Autobiographies of a Special Kind: Recent writings by and on the police in South Africa

  • E van der Spuy Centre of Criminology, Faculty of Law at the University of Cape Town


The occupational culture of police organisations has long fascinated policing scholars. In the Anglo-American world ethnographic enquiries have contributed much to our understanding of police perceptions, beliefs and actions. This article takes a closer look at efforts to describe and analyse police culture in South Africa. Three genres of writings are considered. Structural accounts of police culture and ethnographic accounts of the police are briefly discussed before turning to a more detailed consideration of a third and emerging genre: police autobiographies. Two recent autobiographies written by former policemen are explored in some detail with the view to considering the contribution of the autobiography to our understanding of the complex occupational dynamics of police and policing in South Africa.

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 1991-3877