Visible policing: uniforms and the (re)construction of police occupational identity

Michael Rowe, Matthew Jones, Andrew Millie, Liam Ralph

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

1 Citation (Scopus)
232 Downloads (Pure)


This article contributes to contemporary criminological debates on police visibility by exploring the relationship between police uniforms, artefacts and occupational identity. The article is influenced by visual criminology and semiotics and draws on elicitation interviews with officers and staff from four English police services. Participants were asked to bring with them an object or image that they identified as being an important expression of their occupational identity, which was then discussed. Most often objects or images were associated with their uniform. Findings are presented in relation to the visual symbolism, iconography
and performativity of uniforms and related material artefacts. Participants drew upon visual representations in making sense of
positive and negative aspects of their role and in defending their occupational identity in the light of perceived external challenges, such as reductions in police numbers and threats of violence and danger. It is argued that the communicative properties of this material culture play an important symbolic role in the self-legitimation and professional identity of police work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalPolicing and Society
Early online date13 Aug 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Aug 2022


  • Law
  • Sociology and Political Science


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