Motivations to become a Police Officer: A Typology of Police Recruit

As part of a recent research study into the post-Macpherson career experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual police officers in England and Wales, I attempted to identify whether or not the sexuality of officers played a role in their initial decision to join the policing ranks. Reflecting research by Raganella and White (2004), who examined whether gender and ethnicity impact applicants’ joining motivations, the motivations for joining the police cited by my LGB participants were consistent with the joining motivations of white, heterosexual male officers. Specifically, the following ‘types’ of applicants and joining motivations were observed:

  • The Childhood Dreamers: applicants who had always been fascinated by what the police do and had always wanted to be a police officer from as far back as they could remember. As a child, they had dressed up as police officers and had all of the police paraphernalia. By applying to join the police, they were taking steps to fulfil that childhood dream.
  • The Excitement Chasers: applicants who wanted to avoid a desk job and were attracted by the prospect of driving fast cars, chasing criminals and locking up the bad guys on a daily basis.
  • The Good Samaritans: applicants who wanted to give back to society and help people who were vulnerable and unable to help themselves. Becoming a police officer was seen as a logical way to achieve these personal motivational desires.
  • The Sensible Seekers: applicants who were drawn to policing because of the good salary, pension and career prospects on offer. These applicants acknowledged that policing was not a vocation, but rather the best option out of a list of careers that they had considered pursuing.
  • The Graduates: applicants who had completed a degree, often in a subject completely unrelated to policing (examples include music, astrophysics, chemistry), but thought that their degree would provide them with leverage to climb the ranks through the high potential development scheme offered by the police.
  • The Dysfunctional: applicants who felt that their lives were not going in the direction that they had hoped; in fact, they were engaging in activities that if continued would get them into trouble, for example partying, promiscuity and general excess. Applying to the police was therefore motivated by a belief that it would provide some discipline and focus and enable applicants to get “back on the straight and narrow”.
  • The Drifters: this was a term used by Raganella and White (2004) to describe those applicants who become police officers after several other different careers and roles. Within this research, drifters included those who had previously been in the military and saw applying to the police as an obvious next step, and those who had tried several other careers (for example farmer, chiropodist, counsellor) but were still looking for the career that gave them a desired fulfilment.
  • The Specials: applicants who had been volunteer special constables for many years, alongside another full-time career, and wanted to upgrade to become a full-time police officer. These applicants were unique in that they had previous experience of policing and police environments.

Are you a serving police officer? If so, what ‘type’ did your motivations to join fall into? Drop me a tweet or an email to let me know. I’d be happy to add to the list if you think there are some missing.

Dr Matthew Jones is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Northumbria University and Deputy Chair of he BSC Policing Network. Email: Twitter: @Matt_JonesCrim.

5 reasons why it’s difficult to privatise the police

Over the past few years, the police have been thinking the unthinkable. Faced with a 20 per cent budget cut courtesy of the Coalition’s severe post-financial crisis ‘comprehensive spending review’, many forces have been toying with the policy of privatising frontline services to save money. Drawing upon new research I have just published in the British Journal of Criminology and Criminology and Criminal Justice, here are 5 reasons why this policy has been so difficult to implement.

  1. Media scaremongering

At no point have any police forces sold off their frontline services to the private sector. What they have been doing is contracting out some of these services – such as custody, call handling and managing police station front counters – to the private sector for a limited duration. So ‘privatisation’ is probably the wrong word for what the police have been doing since it implies a far greater degree of market penetration than is actually happening. ‘Outsourcing’ is a much better word. So why are we talking about the ‘privatisation’ of the police? Because this is how newspapers have framed the debate. They have peppered their headlines with the word ‘privatisation’ in anticipation that it will strike fear in the heart of the public and, in turn, shift more copies. A more nuanced commentary on police ‘outsourcing’ does not have the same fear-inducing effect. This has, predictably, caused problems for senior police officers who are being called upon to justify the ‘privatisation’ of what many regard as an inherently governmental service when they are not in fact privatising anything at all. (And, yes, I am fully aware that I have shamelessly employed the same attention-grabbing tactic in the title of this blog!)

  1. Public Fear

Of course, the reason why such media scaremongering has been so effective is because many members of the public are truly fearful of what might happen if police forces are over-exposed to the market. While barely a day passes without some form of public outrage directed towards instances of police malpractice or incompetence, at a deep level the average citizen does hold the idea of the police close to their heart. Generations of children have grown up being instructed by their parents to dial ‘999’ if ever they find themselves in imminent danger. Uniformed police officers give talks in schools to educate young people about the protective role of the police in a civilized society. ‘Cops’ are frequently depicted as the ‘good guys’ in pursuit of the ‘bad guys’ in popular television and cinema. All of which serve to inculcate the benevolent liberal conception of the police into our cultural make up. Privatising – or more accurately outsourcing – this core public service understandably sparks fear and anxiety among the public. This makes the task of senior police officers even harder. A fearful public spurred on by a scaremongering media is not an easy audience to persuade.

  1. Scepticism in the senior ranks

While the Home Office exerts significant influence over the direction of police policy, Chief Constables – and now Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) – nevertheless enjoy considerable autonomy when weighing up different policy options. The enduring principle of constabulary independence means that, if they want to, the 43 police forces can do things in 43 different ways. So it has been with outsourcing. Some have embraced outsourcing, others have rejected it outright. Why? Certainly there are structural factors at play. Some forces have more access to council tax revenues than others do, providing some insulation from central government budget cuts, and making radical policy responses less necessary. Some have more ‘fat to trim’ from their bureaucracies than others do, meaning more savings can be made through internal rationalisation. However, there is another key factor. Many senior police officers are simply not comfortable with – or are actively hostile towards – a greater role for the private sector. Not only have they gone through the same processes of childhood socialisation as every other citizen, but in their adult careers they have then chosen to embody ideals of the police – they’ve even sworn an oath to the Queen. So they refuse to engage with the market and seek other ways out of their financial dire straits. This means that in some forces outsourcing never enters onto the agenda as a matter of principle. And for those forces that do entertain this option, they are faced with scepticism not only from the public, but from their colleagues too.

  1. Inexperience in contracting out

But let’s assume that there are some forces with a challenging structural context and a senior command group who are prepared to give outsourcing a go – and there are a few – then surely it’s simply a matter of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, right? Not quite. The world of public sector outsourcing is a complex one, especially for an institution which has almost no experience of its intricacies. When putting together a proposal, interested private sector providers will want to know the business processes and unit costs of every single service included in the invitation for tender. However, police forces don’t think in terms of business processes and unit costs. They think in terms of victims and criminals, evidence and arrests. Gathering this information together can therefore be a long and painstaking task of self examination which may never reach a conclusion, especially in such a tricky political environment. This is something that Surrey Police and West Midlands Police found out the hard way when their controversial £1.5 billion outsourcing deal failed to see daylight after years of effort.

