The British Police Service: professionalisation or McDonaldization?

Authors: Heslop, R.

Journal: International Journal of Police Science and Management

Volume: 13

Issue: 4

ISSN: 1478-1603

DOI: 10.1350/ijps.2011.13.4.23S


This article argues that there are two contrasting models for understanding developments in contemporary British policing. The first, which is an intended outcome of the reform and 'workforce modernisation' agenda, envisages increased professionalisation.

The second, which is a perverse outcome of that same agenda, is the 'McDonaldization' of the British police. This article prefers the latter and argues that policing is increasingly becoming McDonaldized. According to the sociologist George Ritzer, McDonaldized institutions operate in accordance with four main principles: calculability, efficiency, predictability and control.

Taken together, these four factors can be understood as the basic components of a rational system. However, the main problem with McDonaldized systems and a fifth characteristic of the process is the production of irrationalities (or what Ritzer terms the 'irrationality of rationality'). A primary purpose of this article is to highlight some of the irrationalities of McPolicing.

Source: Manual