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Handbook of policing (2nd edition).


Newburn, T (eds) (2008) Cullompton: Willan pp912 pbk, ISBN: 978-1-84392-323-7, 34.99 [pounds sterling]

Tim Newburn's (2003) "Handbook of Policing' provided the first comprehensive overview of the subject of policing and police studies in the UK and quickly became essential reading for practitioners, students and scholars in this burgeoning field of inquiry. The second edition of the "Handbook of Policing' introduces the rich critical history of policing that has developed since the 1970s and juxtaposes this with the more administrative research that has emanated out of the Home Office since the 1980s on policy and police practice. Alongside this, contemporary discourse about police ethics, culture, organisation and theory are included, although they perform a supplementary function to the central focus on history, policy and practice. The handbook is split into four main sections: comparative and historical perspectives; context; doing policing; plus themes and debates. The aim of the second edition is to provide an update on the rapidly evolving area of policing in the UK where ever-changing political and policy developments make maintaining contemporary relevance particularly difficult.

The second edition of the handbook offers new chapters on policing Scotland and Northern Ireland that extend the breadth of coverage beyond England and Wales whilst also introducing newly authored chapters on police cultures, policing terrorism, performance management and forensic science. The Handbook represents an ideal choice for core reading on any police studies course or module. The breadth of coverage of the field ensures that anyone new to police studies can find useful introductions to the subject whilst others can fill in gaps in their understanding or simply update their knowledge. For example, the addition of Waddington's discussion of the police killing of Charles de Menezes in 2005 provides a contemporary relevance that will please practitioners, students and academics to equally substantial degrees.

The artificial creation of subsets of policing sometimes detaches the academic discussion from the complexity of 'real world' policing yet this is difficult to avoid. Other recent additions to the market (for example, McLaughlin's (2007) "The New Policing' and Rowe's (2008) "Introduction to Policing') provide a clearer theoretical perspective on developments in policing although this is partly due to their more manageable size and single authorship. For example, the removal of Janet Chan's chapter on new technologies leaves a gap in the key themes section on 'policing through surveillance', an area that has experienced significant expansion in the UK over the last two decades and which remains pivotal to public debate about what is an acceptable amount of policing in the future. That said, other contemporary areas such as the growth of summary justice through the use of automated surveillance cameras and on-the-spot (or 'through the post') fines are highlighted with great zeal.

A wide range of authors provide a comprehensive introduction to policing in the UK but, as in the first edition, this broad focus on content leaves the handbook feeling like it is missing a critical edge when attempting to dissect the politically contested nature of policing. This is a longstanding issue in the area of police studies where access to essential information is informally regulated, to varying degrees, by the Police Service and the Home Office. There is still insufficient focus upon the problematic relationship between the police and those communities that are the target of their work. To some degree, this is covered in the chapters on ethnicity and gender yet it seems that this narrow conceptualisation of problematic policing renders other key issues related to age, class and sexuality as beyond the lens of analysis. This exclusionary process had been evident in police definitions of diversity prior to the 1998 MacPherson Report yet even the broadening official focus on diversity that followed MacPherson has not been able to address the lack of work in these areas. Instead, an understanding of the contested nature of policing as well as definitions of diversity often remains conceptualised through their presentation in the media as well as in the minds of senior police officers and politicians. This maintains concerns about how academics are able to fund the study of areas of policing that are not seen as central to contemporary policy agendas.

This exclusion is most visible in the absence of debate about police misconduct, the policing of social protests, the misuse of terrorist legislation, the role of the police, politicians and the media in policy development, and the impact this has upon a diverse society. All these areas receive a brief mention yet there is an enduring theme here related to the contested nature of policing and its contemporary manifestations which requires further exploration. This debate would provide the important discussion about police legitimacy with a more vivid context that would illuminate the subject area for the undergraduate students that are the handbook's target audience. As the study of policing spreads across campuses and introduces this key sovereign function to new audiences it is essential that traditional understandings about the police and policing are broken down. The rich critical history that informs much of this textbook also reminds us of the importance of scholarship in combating powerful agendas, a factor that remains crucial to understanding the contemporary policing landscape after a decade of unprecedented legislative activity and the significant extension of police powers.

This is a book that should be recommended for all students of policing and police studies in the UK. As the editor acknowledges, there are clear weaknesses in restricting the area of study to the UK but extending this into the global arena would only have produced an unwieldy and unfocused textbook. The new and updated chapters provide a renewed contemporary focus yet it should also be acknowledged that the majority of the chapters appear, although to varying degrees, in their original form. It would be fickle to criticise a book with such a broad focus for its omissions and at close to one hundred extra pages the second edition of the Handbook of Policing clearly builds significantly on its predecessor. The 2008 version functions as a welcome update and maintains its position of providing the most comprehensive overview of the contemporary landscape of UK policing.

Dr Craig Paterson, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Sheffield Hallam University
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Author:Paterson, Craig
Publication:British Journal of Community Justice
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2009
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