Book Reviews

Of Police, Provinces, and Professionalization

Came across this today via H-Net Reviews:

Zhiqiu Lin. Policing the Wild North-West: A Sociological Study of the Provinvial Police in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1905-1932. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2006. 210 pp. $34.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-55238-171-7.

Reviewed by Joel Kropf (Carleton University)

Published on H-Canada (September, 2009)

Commissioned by Stephanie Bangarth

For the most part, it’s a thoroughly well-written review on what seems like a responsible piece of scholarship.  In other words, I can’t see why it might be interesting at all (maybe Michelle, our resident Canada expert, can help me see more of what’s at stake here?).

One thing that did pop out at me, though, was this:

…he intends the term “professionalization” to evoke “rationalization” and Max Weber’s ideas concerning the latter.  “Calculable and predictable rules and procedures” have tended more and more to infuse organizations and enterprises in many nineteenth- and twentieth-century societies, and this holds true, Lin believes, in the case of policing in Western Canada (p. 203n7).  By no means does Lin claim that the patterns and approaches emerging among Canadian police during the period of his study always possessed a more professionalized flavor than their previous practices had.  Sometimes the provincial police went with the less professionalized alternative from among the options that they might potentially have pursued.  On the whole, however, the police found it attractive to incorporate new doses of professionalism into their patterns of work.  After all, citizens who noted a police force’s proclivity for professionalized dealings became less likely to worry that they might suffer from prejudiced actions or capricious responses on the part of officers.  And this, in turn, tended to reduce the chances that police would find their efforts impeded by distrust or recalcitrance on the part of the people among whom they worked.

There’s something that seems a bit off there; i’m still trying to put my finger on exactly what it is.  It’s in the reading of Weber, for one (I love Max, but whatever… I can let that slide), but also in the portrait it offers of Canadians as fundamentally rational actors in search of a government worthy of them.  Maybe that’s more accurate than I think, but something smells off there, to me…  to be continued after some reflection.


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