of England and Wales – as it attempts to define and enact its version of police professionalism.


In pursuing this project the researcher's immediate intention is to gain some insight into what it means to be and behave like a ‘professional’ police officer. The wider intention, however, is to build on this analysis with an account of how the discourse of professionalism is used within British policing to support a claim for police legitimacy.


In doing so, the thesis describes how the appeal to professionalism functions as a ‘legitimating discourse’ which serves to foster and sustain police legitimacy through its operation at micro, meso and macro-levels.

Research Methodology

​Discourse analysis.
Interviews with police officers.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

July 2021
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