Police recruits, moral judgements, and an empathetic policing

ANDREW MILLIE*, Steven Hirschler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

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In this article we consider the moral judgements of new recruits to the police by drawing on two stages of semi-structured interviews with recruits over their first six months working for Lancashire Constabulary in England. The article contributes to the literature by providing insights into the moral thinking of police officers at the very early stages of their career. The discussion is supported by relevant criminological and philosophical literature as appropriate. Evidence is presented that there is more to the recruits’ moral judgements than a simple reflection of codified standards of behaviour as taught in police training. Their experiences reflect greater complexity than straightforward socialisation into existing cultures. The recruits emphasise an inclusive empathy and greater compassion for others – often irrespective of what those others have done. An empathetic policing is suggested that could challenge assumed dominant cultures and may be a way to encourage greater engagement with the moral value of police action and inaction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCriminology and Criminal Justice
Early online date4 Jan 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jan 2023


  • policing
  • moral judgement
  • empathetic policing
  • code of ethics
  • compassion


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