  1. Staffing the contract

Just for a minute, let’s say that there are forces with a challenging structural context, a senior command group who are prepared to give outsourcing a go, and who have sufficient knowledge of their business processes and unit costs to put together an outsourcing deal before the media, public and colleagues make such a move politically impossible – and there is in fact only one such force, Lincolnshire – then surely meaningful outsourcing is doable? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that it is undeniable that in December 2011 Lincolnshire Police signed a £229 million contract with G4S to deliver 18 services areas – including some on the frontline – over a 10-15 year period. No, in the sense that despite this major transformation in Lincolnshire Police’s organisational structure, some things really haven’t changed that much. This is in part by choice. Lincolnshire Police have been careful to strike a balance between protecting their distinctive public service ethos and reaping rewards from the business process outsourcing expertise of G4S. But it is also in part a consequence of how the contract has been staffed. G4S have not simply replaced Lincolnshire Police staff with G4S staff – indeed, it would be illegal to do so – rather they have inherited the Lincolnshire Police staff already in position through TUPE regulations. This means that, in many instances, the individual responsible for delivering the outsourced service has worked for Lincolnshire Police their entire life and approaches the job in exactly the same as they had done before G4S arrived on the scene. Other than their ID badge which now reads Lincolnshire Police-G4S, not much has changed. Sceptics will no doubt breath a little sigh of relief, for it appears as though their worst fears are not being realised. But for those who are trying to initiate change in the police, it represents just one more barrier to outsourcing.

Dr Adam White is a Lecturer in Public Policy in the Department of Politics at the University of York. Email:


Police education in the university classroom: Let’s be careful of too many assumptions

I recently had the great pleasure of attending and presenting at POLCON5, which took place on the 3rd and 4th September at Teeside University. Amongst a broader conversation about improving knowledge transfer between higher education institutions (HEIs) and police forces, a smaller one was to be found around the impact of foundation and undergraduate degree programmes as a means of police service pre-join. I found a great deal of value in much of what was said on the matter – it was particularly useful to hear about how other programmes had been designed, and how partnerships had been maintained. It encouraged some soul-searching about my own involvement on pre-join programmes, and left me to reflect upon a number of assumptions that I had previously held to be truths.

The concept of police education within higher education (HE) settings is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a new phenomenon. Anyone who has worked in police education will know that programmes, whilst of a small number, were to be found long before Peter Neyroud recommended the strengthening of HE/police partnerships and the diversification of pre-join pathways in his 2011 Review of Police Leadership and Training. A highly contested reduction in force budgets and the emergence of a wider professionalisation agenda have merely accelerated the proliferation of programmes on offer.

The extent to which the professionalisation agenda is satisfied by the presence of such programmes is a matter of continuing debate. Many of us have heard (or may even partially be of the opinion) that academic achievement is no predictor of a competent and assured officer. Others are skeptical of an agenda which very obviously shifts training and education costs from the organisation to the individual. As programme providers, our response to these arguments can naturally be rather defensive. My colleagues and I repeat more times than we’d care to admit: “But, we provide so much more than just training!” Naturally I walked into POLCON5 a firm advocate of this view and left of much the same belief, albeit followed by a lingering shadow of self-doubt as I couldn’t help but contemplate – how do I know that we are a force for positive change?

Academic institutions have an obligation to test the extent to which some of the common beliefs about the contribution of HEIs are accurate. Why? Because, in increasing numbers, policing scholars have identified that a great deal of police practice is assumed and remains untested. “That must change!” we chant, and rightly so. But if we are to build and sustain such a movement in the science and testing of operational police practice, then we have also to look to our own back yard. We have to acknowledge and confront the fact that many assumptions about what HE can contribute to the development of new and prospective police recruits are just that – untested assumptions. In two areas in particular – improved workforce diversity and the eradication of undesirable elements of police occupational culture – initial findings from a recent study of our own FdA Policing cohort paint a cautionary picture. More information on the study can be found at the College of Policing Research Map:

As the proliferation of pre-join programmes has taken place, so to has the belief that the existence of such programmes will contribute to increased police workforce diversity. I have heard this claim made on countless occasions, and have rarely felt it necessary to question it. Upon what evidence though, is such a claim asserted? Is an evidence-base founded upon greater diversity in overall university student numbers really all that helpful? A closer look would suggest not. The demographic statistics from our sample cohort on the Foundation Policing programme at Buckinghamshire New University reveal that 78% were male (N=32). This represents a higher proportion than that of the Thames Valley Police constable workforce, which as of March 2014 stood just below 70% (of a 4346 total constable workforce). Meanwhile just over 90% of the sample cohort defined themselves as ‘white British’. This represents just a 3% decrease from the Thames Valley Police constable workforce as of March 2014. Certainly, no grand claim of improved diversity can be made from such numbers.

In a similar fashion the suggestion that the involvement of HEI’s will aid in the eradication of elements of occupational culture considered undesirable requires further scrutiny. As their time on the Foundation Policing programme passed, many of our sample cohort admitted to becoming withdrawn from friendship groups formed of students enrolled upon other programmes. Many more increasingly spoke of others not ‘understanding’ the unique pressures they faced, or the responsibility they carried. Most startlingly, a large number of the cohort withdrew from the University’s social facilities, adopting their most often-used seminar room as a place where they could socialise and discuss the job. Sound familiar? The environment may have changed, but cultural notions of group isolation and ‘us vs them’ still manifest alongside more desirable notions of group solidarity and mission. Clearly, this wasn’t written into our script.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. There is a great deal of good work to be found in the design and delivery of pre-join programmes. Some examples were raised throughout POLCON5. De Montfort University’s Steve Christopher spoke excellently on the potential of the academic environment to facilitate the development of a critical and constructive lens to professional reflection. Within our own study, respondents from the sample cohort spoke of the benefits of an academic understanding of relevant socio-political events informing a belief that ‘not all bureaucracy was bad’. These are reasons to be optimistic about the potential of such programmes as an effective form of pre-join pathway.

If I’m going to shed this shadow of lingering self-doubt though, I’ll need more than optimism. I’ll need knowledge, from a significant evidence base. Just as we increasingly demand the scientific testing of what works within operational practice, it’s high time we considered testing what works within our own.

Sean Butcher is a Lecturer at the Institute of Professional Policing, Buckinghamshire New University, and a Research Fellow at the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, Northwest London. He tweets at @Sean__Butcher. Email:

Cultures of Policing Workshop: 11 April 2014, Swansea University

The ‘Cultures of Policing’ workshop was held at Swansea University on 11 April 2014. The workshop brought together leading academics and early career researchers from several disciplines and institutions to investigate policing and police culture during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Its concern was to demonstrate the relevance of historical and cultural perspectives to our understanding of contemporary police cultures. There are several levels to police cultures: the institutional, the public, and the private. The workshop stressed the importance within police cultures of unspoken rules of behaviour and the implicit codes of conduct and identities shared by officers.

Chris Williams (The Open University) and Chris Millington (Swansea University) drew on the representations of police in novels and memoirs to investigate police culturein interwar Britain and France respectively. As part of a broader analysis of the transmission of police culture between different regimes, Williams explored the similarities between Graham Greene’s ‘Assistant Commissioner’ in the 1934 novel It’s a Battlefield, and Gordon Halland, a police officer who had served in India, Ireland and Britain. In comparing the ‘Assistant Commissioner’ with Halland, Williams questioned how far historians should be concerned with fictional representations (with their focus on archetypes), when reconstructing the history of police culture.

