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The meaning and origin of the expression: Canteen culture

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Canteen culture

Meaning

The colloquial name for the conservative and discriminatory attitudes held by some sections of the British police forces.

Origin

This term is generally applied to describe the attitudes of some of the lower ranks of the British police force, who resist change and are comfortable with what the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence called the Metropolitan Police's 'institutional racism'. It is also used, though less often, with regard to the UK armed forces and prison service.

The phrase began to be used in the late 1980s. The first citation I've located is from The Listener, October 1987:

"Their training has covered the thorny question of relationships inside the police station under the powerful influence of 'canteen culture'."