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Tara Fenwick, Richard Dockrell & Bonnie Slade ProPEL , University of Stirling. RURAL POLICING Understanding Police Knowledge and Practice in Rural Communities. the context. Geographic barriers – distance, mountains, weather, sea Isolation

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Tara fenwick richard dockrell bonnie slade propel university of stirling

Tara Fenwick, Richard Dockrell & Bonnie Slade

ProPEL, University of Stirling

RURAL POLICINGUnderstanding Police Knowledge and Practice in Rural Communities

The context
the context

Geographic barriers – distance, mountains, weather, sea


Extreme variations in geographic and socio-cultural regions

Mandatory transfer policy

the aims

Identify unique challenges of policing practice and knowledge in rural Scotland

Explore present responses to these challenges (skills, practices, resources, leadership)

Suggest implications for work arrangements and leadership to support professional learning

What we did
what we did …

Qualitative research study with 34 participants:

  • 11 interviews, 6 focus groups

  • face-to-face, skype, telephone

  • 31 men, 3 women

  • Chief Constable (1), Deputy Chief Constable (1), Chief Superintendent (1), Superintendent (1), Chief Inspector (2), Inspector (10), Sergeant (3), Constable (14), Probationer (1)

  • Almost 400 years combined experience across all 8 Area Commands of Northern

Interview questions
Interview Questions

Nature of rural policing

  • most important aspects of policing in Northern – the things that have the greatest impact?

  • differences between rural communities in Northern and how do these differences impact on policing?

    Nature of criminality and challenges of police work in rural areas

  • the pattern and nature of crime

  • impactful police initiatives to reduce and prevent crime

  • the most difficult challenges to policing in rural areas

    Management in rural policing

  • recruitment and training

  • management style, supervision and leadership

  • level of autonomy in managing police services

  • challenges for managing and supervising rural police work

  • best approaches to training and management development for rural police work

Interview Questions

Rural policing as community engagement

  • the role of policing a rural environment - strict law enforcer, mediator and ‘social service’ provider

  • the relationship between the police and community in this area

  • the ‘style’ of policing in Northern Constabulary

  • community engagement and influence

  • relationship with the communities – building trust and confidence

  • the most important social and economic changes being experienced by rural communities

  • Relationship between the police service and other community agencies

  • the forms of policing that have the greatest impact on the community and best addresses community problems?

     Rural policing – towards the future

  • Developments over the next four or five years and how the role of rural policing might change

Community variances
community variances

There is a delusion that it’s going to be some sort of Hamish McBeth lifestyle, you’re going to be living in a wee village with your Scottie dog, you’re going to be out on the push bike round the village saying hello to the baker and the minister, but the reality is – well it’s not the reality at all.

not one but many ruralities

distinct communities with different ways of working with police

must learn immediate cultural adaptation

must learn in a fishbowl

Community negotiations
community negotiations

‘you have to learn how to use your tongue and always know that there’s going to be another day’

primary role = ‘mediator’

legitimacy in community balanced with accountability to police standards

on call 24/7

importance of responding to ‘the mundane’

personal safety

Learning the long lasting fix
learning the ‘long lasting fix’

You can get support from the coast guard and from the military we have used that in the past. Well there is a lot of informality to it, but again it goes back to relationship building, but there are formal processes.

playing the long game in everyday moments

gauge the community – trust, trust, trust

educate the community about police role

inter-professional work bottom-up [inter-operability] – working out boundaries, roles

Being in or of the community
being in or of the community

“One of the strengths for us, and because of the geography it can’t be any other way, is that our officers still live and work within their local community .. we are embedded within the communities across the force area”

constant visibility

no hiding place, no down time

on/off duty blurred

family is implicated in duty

simultaneous outsider / insider

and just when you’re settled …

Inventive knowings
‘inventive knowings’

‘It’s covering a 12 foot room with an 8 foot carpet’


work-arounds to stretch resources and solve problems

Strategies to stretch resources
Strategies to stretch resources

  • splitting self/stopping time

  • deputize others

  • reframe situation

  • symbolic material gestures

  • what works

The themes
The themes

“There isn’t just one policing style, a small rural police force, within it there are significant differences in policing style and policing approaches”

Community variances

Community negotiations

Learning the lasting fix

Being in or of the community

Questions for you to consider
Questions for you to consider

What is new or surprising in these findings?

What could the public be made more aware of?

What practices could be more encouraged and supported?

What are implications for assessment and reporting of police activity?