Millington’s paper concerned incidents of violence between police and demonstrators in the accounts of former police officers and two left-wing novels from 1930s France – Maxence van der Meersch’s When the Looms are Silent (1934), and Paul Nizan’s The Trojan Horse (1935). Millington argued that though French police training emphasised respect for the democratic rights of the citizen and the importance of self-control during confrontation, the inexperience of young officers, the violence of political fanatics and contextual factors meant that violence during demonstrations was always a possibility. When violence did break out, police often acted with gratuitous brutality, reasserting their masculinity before their colleagues and their victims in a display of violence.

The papers of Alice Hills (Durham University) and Jonathan Dunnage (Swansea University) investigated the experience of policing in newly democratised regimes. Hills drew attention to the importance of history to the culture of policing in Somalia and Nigeria, not just in the use of decades-old training manuals, but also to police forces’ appropriation of national memories and legacies. Hills explained how police forces, while rarely instigating regime change, show remarkable resilience in accommodating it. Police officers and leaders are vulnerable to pressure from political elites as well as the military and intelligence community. Through intimidation from the elites and their absorption into political and state networks, forces come to favour the maintenance of the status quo, leaving them reluctant to overturn political orders in which they have a stake.

Drawing on the example of the Italian Interior Ministry Police (Pubblica Sicurezza) in the aftermath of the defeat of Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime, Dunnage posited that, where far-reaching purges are not implemented, police institutions emerging from periods of authoritarian rule continue to value the powers and professional skills acquired during these periods whilst simultaneously denying the cultural and ideological implications of previous subservience to a one-party dictatorship.

Katharina Hall (Swansea University) examined the character of the ‘Nazi Detective’ in Philip Kerr’s The Pale Criminal (1990) and Richard Birkefeld and Göran Hachmeister’s Wer übrig bleibt, hat recht (2002). Hall’s paper stemmed from her current project on crime fiction. Hall explored the ways in which the novels engaged with the historical reality of the period, and suggested that the genre should be viewed as another means by which historians can disseminate their research beyond the academic community.

Masculinity and policing in the Arab World was the subject of the paper by Sophie Smith (Swansea University). The centrality of ‘active sexuality’ to Islamic conceptions of masculinity has seen male rape deployed as a method of torture in police stations and prisons across the Arab World. A phallo-centric masculinity protects the masculine identity of the rapist by destroying that of the victim. Rape is thus a political act. Smith argued that fiction may provide the best source for research into this taboo subject.

Discussant Nadine Rossol (University of Essex) highlighted the variety of approaches to the research of police cultures taken in the papers. The tools of cultural studies can provide a fresh perspective in the study of policing. The papers demonstrated that conceptions of violence, masculinity, and comradeship cut across time periods and locations, suggesting that police cultures to some extent share essential characteristics. These cultures play a prominent role in the formation of police identities. The workshop raised several questions for further investigation: can systems of policing be transferred to other countries and continents, and what role does an understanding of police cultures play in this? Are police cultures transferred wholesale or are they fragmented, with the host society choosing some elements and rejecting others? How have the police represented themselves in the past and how do they use multi-media in the current age to influence the public?

The organisers thank the Research Institute for the Arts and Humanities and the Callaghan Centre at Swansea University for their financial support. The participants plan to establish a research council-funded network for the study of policing in historical perspective.

If you would like more information, contact Dr Chris Millington –

Concerns over the national roll-out of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme has been rolled out on a national basis in March 2014, following a, patchy-at-best, pilot programme across four police force areas in 2012-13: Gwent, Wiltshire, Warwickshire and Greater Manchester.

This pilot project was reviewed in a Home Office report in November 2013, published shortly before the Home Secretary confirmed that the Scheme would become a national feature of the policing landscape. The Scheme features a ‘Right to Ask’ and a ‘Right to Know’. The former gives members of the public the right to request a disclosure of details about an individual’s record in relation to domestic violence or other crimes to be made to them. The latter allows for organisations, such as domestic violence support charities and social work organisations, to refer potential disclosures to the partners of (potential) abusers to the police.

Disclosures are made, in short, in contexts where there is a risk of domestic violence, if there is a ‘pressing need’ for disclosure, and if a disclosure would be ‘proportionate’.

There were 111 disclosures made in the entirety of the pilot project – yet only 4 recipients of information, passed on following a decision to disclose, responded in the affirmative to an enquiry as to whether they would access support services following the disclosure. As such, the pilot Scheme does not provide strong evidence that disclosures of such information will produce positive action by women to seek support for their risk of domestic violence, despite there having had to have been some ‘trigger’ incident or concern that led to the consideration of the ‘pressing need’ to disclose the information in that particular instance.

The Scheme evidently proved difficult to manage in its pilot form. The Home Office report found that police officers felt processes of decision-making were overly bureaucratic, presumably because there are made by panels of individuals removed from the ‘frontline’. Generally, public protection practitioners felt public awareness of the pilot Scheme was low. There was a perception in the pilot force areas that the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme overlapped confusingly with other disclosure processes under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements and/or the parallel (statutory) Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme. There was perceived to be a lack of consistency in the manner, content and form of information provided in disclosures, and in the type and nature of follow-up support proffered in situations where disclosures were not made following a refusal of an application under the ‘right to ask’ strand of the pilot Scheme. There were also perceived difficulties with logistical support in timing and making proactive disclosures of this kind of public protection ‘risk’ information to individuals under the ‘right to know’ strand of the pilot Scheme, given the enormous emotional pressures this would then potentially place on the individual deemed ‘at risk’ of harm. Perhaps most notable (from a legal risk point of view) identifying a standardised definition of the ‘pressing need’ for disclosure was initially difficult, we are told in the report.

There are also serious doubts in my mind over the overall legality of the Scheme, and whether it could survive a judicial review of its operation. The guidance regulating the operation of the Scheme was revised in early 2013 following a successful challenge to the operation of the parallel Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme. The High Court had established in that case that there was not enough emphasis in the operation of this other Scheme on the need for consultation with, or at least notification, of the (alleged) offender. The guidance on the pilot Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme purportedly took account of this and other directions from the courts when it was revised. However, none of the 111 about whom disclosures were made under the pilot Scheme actually received notification of the decision to disclose information about them, let alone any consultation about a possible decision to disclose, despite this being the expected norm under the (revised) guidance. Ostensibly this is to reduce risk of potential harm from retaliation by furious (mainly male) partners, since the (mainly) women in receipt of the information might decide to keep it to themselves. But this could be said to be blanket, inflexible adoption of a policy (something the courts loathe) on the evidence of the operation of the pilot Scheme, when the guidance merely offers: “Such a decision [to inform A] must be based on an assessment of risk of harm to A, if B were to be informed. Due consideration must be given on whether the disclosure to B would have potential to escalate the risk of harm to A.”

