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How responsive should policing be to community priorities?. Nigel Fielding Department of Sociology, University of Surrey, UK ESRC Public Policy Seminar House of Lords 12 February 2009. Themes of talk. Responsiveness at individual officer level

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how responsive should policing be to community priorities

How responsive should policing be to community priorities?

Nigel Fielding

Department of Sociology, University of Surrey, UK

ESRC Public Policy Seminar

House of Lords

12 February 2009

themes of talk
Themes of talk
  • Responsiveness at individual officer level
    • Role of police discretion in regulating responsiveness by officers
  • Responsiveness at policy and organizational level
    • Policies to promote responsiveness: lessons from community policing research
  • Responsiveness at the constitutional level
    • Implications of evidence that the public values fairness and engagement above effectiveness
outline of talk
Outline of talk
  • Community priorities: icon or symbol?
  • Constitutions and histories
  • Doctrine and discord
  • Taking community responsiveness to its illogical conclusion
  • Discretion and its discontents
  • Legitimacy versus effectiveness alias Tony Benn versus Wal-Mart
reassurance policing and neighbourhood policing
Reassurance Policing and Neighbourhood Policing
  • The ‘reassurance gap’: statistics vs perception
  • RP and NP: public, police & partner agencies diagnose crime ‘signals’ to inform priorities
  • Symbolic reassurance: process of problem definition + co-producing police interventions
  • Only 6 forces doing more than pre-NP norm
bittner on police and force
Bittner on police and force
  • ‘The police are nothing else than a mechanism for the distribution of situationally justified force in society.’ (Bittner 1980: 39)

Egon Bittner (1980) The functions of the police in modern society, Cambridge MA: Oelgeschlager, Gunn & Hain.

the democratic bind
The democratic bind
  • ‘To the extent that government in general has been established as guardian of collective social interest, an implicit denial of the ... democratic principle has been made. All government officials may be tainted as enemies of democratic society to some extent.’ (Potts 1982: 13-14)
    • Government must balance its function as servant of the public with its function as coercer of the public.
    • Police must serve the whole society by enforcing general norms and serve individuals demanding mobilisation of the law.

L. Potts (1982) ‘The limits of police community relations programmes: a cross-national perspective’, Police Studies, 5 (2), 10-20

coercive approach
Coercive approach
  • Policing serves ruling class interests
  • Policing involves coercion, manipulation and surveillance
  • Emphasises protests, strikes, disorder and counter-terrorism
  • Underplays ‘mundane crime’ and community-based action
the responsiveness approach
The responsiveness approach
  • Local character of the office of constable
  • Common law origin of police powers - ‘an office relatively indistinct from the citizenry’

(Jefferson and Grimshaw, 1984)

  • Police subordination to the judiciary
    • a ‘general factotum of community administration, assuming responsibility for the maintenance of highways and bridges, drainage and other ancillary matters̓ (Oliver, 1987: 13)
  • Not so much consent as ‘grumbling dissent’

(Brogden 1982)

T. Jefferson and R. Grimshaw (1984) Controlling the Constable, London: Frederick Muller

I. Oliver (1987) Police, government and accountability, London: Macmillan

M. Brogden (1982) The Police: autonomy and consent, London: Academic Press

rowan and mayne s compromise
Rowan and Mayne’s compromise
  • Are police for crime control or for maintaining public order?
  • The first Met commissioners believed the prime duty of the police was to maintain ‘public tranquillity’
  • Police need public cooperation before they can enforce the law
community and association
Community and Association
  • Tonnies’ distinction
    • Community is persons within a geographic area having one or more additional ties
    • An association is a ‘group organised for the pursuit of a [single] interest ... in common’ (Rex 1981, page 52)
  • Geo-local ties
    • Declining importance
    • Vary by socio-economic and demographic factors: stronger for older people, the disadvantaged, those with mobility problems
    • Others are better seen as acting on interests that divide them from others living in same space

F. Tonnies (1955) Community and Association, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

J. Rex (1981) Social conflict, London: Longman

populist policing
Populist policing
  • Wildly erratic changes
  • Decisions hostile to minorities
  • Unworkable for large organisations
  • Could stimulate paedophile witch hunts, pressure for corporal and capital punishment, and openings for racists
discretion and constabulary independence
Discretion and constabulary independence
  • ‘Police discretion’ is customary resolution of coercive/responsiveness balance
  • Coercive power of the State is controlled by ‘constabulary independence’
police discretion as practical politics
Police discretion as ‘practical politics’
  • ‘In order to enforce your law you end up with ... £4 million worth of property burnt to the ground. You may think you̓re being efficient in enforcing your laws ... but look at it, the place is burning around you ... I mean, do you enforce the Litter Act in the Mile End Road the same way as you would do in Belgravia?’

