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Article

Clifford Shearing and Philip Stenning

Significant developments in our understandings of, and thinking about, “policing” have occurred in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. These have been reflected in redefinitions of the words “police” and “policing” that scholars use when writing about it. By the middle of the 19th Century the word police in English was understood to refer to the state-sponsored institution responsible for order maintenance, crime control, and law enforcement, and its officers; and the word policing referred to what its officers did to achieve these objectives. Police were typically referred to as “the police,” indicating that they uniquely performed this role. But in the decades after the Second World War, scholars and consultants brought the world’s attention to a dramatic growth in nonstate institutions that were fulfilling similar roles; they were referred to as “private security.” Research revealed that private security were undertaking the same tasks and responsibilities as the police were but doing so in different ways, with different objectives, and different means. They more often saw their role as loss prevention—rather than crime control—and did not see presenting offenders before the criminal justice system as a good way to achieve that. Rather, they developed ways of achieving order and preventing losses that drew on the power of their clients—for instance to exclude troublemakers from their property—rather than the kinds of legal powers relied on by the police, which they typically did not have anyway. Policing scholars began to talk of “private police” and “private policing.” What is more, research revealed that within a couple of decades of the end of the Second World War, private security personnel had come to outnumber public police personnel, in some countries by as much as 3 to 1. It also became apparent that even within government there was an increasing number of organizations and personnel, other than “the police,” such as customs officials, tax inspectors, and so forth, who could also be considered to be doing policing. Many police researchers redefined themselves as policing researchers, interested in studying all these different public and private organizations and personnel who seemed to be doing policing, and what their relationships with each other were. By the 1990s, in light of these research findings, policing scholars began to talk about plural policing provision, rather than just about the relationships between “private security” and “the police.” A whole lot of new questions arose: Who is doing policing? What are the different ways of doing it? In whose interests is it being done? What are the implications of this for policing policy? How can policing provision be effectively governed given its prolific diversity? How are developments like globalization and technological advances impacting the challenges faced by policing providers? And which providers are best placed to meet which of these challenges? And finally, is policing just about addressing human threats to safety and security ? What about threats to safety and security arising from natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and droughts, or other manifestations of climate change such as global warming? Or from pandemics and the like? Or from the development of artificial intelligence? In short, what do “policing” and policing provision mean in the 21st century? And how will we understand and think about them in the future? Certainly not as we understood them in the middle of the 20th century.

Article

Badi Hasisi, Simon Perry, and Michael Wolfowicz

Over the last few decades, one of the most pressing issues for governments, societies, and the law enforcement agencies that serve and protect them has been the threat of terrorism. Given that these changes represent a relatively new area for police, it is important to understand how terrorism is best policed and what approaches, strategies, and tactics are most effective. While the evidence base is still in its developmental stages, the evidence that does exist suggests that proactive policing strategies already employed against other forms of crime are the most useful and effective for policing terrorism. Policing efforts that focus on high concentrations of crimes at places (“hotspots”), or among the high-risk offenders, and employ problem-solving perspectives and use community-based strategies show consistent evidence of effectiveness and improving relations between the police and the public. Based on this evidence, policing agencies that undertake proven, proactive strategies toward policing terrorism are better able to incorporate their new role and focus within their broader law enforcement functions. By doing so, policing agencies can expand their role and function in a way that draws on their experience and strengths, rather than “reinventing the wheel” and overstretching resources. Additionally, policing agencies from different countries can draw on their own experience and local knowledge in dealing with other forms of crime, as well as the experience of other agencies and countries, in order to develop a comprehensive and multidimensional approach to policing terrorism.

Article

Leslie Holmes

Police corruption is ubiquitous and is a serious problem for numerous reasons. One is that police officers are often armed and can therefore pose a physical threat to citizens in a way that most other state officials do not. Another is that citizens typically expect the police to uphold the law and be the “final port of call” in fighting crime, including that of other state officials: if law enforcement officers cannot be trusted, most citizens have nowhere else to turn when seeking justice. Leading on from this, if citizens do not trust the police, they are much less likely to cooperate with them, resulting in higher unsolved crime rates. Yet according to Transparency International’s 2017 Global Corruption Barometer, more people pay bribes to law enforcement officers globally than to any other public officials, rendering the police the most corrupt branch of the state in many countries. Police corruption assumes numerous forms, from relatively benign but irritating demands for bribes from motorists to improper procurement procedures and—most dangerously—collusion with organized crime gangs in the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and humans, and occasionally even in contract killing. One other form of miscreancy was identified in the 1980s as largely peculiar to the police, namely “noble cause corruption.” This term, also known as the “Dirty Harry problem,” is applied when police officers deliberately bend or break the law not for personal benefit but in the belief that this is ultimately for the good of society. Many factors drive police corruption, including inadequate salaries, frustration with the leniency of the courts, opportunity, envy (of wealthy criminals), and simple greed. Combating it is no easy task, but methods that have significantly lowered corruption rates in countries such as Singapore and Georgia include reducing discretionary decision-making, radical restructuring, risk assessments, greater use of psychological testing, improving working conditions, lifestyle monitoring, civilian review, and introducing anti-corruption agencies that are completely independent of the police. But police corruption is ultimately a “wicked” problem, meaning that it is so complex and changeable that it can never be completely solved; the best that can be hoped for is that it will be brought down to manageable proportions.

Article

Vigilantes have arisen at many times in different regions of the world, taking the law into their own hands as defenders, often by force, of their view of the good life against those they see to be its enemies. They have a strong attraction for some commentators and they rouse equally strong hostility in others. For yet others, who attempt to take a broader view, they are a source of deep ambivalence. Academic interest in the phenomenon has grown strongly over recent years, and this has contributed significantly to an increase in knowledge of its distribution beyond the bounds of western Europe, the United States, and particularly in many parts of Africa. Although vigilantes are most commonly male, increased evidence of women’s vigilantism has also come to light in recent years. Vigilantism is difficult to define in rigorous terms, partly because of general problems of comparative study, but there are also special reasons in this case. Vigilantism is not so much a thing in itself as a fundamentally relational phenomenon which only makes sense in relation to the formal institutions of the state. It is in several ways a frontier phenomenon, occupying an awkward borderland between law and illegality. Many of its manifestations are short-lived and unstable, nor is it always what it claims to be. For these reasons, definitions of vigilantism are best treated as an “ideal type,” which real cases may be expected to approximate to or depart from. This approach provides the possibility of comparing different cases of vigilantism and also allows one to explore the differences and similarities between it and other “dwellers in the twilight zone,” such as social bandits, mafias, guerrillas, and resistance movements.

Article

Elise Sargeant, Julie Barkworth, and Natasha S. Madon

Fairness and equity are key concerns in modern liberal democracies. In step with this general trend, academics and practitioners have long been concerned with the fairness of procedures utilized by the criminal justice system. Definitions vary, but procedural justice is loosely defined as fair treatment and fair decision-making by authorities. In the criminal justice system, the procedural justice of authorities such as police officers, judicial officers, and correctional officers is evaluated by members of the public. Procedural justice in the criminal justice system is viewed as an end in and of itself, but it is also an opportunity to yield various outcomes including legitimacy, public compliance with the law, cooperation with criminal justice officials, and satisfaction with criminal justice proceedings and outcomes.