I do not feel this is enough emphasis on the human rights of (alleged) offenders to be consulted as part of a decision making process, or to be notified in the eventuality that consultation or other involvement is not practicable. This twin principle is well-developed in the courts and will, inevitably I feel, form the grounds of a challenge to this (crucially, non-statutory) Scheme. Overall, police officers will need to become more confident and more adept in engaging in dialogue with those previously convicted of (partner) violent offences, or suspected of the same, if the Scheme is to withstand longer-term legal scrutiny. This will be a challenge for the police, on the basis of the (lack of) evidence of offender ‘consultation’ in the evaluation of the pilot Scheme. Worryingly, it does not appear that there is to be publication of any new guidance document to regulate the new, national operation of the Scheme – instead, the Home Office appear to have stuck with the pilot Scheme guidance.

There is also the broader difficulty that the Scheme allows for the disclosure of information including not just convictions but past allegations, arrests, charges and (failed) prosecutions. This difficulty with ‘forgetting’ the past of an individual deemed ‘risky’ by society is something under consideration at the time of writing by the UK Supreme Court, due to a successful appeal case concerning criminal records information from early 2013. Now the Scheme has begun to operate nationally from March 2014 it may need rapid reconsideration of its scope in the sense of which pieces of information become disproportionate to disclose, and when, or in what circumstances. Probation researchers and practitioners are mindful of the difference between ‘healthy ontological anxiety’ and ‘crippling, overwhelming anxiety’ for reducing recidivism (to paraphrase Jane Fenton), and what appropriate information sharing does to pick a good line between the two.

So as the Scheme becomes a national one there is a risk that a lack of offender participation or notification in the disclosure process is not only unlawful but “could result in future victims being created” as offenders come to see possible journeys to rehabilitation as ultimately “futile” as Marian Duggancommented in relation to the Scheme in 2012.

Jamie Grace is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Sheffield Hallam University. Email

Engaging Communities – Time To Get It Right

The last few weeks can, at best, be described as ‘difficult’ for the police. Issues such as the Metropolitan Police (and the IPCC) apologising to the family of Mark Duggan, the Metropolitan Police (again), Lord Stevens and Chief HMIC admitting to crime figures being ‘fiddled,’ Tom Winsor (again) alleging in The Times (18.01.14) that there are ‘no go areas’ for the police; areas where ‘law abiding’ citizens who were “born under other skies” administer their own form of justice, and more recently the re-surfacing of the issue of ‘spying’ during the investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

The themes running through these issues include honesty, trust, legitimacy and the ‘C’ word; confidence. The fact that the Metropolitan Police have stated that they intend to appoint a ‘senior officer’ to ‘head up’ community engagement in the capital has been met with concern by some and derision by others. Professor Simon Holdaway hit the nail on the head when he responded to the news of the pending appointment with the following comment on Twitter “For how many years has it been recognised that community engagement is central to policing – 25+?”

Professor Holdaway is of course correct. Along with a colleague from MutualGain I am in the process of completing a paper which outlines that, despite the fact that community engagement has consistently been identified as central to policing, over time three issues have emerged. First, that community engagement becomes a focus during times of crisis; second, that what the police view as ‘community engagement’ is often different to what the public expect; and third, that the police are not, and have never been, trained in techniques or methods of community engagement.

Taking the first issue, at times of crisis senior officers will often call upon their ‘community relations’ (or similar) department to contact influential members of community and pass on key messages. Or they will plan engagement events at which senior staff ‘tell’ those attending how they are working at a local level to address the situation. Think about the activity to engage communities following the murder of Stephen Lawrence, or the murder of Rhys Jones, or the riots of 2011, or the headlines following the Coroners’ Court verdict in relation to Mark Duggan. While all this activity is commendable, the fact is, once the crisis is over, and matters return to ‘normal’ the emphasis on maintaining that relationship with communities diminishes. New crises emerge, or performance against targets has to be addressed, diverting the police attention from community engagement (or their interpretation of it). This has not been helped by the austerity measures undertaken by some police forces. In a number of forces the first cuts came in the area of community relations or citizen focus. And yet, ask yourself how often you have seen a senior officer on the TV asking for information relating to a serious crime? Then ask yourself ‘could there come a time when the police relationship with a community is so strong, that after a shooting incident involving criminal gangs, the community would come forward without having to be asked? ‘

The second issue is that the police do not engage with communities in the manner prescribed by their own policies. In 2012 the NPIA helpfully defined community engagement as being “The process of enabling the participation of citizens and communities in policing at their chosen level, ranging from providing information and reassurance, to empowering them to identify and implement solutions to local problems and influence strategic priorities and decisions. The police, citizens, and communities must have the willingness, capacity and opportunity to participate. The police service and partner organisations must have a responsibility to engage and, unless there is a justifiable reason, the presumption is that they must respond to community input.”The key issue here is that the police will do leaflet drops and will hold community ‘tell’ events, but how often do they ‘empower communities’ by building social capital and using the assets that exist within communities? I think the answer to that is ‘rarely.’

Along with a colleague I recently attended a gala event in a large force. A series of senior officers were lined up ready to ‘tell’ communities about rates of crime and the activity being undertaken to make them feel safe in that area. The room was set up for 200 people; in the end nine people attended. Of course this is not an isolated incident. Attendance at PACT (or similar) meetings is inconsistent, with the usual suspects attending to complain about the usual issues. I recall speaking to a neighbourhood inspector in one force as he left a PACT meeting in a local church. I asked how it had gone and his reply was ‘Lonely. Been there for an hour and no one turned up.’ And yet there is a consistent belief that the community are interested and will come out to speak to the police and air their grievances.

This brings me to the third point. Engaging communities is a fundamental part of the role of neighbourhood teams, and yet the training in how to do this is in need of review. According to Savage (2007) community engagement is not about a passive partnership between the regular police and the community; it is about the police taking the lead role in mobilising community resources to achieve goals of public safety and senses of security. Alderson (1979) saw the community constable as being a ‘social diagnostician’; an agent for identifying and solving social problems. Community engagement is a social science and should be taught as such during initial training and throughout the career of those engaged in policing neighbourhoods. The training needs to instil the virtues of ‘listening’ to communities, being able to analyse what they are saying and enable them to participate in not only solving the issues, but preventing them from occurring in the first place.

So, when the Metropolitan Police appoint their senior officer to ‘lead the way’, I encourage that person to learn from the lessons of past efforts to engaging communities. There are ample numbers of academics and practitioners who have researched and written about the subject and can provide evidence of ‘what works’. I would also encourage the person chosen to look outward as well as inward. There are people who have an expertise in engaging communities and yes, that may cost money, but the rewards for getting it right and building firm foundations with communities rely on the right methods being used to engage them in the first place thereby providing a significant return on investment.

It is important that the police take this opportunity to get it right, enabling them to build relationships with minority ethnic communities in particular. There is a great opportunity to build social capital, and break down barriers so that citizens do trust the police and will report crime instead of administering their own form of justice.

