Procedural Justice: How Do You Get It When You Want It?

There is a large body of research demonstrating the importance of procedural justice in shaping the legitimacy of police in the eyes of the public. The key dimensions of procedural justice include respect, voice, neutrality and trust. However, there has been almost no research at all regarding how police officers can be encouraged to incorporate the principles of procedural justice in their routine interactions with the public.

The Chicago Police Department chose a training strategy. A “Procedural Justice and Legitimacy Workshop” was developed locally, after consultation with experts (Tom Tyler and Tracey Meares) at the Yale Law School. Classes of about 25 officers met with teams of three trainers for day-long sessions at the Chicago Police Training Academy. From mid-2012 through September 2013, 8,700 serving officers, 230 new recruits, and many of the department’s civilian employees were trained in the principles of procedural justice and how to implement them.

Our research team conducted two studies evaluating this effort. The short-term effects study was a quasi-experimental test of the immediate effectiveness of the training conducted at the academy. We found that training increased officer support for all of the procedural justice dimensions included in the experiment: respect, voice, neutrality and trust. A longer-term effects study followed. It utilized the results of an in-person survey of 714 Police Officers (the lowest rank) and Sergeants officer survey that began mid-way through the training period. Officers who had already been sent to training were contrasted with a comparison group of officers who had not yet been sent to training. Statistical controls (including propensity scores) were used to increase confidence in the results of the long-term effects study. We found that officers who had attended the procedural justice workshop continued to be more supportive of three of the four procedural justice principles introduced in training, compared to officers who had not yet been sent to the Academy. The shortfall was the principle of trust, which was also the procedural justice dimension that gained the lowest level of support in the training experiment.

The results of this study just appeared in the Journal of Experimental Criminology; see Skogan, Van Craen and Hennessy, 2015. Readers wishing to review the training materials themselves should directly contact the Commander of the Chicago Police Training Division, 1300 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607, telephone +1.312.746.8310.

In broader scope, we know virtually nothing about the short or long-term effect associated with police training of any type. This is an area ripe for good research. In 2004 a committee commissioned by the US National Academy of Sciences to look into the state of policing in the United States found that there were “scarcely more than a handful of studies” on the effects of training, and that police training and education are currently being offered without scientific evidence of their likely effects. They concluded “[T]he committee cannot overstate the importance of developing a comprehensive and scientifically rigorous program to learn what is and is not effective in the education and training of police officers” (Skogan and Frydl, 2004: 154). Wheller and Morris’ (2010) review of research on training for the UK National Police Improvement Agency cast a very wide net, incorporating systematic studies of training for “professionals” of all kinds. They were looking for guidance, but did not find much outside the domain of clinical training for health professionals. Since, Wheller et al. (2013) (now at The College of Policing) released the findings of the best experimental study of procedural justice training to date. Officers from the Greater Manchester Police Service were randomly assigned to treatment or control groups in order to determine the impact of training on the perceived quality of interactions between the police and crime victims. The training program incorporated elements of procedural justice theory. The evaluation identified positive shifts on four of eight police attitudinal outcomes, and positive effects on trained officers’ scores in role-playing exercises. The perceptions of crime victims who later were served by trained and control-group officers also differed on some measures. The training and the evaluation methods used in this study are models of how to best to proceed in this area.

 

Wesley G. Skogan, Northwestern University, USA. Email skogan@northwestern.edu 

Citations

Skogan, Wesley G. and Kathleen Frydl. 2004. Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Skogan, Wesley G., Maarten Van Craen and Cari Hennessy. 2015. “Training Police in Procedural Justice,” Journal of Experimental Criminology, advance online publication January 2015.

Wheller, Levin and Julia Morris. 2010. Evidence Reviews: What Works in Training, Behaviour Change and Implementing Guidance. London: National Police Improvement Agency.

Wheller, Levin, Paul Quinton, Alistair Fildes and Andy Mills. 2013. The Greater Manchester Police Procedural Justice Training Experiment: Technical Report. London: The College of Policing.

Police Statistics: A Modern Take on a Greek Tragedy

On 15th January 2014 the UK Statistics Authority withdrew national statistics designation, i.e. the official kite mark, from police recorded crime figures. This landmark decision was taken in response to the findings of the Parliamentary Public Administration Select Committee which had been taking evidence on the reliability of police data. The committee had heard evidence from four serving and retired officers including the author, who exposed the ‘gaming’ practices used to distort police data. The perverse behaviours outlined fall into four distinct categories:

