A phenomenological exploration of how bilingual police recruits join the police community during their initial training
New Zealand seeks to increase the diversity of its police organisation and this research provides an insight into perspectives of bilingual police learners. Learning to become a police officer challenges any recruit to develop academic, physical and social skills. This study examined the cultural and linguistic adaptations reported by bilingual recruits as they developed the necessary repertoire of skills to join the police community. Through a phenomenological methodology, this research considers the rich, individual perspectives provided by three recruits about their lived experience as bilingual learners during their 19 week initial police training. Data were gathered through interviews and on-going personal journals. Two major themes emerged. The first relates to learning to be a New Zealand Police officer by envisioning themselves as a member of the professional community of the police, and also identifying with the wider culture of being a New Zealander. The second theme is personal reflection, as the participants learnt about themselves and reflected on their backgrounds through undertaking a range of activities, interacting with people, and managing emotions. These themes were further analysed against dimensions from a community of practice framework. Participants in this study valued the support of other recruits and especially of the supervising staff. However, it appears that engagement in the police community might be further enhanced if college staff were fully aware of the linguistic and cultural demands faced by bilingual recruits who must come to terms with multiple cultures while developing their police identity. This study highlights the need for further research on the changing identity of bilingual police officers both under training at the college and immediately after starting full-time employment.