Dr Andrew Fisher is a sessional lecturer at Liverpool John Moore’s University and a Consultant who researches issues related to policing for the Blue Locust Network. Email

‘This isn’t my child!’: Parent abuse, an emerging issue that already affects policing

 ‘This isn’t my child! He’s taking drugs, he’s aggressive, he’s scaring my other children; I don’t know what to do’. These were the words spoken to a safeguarding professional recently, when a parent, at their wits’ end, had finally taken the step of seeking help for the abusive behaviour perpetrated by their adolescent son towards his mother.

‘So what’s this got to do with the police?’ you ask. Police officers every day – from response officers, to public protection teams, and tragically sometimes homicide detectives and teams – are dealing with cases where children have abused and frequently attacked their parents. This is not ‘yet another’ new category of domestic abuse for the police to cope with, in these austere times. It is already there, placing complex demands on officers every day of every week. Parent abuse perpetrators are frequently already known to the police and involved in the criminal justice system for wider anti-social behaviour, substance misuse and violent or acquisitive crime. Indeed, research has suggested that some intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetrators have been known to commit similar abuse against parents, when they were younger (McCloskey & Lichter, 2003, cited by, Ibabe & Jaureguizar 2010).

Some statistics for you: research has suggested that up to 14% of all families suffer this abuse (Cottrell & Monk 2004), and it may be as prevalent as domestic abuse. My own research identified 75% of multi-agency support caseworkers in one Greater Manchester borough dealt with families suffering such abuse. Further research has suggested that a significant amount of ‘troubled families’ suffering domestic abuse, perhaps as much as 80%, are affected by this abuse.

So what is parent abuse? Also called child-against-parent violence, this abuse is perpetrated by children (mostly boys), against parents (mostly mothers). Single parents are particularly at risk, however there is wide debate suggesting all social and demographic groups are affected (in a similar vein to domestic abuse). There is no definition ‘set in stone’ but many recognise it as physical, emotional, psychological, and financial abuse perpetrated against parents by their children. Abuse against parents can span many age groups, but tackling adolescent perpetrators potentially presents the best opportunity to prevent future offending such as IPV. Parent abuse is a category of domestic abuse, but is far more complex to deal with than the likes of IPV. Parent abuse presents complex dilemmas for police officers, particularly as many parents do not realise that they are victims of abuse, suggesting a real need to highlight this problem to communities.

Why is this so complex for the police? Many Social Services teams are ‘geared up’ to protecting the child and keeping the family together. Many parents have complained of the pressure from agencies to ‘take responsibility’ for their child. Yet this is not easy to do when the child is physically bigger and stronger than the parent and has behavioural or mental health problems, or is an habitual drug user. When parents cannot take any more and they ring the police, yet officers are frequently faced with the situation where parents will not provide statements for fear of losing their children, and criminalising them. This in itself presents significant frustrations for responding officers. Where can officers take perpetrators? IPV-based options are not, it would seem, an option. As one Public Protection Officer stated: ‘you can’t divorce your child can you?’

The safeguarding response: The current parent abuse ‘landscape’ has been described how IPV was 30 years ago. Victims are loathe to report incidents and the extent of the problem is unknown. Responding agencies are unsure how to respond. There are no policies in place to respond to parent abuse. These issues leave few options for responding police officers. Parent abuse incidents are recorded under many categories, and it is therefore difficult to fully understand the problem and its impact on policing. When cases do reach Police Public Protection teams, specialist safeguarding officers face further dilemmas, not knowing where or how to refer families on to other agencies, because there are very few programmes in place with the knowledge or structures to support families. Specialist police officers find ways to respond to families, but many cases are dealt with differently, creating inefficiencies and duplication of effort across agencies, at a time when ‘value for money’ and effective responding is essential.

The criminal justice response: When parents do pursue prosecutions, research suggests the courts often, inadvertently, hold the victim responsible for the offending against them by issuing fines to their ‘children’ which the parent then pays. Parenting Orders have also been regarded as a difficult issue to face, when issued against parents, who have reported abuse from their children (Holt & Retford 2013). Not surprisingly, parent-victims are loathe to report such abuse, fearful of sanctions, and being blamed as ‘bad parents’. Sadly, many parents have criticised police officers for the responses to ‘calls for help’, having been told to ‘get their children in order’.

So what can the police do about this? At a time of shrinking resources, higher public expectations and increasing demands on policing, particularly with increased demands towards the safeguarding of vulnerable people, the police stand to gain most by working with other agencies and the third sector. Looking towards responses for ‘troubled families’ there are many excellent collaboration opportunities to learn from, which deliver intensive support to those families most at risk in communities and/or place the greatest demand on agencies. Raising awareness of parent abuse with police officers and their multi-agency colleagues is essential if they are to be able to identify the problem. To deliver support to families and ease the demand on stretched ‘first responding’ police resources, the development of multi-agency policies will be essential,. Ultimately, the police ‘mission’ of reducing crime and increasing public confidence in policing can only be boosted by developing greater collaborative ventures to tackle all kinds of domestic abuse. By working with social services, youth justice, health, schools and many other agencies, the police can influence debate and thus seek to protect some of the most vulnerable in society, whilst reducing demand on officers and staff.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Retford, Greater Manchester Police. Email:

Policing and Crime Reduction: The Evidence and its Implications for Practice

In the face of budget cuts police forces are focussed on trying to be smarter in the use of fewer resources. A number of academic and practitioner commentators have expressed concerns that forces could react to this situation by retrenching to core reactive functions that are unlikely to meet the challenges of current demand for service let alone reduce demand.  However, combined with growing scepticism amongst senior and frontline officers about the unintended consequences of performance regimes as a means of improving effectiveness, there seems to be a real appetite amongst some forces to draw on ‘evidence-based’ approaches to effective crime reduction.  Nevertheless ensuring research is used in practice presents considerable challenges both for researchers wishing to work with police and community safety practitioners and for officers, however well-disposed to using it.

For officers the prospect of exploring more evidence-based practice by wading through a huge, and sometimes seemingly contradictory, body of research can be off-putting and too time-consuming.  It also takes some specialist knowledge of methods and statistics to understand and interpret it, which many officers do not have, and may not be wholeheartedly interested in acquiring.  Even then, turning such knowledge into operational practice, ensuring that it is adapted to and appropriate for local conditions, and convincing fellow officers and community safety partners that it could improve on what they already do are all potential barriers that have to be overcome.   These are perennial barriers to the effective use of research in practice, but the potential benefits of successful partnerships between researchers and practitioners are clear.

The Police Foundation is currently undertaking a project on ‘Police Effectiveness in a Changing World’ which is attempting to use an action-research approach to directly shape practice: to use research evidence to help develop locally-tailored, innovative approaches to crime reduction.   It is working closely with Thames Valley and Bedfordshire Police and their community safety partners in two rapidly changing towns, Luton and Slough. 