  1. Cuffing’: making crime disappear by failing to record it. This is facilitated by a re-interpretation of the National Crime Recording Standard and a pre disposition to assume that victims are falsely reporting crime in pursuit of bogus insurance claims. In effect treating victims as suspects; thus by an Orwellian twist reducing the well used slogan ‘tough on the causes of crime’, to getting tough on the victims who are causing crime by reporting it.    
  2. ‘Nodding’: the practice whereby suspects nod at locations where they have committed crimes and are able to have them ‘taken into consideration’ (TIC) without any risk of increasing their sentence. This administrative procedure has a long history of abuse and there have been a number of reported instances involving inducements in the form of reduced sentences, sex, drugs and alcohol linked to admissions.
  3. ‘Stitching’: fabricating evidence. Whilst the use of such tactics to secure convictions at Court has largely been addressed by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, administrative procedures still offer the opportunity to obtain detections without sufficient evidence to secure a conviction. The research suggests ‘stitching’ is still prevalent in this arena.
  4. Skewing’: concentrating effort and resources on areas subject of performance indicators. It would appear that more difficult and resource intensive areas of police activity such as the prevention and investigation of serious crime such as child abuse and sexual offences have suffered as police leaders seek to hit the targets set for them. The spread of resources, a by-product of the move to local geographical policing, is also identified as a potential problem as officers are be re-deployed in favour of more affluent neighbourhoods.

 

Employed in unison they represent what can be referred to as a Perverse Policing Model.

At the end of the session the chair of the committee Bernard Jenkin MP made the following comment:

“Personally, I would like to apologise on behalf of politicians of all parties, who are responsible for creating this atmosphere in which targets must be achieved, creating the perverse incentives that have created this situation. This must be addressed by the political class as well as the police.”

On 11th December 2013 Professors Shute and Hough from the Crime Statistics Advisory Committee appeared before the committee and admitted:

“From 2007 or 2008 onwards, that proportion has been falling, so now about 70% of reported crimes end up in police statistics.”

The research conducted by the author (Patrick 2009, 2011) identified the source of the problem much earlier, circa 2004, when a change in the interpretation of rules governing the recording of crime, the National Crime Recording Standard occurred. The Home Office were alerted to this risk in 2005.

On 21st January 2014 The Committee continued their questioning of senior, and academically well qualified figures, responsible for overseeing the reliability of government statistics including Sir Andrew Dilnot, Chair, UK Statistics Authority which had stripped the police statistics of their official designation. The committee members were clearly concerned that these regulators had failed to act earlier and the chair rebuked them in the following terms:

“I would express some disappointment that, from a state of reasonable and fairly commonplace ignorance about the very technical matter of police-recorded crime statistics, we have stumbled into what appears to be a very well-kept and widely-shared secret: that these figures were never very reliable”

The Home Affairs Select Committee also took up the issue and on 7th January 2014 and interviewed Lord Stevens the ex Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service who admitted crime figures were being manipulated:

“I was in a session with police sergeants nine months to a year ago in Cheshire talking about what their feelings were about the police service. All of them said the biggest scandal that is coming our way is recording of crime.”

He then went on to call for further action:

“I think every single force should be subject to an independent investigation – a focused, lasered investigation into crime figures – both detections and recording of crime. This should happen as a matter of urgency”

Taking up the baton again, the Public Administration Committee interviewed Tom Winsor, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and he informed them of the national audit of crime recording planned by the inspectorate. However Mr Winsor appeared reluctant to admit ‘gaming’ behaviour was widespread, deliberate and managerially driven:

“I do not anticipate that we are going to find, as I said, institutional corruption. I would be extraordinarily surprised if we do.”

This is not the conclusion of the research (Patrick 2009; 2011a,b & c) and is not the best starting point for an investigation. However such a predisposition supports the findings of Bevan and Hood (2006) who suggested a ‘Nelson Eye’, i.e. blind eye approach to regulation prevailed. Certainly the response from front line officer contradicted the view of Mr Winsor as the following comment affirms:

“My constable colleagues and I feel nothing but disgust for these practices. Many of us have been telling everyone who will listen about this for decades – I’m fed up of banging my drum about it. So why has this only just come to light? Tom Winsor and others are subtly hinting that the constables are responsible. Mr Winsor, please try to understand that police senior managers rule with iron fists and in the Met at least, they have it all sewn up. They cannot bear dissent, and absolutely cannot bear light being shone upon their venality and incompetence.” (http://justiceandchaos.blogspot.co.uk 23.1.14)

In a short book published by Civitas (A Tangled Web: Why you can’t trust crime statistics Download ebook or buy the paperback here) the author exposes the methodological flaws in the HMIC review of crime recording (http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/publication/crime-recording-making-the-victim-count/).

Whilst the rhetoric in the latest HMIC report is strong, the failure to hold Chief Officers to account will do nothing to restore public trust and dispel the impression that police regulation is little more than symbolic.

Whilst the evidence presented in this short piece would support the call for an independent, judge-led inquiry to establish why the perverse behaviour underpinning un-reliable crime statistics was not challenged earlier, it is unlikely the academic contribution will add to the wisdom of the ancient Greeks whose philosophers would no doubt look down with disdain on the failure to talk knowledge to power.

Dr Rodger Patrick is an independent consultant who researches issues related to police performance, governance and regulation. Email rodger.patrick@blueyonder.co.uk  

A short response to Adam White

I don’t dispute any of Adam White’s “5 reasons why it’s difficult to privatise the police”. But if instead we think about the privatisation of policing, I think he overlooked a sixth important factor – namely the normative and police-centred positions on privatisation and pluralisation of policing provision that have been taken by so many academic commentators and official reports in the U.K. and elsewhere.

