Justice Studies (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Adam Bossler


Police have been said to be the largest gang in America with badges. With recent events occurring throughout the United States, including police shootings of unarmed citizens, some may say that the police have shown various characteristics similar to those of gangs. Does the public also view officers, in general, in the same perspective? Surveys were administered to a large class of Georgia Southern University students to acquire their perceptions of both the police and gangs. Each student listed characteristics of the police and gangs, their opinion, and different ways those perceptions have been formed. The data collected revealed more positive characteristics for police and more negative for gangs. Police were seen as more protective and courageous amongst the public serving their needs and interests. Gangs gathered the more negative perceptions, such as being more violent and drug-related, and not serving much of the public’s interests and needs. The two groups still exhibited ample resemblance that could portray the police subculture as a legitimate gang.