As part of the background for this project, the Foundation has recently published a review of the evidence on policing and crime reduction that aims to provide a useful summary of the state of current knowledge.  The project has a theoretically-informed interest in the challenges presented for a police service developed in nineteenth century industrial conditions, in adapting to post-industrial twentieth century conditions.  The report, Policing and Crime Reduction: The Evidence and its Implications for Practice, therefore broadly outlines what we know from research on police effectiveness and crime reduction before highlighting some of the challenges presented by a rapidly changing, globally connected social and technological context for policing. It begins to explore how current knowledge might be used in meeting these challenges, which go well beyond the budget cuts and have long term implications. 

These post-industrial or post-modern conditions will be familiar to academic researchers and are recognisable in practical terms for most officers working in the globally connected, ethnically diverse, rapidly growing and youthful towns of Slough and Luton.  For officers it is apparent that with more mobility and migration, people, including offenders, move around more and can organise their lives and their activities over long distances with people they hardly know.  Places increasingly house people who may relate to their workplace or social network more than their area, or may have transient populations moving frequently. Both can make engaging with and maintaining good relations and channels of information with place-based ‘communities’ difficult. Local crime, and the policing of it, may be as driven by the global market for scrap metal or gold, as local markets for consumer goods. This places considerable pressures on policing to work across borders and stay ahead of, or at least keep abreast of, the operations of crime networks and the advances in new technology, while trying to meet local demands for tackling crime and providing reassurance. 

Whether the existing twentieth century model of policing – based on street-level knowledge of local offenders and communities – is capable of meeting the challenges posed by these twenty-first century conditions is, as Peter Manning, Jean-Paul Brodeur and Rob Reiner and others have speculated, open to question. This report therefore attempts to sum up broadly what we know about effective policing for crime reduction and offers some suggestions for how that knowledge could be integrated into current practice or could inspire further research in order to better adjust policing and crime reduction practice to this changing context. 

Broadly the report highlights the strength of evidence from research on policing and crime reduction around the measurable effects of targeting resources on small vulnerable locations (hotspots), or on victims and/or offenders, which is demonstrably more effective than random police patrol or reactive approaches. This is not news to most officers and has a clear operational logic in terms of the effective use of resources. But the report also demonstrates the evidence that some initiatives have larger and/or more enduring effects than others, depending on what kind of resources and tactics are deployed. Although there is evidence to show that targeted police patrol, for example, has a small effect on crime rates, the effects are unlikely to last long. Unsurprisingly, the most effective and lasting approaches come broadly under the heading of ‘problem-solving’, particularly when they take full account of community concerns and the history and sensitivities around policing in an area, use multiple resources through partnership and where decisions are based on a careful analysis of local problems. 

Most of this research will be familiar to police researchers but what does this mean for officers attempting to use evidence-based approaches in a way that helps them adapt to changing social, economic and technological conditions? The report makes a number of suggestions which cannot be explored here in depth but include: the need to ensure that community engagement is not considered a separate activity from the police day job but instead recognises the impact of everyday police encounters on people’s (including victims / offenders – often the same people) willingness to comply with the law; that partnership working might be focused to bring together multiple resources to build community resilience and engage with residents in targeted ways, in the most vulnerable micro-hotspot areas; that problem-solving and intelligence gathering skills amongst frontline officers are improved; and that improvements to data analysis and intelligence systems enable a more preventative multi-agency approach to crime reduction.

While the report does not offer a practical guide as such, it attempts to highlight the key areas of policing and crime reduction on which officers, and researchers, could usefully focus activity to build knowledge around effective policing and crime reduction that could potentially explore how police and community safety partners could successfully adapt to the changing and challenging times they face. 

Dr Jacqui Karn is Senior Research and Development Officer at The Police Foundation. Email 

Police and crime commissioners and the democratic governance of policing

The introduction of directly elected police and crime commissioners (PCCs) has reignited debates about the characteristics of ‘democratic policing’. Whilst policing commentators have frequently repeated variations on the refrain that PCCs are ‘the most radical police reform in half a century’, the novelty of this new structure for police governance and accountability means that we don’t yet know what its impact will be.  It is, as Ian Loader has argued, an ‘experiment in democracy’ (Loader, 2012).

Policing carried out by state agents is, and always has been, a ‘form of governing’ (Neocleous, 2000: 4). Historically, it was often the case that particularly fierce debates about how this ‘form of governing’ should itself be governed erupted at times when police tactics or operations were seen to bear down particularly heavily on working class or ethnic minority communities, or on sections of those communities. In other words debates about police governance heated up whenever the police were perceived to be ‘governing’ particular groups and activities in a manner which had more to do with giving expression to political prejudice, pursuing non-crime government objectives or supporting particular class interests, than with upholding the law. When, in short, policing got political.

But of course policing will always be political: the suppression of crime and anti-social activity is always ‘incomplete’; scarce resources will always have to be targeted in certain directions; decisions will have to be made; priorities set (Jefferson and Grimshaw, 1984; Jones, Newburn and Smith, 1994). The 1980s saw ongoing debate about whether the governance of the police should be achieved on the basis of what Marshall (1978) called an ‘explanatory and cooperative’ relationship between Chief Constables and their police authorities or whether, rather, Chief Constables should be ‘subordinate and obedient’ to the wishes of the local community as transmitted to them through their elected representatives. Labour local authorities were particularly vocal in advocating for the latter whereas the government and Chief Constables tended to favour the former, along with the retention of Lord Denning’s formulation of ‘operational independence’ (which tended, in practice, to work in favour of the Chief Constable).

Later, during the 1990s, a third model for achieving the governance of policing arose, which Reiner (2010) has described as ‘calculative and contractual’. This model hinged upon the adoption of performance measures and the setting of performance targets, and had its roots in the ‘New Public Management’ (NPM) approach to public services. This approach championed the adoption of a business-like mind-set throughout public services, with a particular focus on efficiency and effectiveness in the pursuit of clear and measurable objectives which were reflective of the demands made by the public as ‘consumers’. This mind-set fed into the Sheehy Report, the White Paper on police reform, and the Police and Magistrates’ Courts Act 1994, which some commentators described as instituting the effective quango-isation of police authorities, leaving them, in McLaughlin’s words ‘depoliticized and managerialized’ (McLaughlin, 2007: 183). Governing the police, then, came to mean something very different. And power, which had once been seen to rest with individual positions, shifted, at least partially, into the systems and ‘ways of knowing’ used to measure police performance.

But what has happened to power and politics under the new PCC model for governing policing? Under the PCC model:

  1. Policing activity should be focused on addressing the ‘priorities’ of the local community as identified by the PCC
  2. Chief Constables will be required to address those priorities effectively, or risk dismissal by their PCC
  3. PCCs will be monitored by Police and Crime Panels, who will be responsible for making information on the performance of the police and their progress against public priorities available to the public
  4. PCCs who are perceived to be failing to make their forces sufficiently ‘effective’ at addressing public priorities can be removed at election

Under this model policing is regarded as a business-like service which must be responsive to its consumers and efficient and effective at addressing their concerns. As such, the trappings of the ‘calculative and contractual’ model of police governance are being utilised as tools, some might weapons, by means of which it is assumed that chief constables will be rendered ‘subordinate and obedient’ to their PCCs (and thus to the voice of the people). Meanwhile, PCCs themselves only have to fear an ‘explanatory and cooperative’ level of governance via what appears to be the relatively toothless mechanism of Police and Crime Panels. (Although PCCs will, of course, also be subject to the much revered ‘discipline’ of the electoral process).