In terms of public reports, the position on privatisation taken in the 2013 report of the self-styled “Independent Police Commission”, titled Policing for a Better Britain, provides a good place to start. The Commission was chaired by a former Metropolitan Police Commissioner (Lord Stevens), and was comprised of 39 members. Eight of these were associated with the private security sector, and at least three of those had previously held senior public police positions. Despite its title, the Commission’s report was almost all about the public police. Less than seven pages of its 225-page report were devoted to a discussion of the role of the private sector in policing and security provision in Britain, and this discussion was framed entirely in terms of public police “partnerships with the private sector” and the “outsourcing” of “public police functions” to private sector contractors (pp. 67-71).

Despite a passing reference (on p. 145) to Brodeur’s (2010) idea of a “policing web” (correctly characterised in the report as “a complex, interwoven net of public and private agencies responsible for policing and security within any given society”), the possible implications of this idea for the future of policing in Britain were not considered in the report. There was no discussion of the significant contributions that private sector policing provision makes independently of the public police. Instead, all of the Stevens Report’s discussion about privatised policing focussed on the supposed risks involved in outsourcing of public police functions, examples of problems in this respect (e.g. the London Olympics “G4S fiasco” (p. 68) – for which, of course, the government that contracted with them was equally to blame), some suggestions as to how these risks may best be minimised and managed, and a set of five principles to ensure that such outsourcing would be extremely limited. In other words, the report’s review of the role of the private sector in policing and security provision was an entirely public police-centred one which did not in any way address the radically changing policing provision environment in which pluralisation of policing provision has become the norm, both domestically and internationally, or what might be the appropriate role of the public police and their relationships with other policing providers within this changing environment. None of the burgeoning academic literature on this topic was cited in the report. In this respect, the Stevens Report is in sharp contrast to the recently released Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel’s report on Policing Canada in the 21st Century: New Policing for New Challenges (2014 – accessible online at http://www.scienceadvice.ca/en.aspx).

There is little doubt that the Stevens Report’s discussion of police privatisation was strongly influenced by the overwhelmingly negative literature on private policing that has recently emanated from some police scholars in the U.K., with titles referring to it in such terms as “A Tainted Trade?” and “Private Security: Democracy’s Dirty Little Secret”. Indeed one of these scholars was a member of the Stevens Commission. A great deal of British (and not just British) literature on private security focuses (typically anecdotally rather than systematically) on problems associated with the contract security industry, while almost none of it discusses the role of in-house security organisations (many of which are headed up by former senior public police officers), or the significant positive contributions that the private security sector makes to the security and safety of citizens, as well as to national security and anti-terrorism, around the world. Equally importantly, much of the recent academic literature on private security takes a strong normative position against private sector involvement in public security and safety provision while glossing over the empirical evidence of the pervasiveness of this involvement all over the world. While Hugo Chavez, for instance, was ideologically opposed to private security in Venezuela, it is sobering to think what the security and safety of people in cities such as Caracas, Johannesburg or Kabul, to name only a few, would be like if they weren’t there. Indeed, President Hamid Karzai’s proposal in 2010 to ban private security from Afghanistan provoked an anguished outcry from international humanitarian organisations and several diplomatic missions in that country, who insisted that private security were the only people who effectively guaranteed the security and safety of their employees, since the state (public) police were corrupt, infiltrated by insurgents, under-resourced, ill-trained, unreliable, and prone to desertion in the face of challenge. The proposal was soon abandoned. Such problems have commonly driven the resort to, and reliance on, private security protection in many countries of the world.

Calls by myself and other colleagues (most recently, Stenning & Shearing 2012; see also Ayling, Grabosky & Shearing 2009) for a more balanced, less police-centred, less emotive and ideologically charged, and more empirically informed debate about the role of the private sector in an era of plural and globalised policing provision (Brodeur’s ‘policing web’), have gone largely unheeded by most of those who profess to be ‘policing’ (as opposed to just ‘police’) scholars. Until this changes, the development of sound policing policy to address the policing challenges of the 21st Century will continue to be an elusive goal. Perhaps the members of the Policing Network can be looked to to encourage and undertake the kinds of research that are needed to inform such a debate.

Philip Stenning is a Professor of Criminology at School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia. E-mail: p.stenning@griffith.edu.au

 

For more information see:

Ayling, J., P. Grabosky & C. Shearing (2009) Lengthening the Arm of the Law: Enhancing Police Resources in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Stenning, P. & C. Shearing (2012) “The shifting boundaries of policing: globalization and its possibilities” – in Newburn, T. & J. Peay (eds.) Policing: Politics, Culture and Control (Oxford: Hart Publishing), pp. 265-284.

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: Matthew.Jones@Northumbria.ac.uk. 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: adam.white@york.ac.uk

 

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: http://www.college.police.uk/en/21066.htm.

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: Sean.Butcher@bucks.ac.uk

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 – c.d.millington@swansea.ac.uk