(former chief constable John Alderson, quoted in Kinsey and Young, 1982: 121).

  • ‘To argue against the prosecution of ganja smoking in Brixton does not mean that demands for racial discrimination in working men̓s clubs in Leeds are to be met’ (Kinsey and Young 1982: 122).

R. Kinsey and J. Young (1982) ‘Police autonomy and the politics of discretion’, in D. Cowell et al (eds), Policing the Riots, London: Junction Books

training for discretion
Training for discretion
  • Training for work with community isolated in curriculum
  • Officers struggle to define what it involves
  • Training effective for technical skills like weapons and vehicle handling but not interpersonal and verbal communication skills

R. W. Glenn, B.R. Panitch, D. Barnes-Proby, E. Williams, J. Christian, M.W. Lewis, S. Lerwehr, D.W. Brannen (2003) Training the 21st century police officer: redefining police professionalism for the LAPD, LA: RAND

new powers
New powers
  • Over 3,000 new offences since 1997
    • E.g. powers to arrest suspects without warrant and to apply stop and search powers to designated areas without reasonable suspicion
    • E.g. range of actions warranting ASBOs was extended in 2003
  • New summary measures
    • E.g., Fixed Penalty Notices and Penalty Notices for Disorder
    • E.g., Conditional Cautions introduced in 2003, with power of arrest for breach since 2006
pilot project on discretion
Pilot project on discretion
  • Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Surrey and West Midlands forces
  • Encourage use of discretion rather than invoking formal proceedings
the wider perspective
The wider perspective
  • Obama, the War on Terror, surveillance and community intelligence
  • Official reminders of difference: the ‘plight’ of the white working class
  • Fiscal crisis: decent policing or discount policing?
  • The Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy
  • Integrating police, housing and social services
  • Involving the public
  • Training in diagnosing local crime problems and hotspots
  • One page City Service Request Form
  • Public concerns: graffiti, public drinking, vandalism, truancy, loitering, begging, noise
caps effects
CAPS effects
  • Crime/disorder problems fell 7 percent
  • Property and street crime index fell from 40% to 31%
  • Perceived police responsiveness to community concerns rose 20%, from below 40%
  • Effects disproportionately reached black population
  • No gains amongst Hispanics
    • ‘Most in need’ + ‘and able to respond’
legitimacy and effectiveness
Legitimacy and effectiveness
  • Legitimacy reflects public assessment of how police use powers
  • Legitimacy is independent of perceived effectiveness of crime control
  • Perceived responsiveness not a direct result of intervention but of enhanced engagement and visibility
benn s 5 questions
Benn’s 5 questions
  • 1. What is your power?
  • 2. For what do you use it?
  • 3. Who put you in this position?
  • 4. To whom are you accountable?
  • 5. How do we get rid of you?
the governance of responsiveness
The governance of responsiveness
  • Police-based
    • discretion, professional expertise, applied management principles
  • Politics-based
    • formal accountability via Home Secretary, Home Office, Police Authorities, directly-elected mayors
  • Public-based
    • local priority setting via consultation meetings, community intelligence-gathering, partnership work
compliance legitimacy and responsiveness
Compliance, legitimacy and responsiveness
  • People comply with the law because:
    • the criminal justice system carries legitimacy
    • institutions with legitimacy have authority
    • authority earns compliance
  • Legitimacy comes from fair procedures and outcomes
  • Fairness and justice are more important than effectiveness

M. Hough (2004) ‘Reassurance policing: the wrong words for the right strategy’, Plural Policing conference, Church House, Westminster, 28 October 2004