In a recent conference paper I attempted to think about the ways in which we might analyse the influence of PCCs on the local governance of policing. I was particularly interested in thinking about where the power to shape policing might now reside under this new model. I argued that as most PCCs say that they are going to listen to ‘the voice’ of the public we might want to start looking for power by examining just how they intend to do this. The claim to be able to hear local voices is quite significant, and we should not necessarily accept that because PCCs have been elected that they have somehow developed a special ability to ‘tune in’ to what the public are saying. Indeed, given that PCCs are required to make ‘arrangements’ for consulting with local people (and victims, and ratepayers) then we might assume that many PCCs, supported by their staff, will develop special mechanisms designed to help them ‘hear’ the public. The question is: what kind of mechanisms will they use?

In order to gauge the extent to which PCCs are indeed democratising policing it may well be useful to analyse how they and the people who work for them, understand a ‘voice’ and the act of ‘hearing’ that voice. Their research and consultation activities with members of the public are likely to include varied combinations of surveys, focus groups, community meetings, informal chats on walkabouts and so on. Through these activities PCCs and people working on their behalf will produce knowledge about what local people ‘want’ from their police. But before we accept this knowledge at face value we would do well to remember Foucault’s counsel that ‘[k]nowledge can only be a violation of the things to be known’ (Foucault, 2000 [1974]: 9 cited in O’Farrall, 2005: 67).

Foucault argued that in attempting to capture, categorise, analyse and represent reality researchers apply ‘procedures of intervention’ (Hughes and Sharrock, 2007: 331): their methods, categories and analytical frameworks intervene between the ‘things to be known’ and possible understandings of those things. As such, Foucault suggests that we should pay close attention to ‘how men govern (themselves and others) by the production of truth’ (Foucault, 1991: 9), or what he called ‘governmentality’.

Thinking in terms of governmentality moves us away from the traditional approach of thinking about the governance of the public police in terms of clashes of power between different individuals and groups over the control of policing and instead encourages us to think about the influence which different ways of knowing about what the public want from their police, have on the ‘pattern of policing’. By thinking in these terms we might start to think about how democratic ideals are (or are not) enacted in the way that different PCCs approach the matter of consulting with local people.

Dr Liz Turner is Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology in the Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, University of Liverpool. Email:

Reflections – State of the Art

I. In this brief set of observations, I want to say something about changes in the social world and policing since the early ‘seventies when I began studying policing. My effort here is to outline the changes visible in the U.K, although increasingly the scholarship is “Anglo-American.”  This does not refer to the cultural differences, which remain significant, but the publications and research findings that are shared and cited.  In the spring of 1973, I carried out some fieldwork with the police in South London. At the time, I entertained the idea that I might outline the contours of the police role, perhaps comparatively, and was influenced by Michael Banton’s work (I had met him when he visited Michigan State University the previous spring). I have been standing on the shoulders of those policemen ever since and remain grateful for what they taught me in those long warm days.  What has changed since then?

II. It seems fruitful to set as a baseline somewhere in the late ‘seventies, bearing in mind that politics and economics, as well as local concerns differed then as they do now in the Anglo-American world (North America, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K.). Certainly, there was distinctive field of police studies, while a few sociologists such as Albert J. Reiss, Jr., William Westley and Michael Banton, and journalists such as Ben Whittaker and Peter Laurie, had sketched out some issues. While there was some trans-Atlantic and Antipodean circulation of scholars, people moving here and there on sabbatical and for conferences, there was little appreciation of European or Latin-American scholarship.

The general mood of the time was one of complacency in part because officially recorded crime (ORC) was low, of little concern and policing itself was seen as an accepted, everyday banality. This was just before the Brixton riots, or more precisely, the rebellion they represented, and there was little concern in the Anglo-American world with the ghettoized, destructive, impoverished state of minorities in spite of the riots; only the tactics of policing were being re-thought.  In England, Lord Scarman’s report did elevate governmental concern.  The crime of concern was “decent nineteenth street crime:” robbery, burglary, assault and the odd pub fight and minding “toe rags” (I am exaggerating of course, but the world view of the ‘street bobby’ was not broad). Terrorism resided somewhere else, certainly for scholars resident in the United States. It was easy, when I lived in England in the ‘eighties, to accept the BBC version of “the troubles.”

The idea of a functioning criminal justice system in which police played a reasonable and rational role as “gatekeepers” did not exist. This catchy oxymoron emerged full-blown in the Challenge of Crime (1967), making a number of dubious assertions and reifying a mess. The notion that there was a closed, integrated, logically articulated and functional system with complementary parts, mannered and graceful interchanges and frequent detailed and information-rich transactions, was accepted and now is featured as the caricature of practices in every textbook in the field. The actual content, function and meaning of these transactional links was never well explored. The gloss on police practices that was to become a more specified Judges’ Rules was moving toward public presentation, and the existence of “plea bargaining” in England was grudgingly accepted by the government of the day. The examination of the judicial system and the role of the police in it began to surface in the U.K., but the police did not see themselves as “law enforcement” nor the subject of an academic discipline (Heslop, 2012)

There were few governmental agencies concerned with the state of policing, perhaps the Home Office and its branches in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but they had little interest in funding research on policing (this was to change in the ‘eighties). There was little police leadership at the national level, although it was beginning to emerge by the late ‘seventies in both the United States and England. The miners’ strikes, and concern with policing of such affairs, brought out the new powerful role of the Home office, of the tacit notion of “mutual aid” between Constabularies, and in due course national figures such as John Alderson and John Alderton, and later Sir Kenneth Newman (Sir. Robert Mark had been perhaps the first nationally known “police intellectual”) appeared. And in the background, always was “the troubles,” seen as a kind of Irish anomaly –blame the victim- hopefully, the BBC announced, soon to be ended by resolute actions of Conservative politicians.

The era of police media crusades, campaigns and “wars” on drugs, crime or whatever was not found outside the United States. Buzz words, community policing, policing by consent, had not yet supplemented “police-community-relations,” and other faddish approaches such as zero tolerance, broken windows, and later, “intelligence-led” policing, were mere chat in the Harvard Yard and in bars on Harvard Square. They did not remain there, for George Kelling and William Bratton brought the broken windows “good news” to England in the late 1990s.

The soon-to-be formed connection between policing and capitalism, and the idea that police was a business or an industry with a “product,” citizens as “customers,” policing as a “service” with the constraints of efficiency and effectiveness, and an earnest, well-managed corporate structure with a strategic business plan and annual reports competing for a “market share” remained a trick bag yet unopened. Nostalgia remained the dominant rhetorical trope.  Policing was largely, as Bittner noted in 1970, unaffected by modern notions of public administration. Police were not engaged in “partnerships,” and the world of private policing was not researched nor even much noticed by scholars until Shearing and Stenning began to publish their rich theoretical explorations. I continued in the ‘nineties to be skeptical of buzz words like community policing, the broken windows trivialization of police work, and claims about robust innovations that could be wrought by means of cosmetic changes and stylish rhetoric.  Policing is done on the streets by sensible people making decisions in contexts fraught with uncertainty.

Policing was well-known and described both sides of the water as “a job,” and a good job it was for tall, modestly ambitious white men with secondary education: it featured steady pay, no prospects for lay-offs, redundancy, or being fired, solid benefits and a pension. It was my impression even in the ‘nineties that most police officers were locally recruited, lived nearby –matrilocally- and rarely moved between Constabularies unless they sought ACPO level posts. They policed people like themselves, perhaps. Bramshill Police College was an extension of “cloud cuckoo land,” “fitted carpet land,” and as mysterious as other management lairs.

Police featured modest armament and it was said that the English police were “unarmed.” Certainly the idea of a specialized team of experts was beginning to emerge in the late ‘sixties, and became  visible in the siege of  the Libyan embassy, and with the known involvement of the SAS. The assumption, now held resolutely in every city in the United States, that one must have a hostage rescue team, specialized weapons and tactics, and paramilitary uniforms and equipment, had not yet been widespread.

Communications were primitive, although 999 and centralized dispatch were present, a combination of foot patrol, area cars, and “pandas” filtered and rationed the service. The area cars were equipped with radios and officers with mobile radios (See Manning, 2003 on changes in the police car).

III. While the previous points can be contested, the contemporaneous scene is open to all for speculation. The following, then, is more likely to be subject to debate. I hope so.

In 2013, there was a degree of police pride, certainly in the United States, as a result of taking credit for the reduction in ORC crime that has been unfolding for more than twenty years in the Anglo-American world. On the other hand, new forms of crime, the criminalization of migration and immigration; crimes of the internet; sex trafficking; globally organized terrorism; and others to be named have been responded to by forming multi-national, trans-national and ad hoc policing networks that have yet to be fully understood. As a complement to the crime control concern that has been the core of the police mandate for more than 40 years,  provincial Constabularies  have joined national police units in a concern for, training for, and intelligence gathering around “security.”  Unfortunately, this is a sponge concept with no clear definition, parameters or boundaries, and comes to public attention when visible; media amplified events capture the public imagination.

The rhetoric of policing has now collided with reality in England. The privatization, out-sourcing, and  creation of hybrid groups carrying out police functions is going forward in England with unknown and less than fully unanticipated consequences (See Brown, forthcoming). What will the PCCs do?  The Independent Review of Police Officer and Staff Remuneration (2012), the most comprehensive study ever made of the labor economics of policing, and one of the most comprehensive studies of the craft, will most certainly mark a turning point in the administration and governance of policing.  This report takes on fundamental conditions of work: pay, perks, pensions, health benefits, recruitment and training, retirement, pay injustices (comparison of pay differentials between non-sworn and sworn employees) as well as revealing by implication the traditional feudal and personalistic practices of promotion and transfers, informal punishment, the variations in workload by shift, and the long-standing seniority basis for most pay. This study did not address the long-standing crafty work of the CID. The question of police efficiency has meaning with respect to budgeting and personnel use, although it has not seen as pertinent when the police are called on to work long hours in riots, in natural and human disasters, and in searching for lost children.  Their honor is not impugned then, or when sacrifices are made on behalf of us all.  The rhetoric of policing as a business has come back with a vengeance. Because policing is a locally budgeted matter in the United States and the economy has improved, there is no debate about police pay, perks, pensions and conditions of work. Perhaps it will come.

There is a large but recently inconsistent funding of police research and strong union-like groups such as IACP and PERF in the United States, while ACPO has been dismantled in the U.K. The command leadership of policing in the Anglo-American world is now well-educated with both professional and graduate degrees. The level of formal education of police is rising and has been for more than 40 years.

Police are remarkably less violent, more specific in their assessment of the violence-potential of citizens, and are much less likely to be shot at and to shot people. This is perhaps because of the growth of the use of non-fatal tools such as Tasers and Mace. No one actually knows why this is the case. On the other hand, events that feature police violence, especially that which emerges rapidly in contentious encounters with citizens in everyday policing, is now captured immediately by hand-held cameras- smart phones and the like. These images in turn are then found on You Tube, Face Book and other social media worldwide. Police are more accountable to everyday citizens informally than ever before. The police, on their part, are now monitored by their own in car cameras, CCTV and other surveillance cameras, their own personal and departmental mobile  phones and smart devices as well as their MDTs.  The average police officer, especially the younger officer, is now very technologically savvy.  The establishment of the College of Policing, an idea with many shapes since I first visited Bramshill in the 1970s, is now in process.

Police in the U.K. are remarkably well-armed albeit in closely supervised and highly trained units. They are better trained and nimble and can be rapidly deployed. They are more likely to share and have shared with them data from national units, especially in connection with the vague idea of “terrorism.” The NYPD, for example, and the London Metropolitan police have large, well-trained and funded specialized units with international offices and partnerships that focus on anti-terrorism.

Policing in the Anglo-American world is no longer carried out almost entirely by white men. What this means in terms of the operation of policing, their basic internal dynamics and practices, no one knows. There are reasons to believe that the occupational culture of the uniformed patrol officer in the U.K. has little changed (Loftus, 2009). There are varieties of policing on the table- hybrid, private, out-sourced, voluntary, public and ad hoc partnerships as well as extensions of the “police family” (Manning in Brown, forthcoming).

The field of police studies, although it is a patchwork of ideas and concepts, is beginning to be  established as an academic program in the Anglo-American world.  There is a keen awareness
of the importance of international cooperation amongst academic societies. There are more journals than anyone can enumerate, and these are interdisciplinary and international in scope, audience, authorship and editorship. There are abundant ethnographies, chapters and articles based on qualitative data on policing, but we still stand in the shadows and cite the classics of the late ‘sixties and ‘seventies (Manning, forthcoming).

Policing is more likely to have a variety of technological tools, some of which are used. These include mapping, crime analysis, surveillance cameras, in-car cameras, computers and microphones, connection to national databases, and efforts to apply systematic data to crime reduction efforts. The direct consequence(s) of these technologies is difficult to determine, although they doubtless have reduced the processing time for calls, increased data storage and capacity, and facilitated data transfer and sharing. Police now carry one or more smart phones. The social media have penetrated policing and most large departments have a website, can be followed on Facebook and/or Twitter, use e-mail and the internet, and have Media offices and spokespeople to provide information and reactions to current affairs and events. How this reflexivity patterns or shape policing is as yet unknown.

IV. It is not possible to make predictions in social science. Such claims are mystifying and misleading. It is likely, however that corporate greed, immigration across national borders, climate change and related issues of the environment, the human and other species in ecological tangles, and terrorism and related issues of nationalism will continue to shift attention away from the uniformed officer and “his” culture, immediate street level crime that has been the focus of police research, and local studies of the correlates of ORC. More research will be comparative and cross cultural.

Professor Peter K. Manning – Elmer V. H. and Eileen M. Brooks Chair in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, Boston, MA.