The Future of Policing.
Now that commenting on the growth of police studies has become superfluous, it may be time to initiate a new sub-genre and remark upon the number of books that have appeared in recent years with titles formed from some version of the words `future' and `police'. The origins of this contribution to police futurology lies in the recent past. Since the late 1980s there have been repeated calls for a Royal Commission on the police, especially from the Police Federation, the `trade union' for most police officers in Britain. Instead they and we got a government White Paper, an internal Home Office inquiry and the infamous report of the Sheehy Committee. If an official Royal Commission was not to be, the Police Foundation and the Policy Studies Institute set up a `shadow' commission in the form of an Independent Inquiry which sat between 1994 and 1996. This book by one of the members of the Inquiry Committee and its Research Director aims to contextualize and develop the report of The Independent Inquiry into the Roles and Responsibilities of the Police. One issue that is regrettably, though understandably, not discussed is the internal politics of Inquiry Committees, though in one or two places, Rod Morgan and Tim Newburn suggest some disappointment with the Inquiry's final report.
After reviewing events and research from the past decade, Morgan and Newburn argue that there are `major incompatibilities' between current policing arrangements and public demands and expectations. This leads them on to the substantive argument which is presented through four key dilemmas. First, they ask how it is possible to meet demands for a visible police presence, when the effectiveness of patrol is questionable and no government is likely or able to provide sufficient resources to meet public demands. One product of these demands has been forms of supplementary policing provided either by municipal authorities or the private sector. Concerned that only the better-off can afford to pay for additional policing, Morgan and Newburn argue that auxiliary patrol officers should be established within the police. These officers would have the powers of constables but be restricted to patrol work and thereby increase the local visibility of police officers. The second dilemma is about the growth of private and self-help policing provision or, more accurately, how the emerging market in policing services should be regulated. Concern about abuses by private security personnel leads the authors to call for a system of licensing and accreditation and to argue that private security staff should not be permitted a greater right to exercise force than any member of the public. The third dilemma is about crime prevention and community safety, in particular where the responsibility for primary crime prevention--the reduction of opportunities for crime and criminal motivation without reference to criminals and potential criminals--should lie. Ideally, Morgan and Newburn believe that this should be the local authority, but they recognize that the erosion of the powers of the local state over a number of years makes this unlikely. They call for a revitalization of local Police-Community Consultative Groups and a meshing between Community Safety Plans and Policing Plans. The fourth dilemma is about the organization of the public police, particularly as a result of the globalization of crime. This, the authors argue, makes the case for a national police force. But they add that the creation of such a force could pave the way for greater localization and disaggregation, so that the Metropolitan police, for example, could be broken up into smaller, more local forces.
This is a persuasively argued book and some of its proposals, particularly related to the second, third and fourth dilemmas, have been overtaken by events following the election of a Labour government, which could be regarded as very prescient of the authors! Indeed the book was clearly completed before the May 1997 General Election and it would be interesting to know whether Morgan and Newburn believe that the new government will reduce the social and economic polarization, and the marketization of the public sector, that are described and decried in some parts of this book. Of the four dilemmas, the one where there has been least progress--or even discussion--is the proposal for auxiliary police officers. While Morgan and Newburn anticipate and pre-empt criticisms of their work that focus on the police alone--which they see as a pre-occupation with police solutions to policing dilemmas--it could be argued that in making this proposal they have failed to address the organizational difficulties of reforming the police, instead proposing to `tack on' a new layer at the bottom of the organization. There is for instance a notable difference between the detailed proposals for implementation of their ideas on Consultative Groups and Policing and Community Safety Plans, compared with that for additional patrol officers. When the Independent Inquiry first proposed auxiliaries, the Police Federation heavily criticized the idea as creating `second class police officers'. Morgan and Newburn regret the `inherent conservatism' of police staff associations and call for experimentation with auxiliaries, pointing to the valuable work done by the Dutch politiesurveillant and stadswacht, for example. But perhaps they might also have argued that the police force is already and always stratified, which makes the concern about `second class officers' much less tenable. Why should or would auxiliaries accept a fixed subordinate status? Since they would have Constabulary powers, what would prevent their redeployment into `normal' policing, or if they asserted a wish to be involved in (much better paid and more exciting) `real' police work? Conversely, even after countless phases of internal police reform, it is far from clear how auxiliary officers could be accepted within the police force at present, particularly when the Audit Commission has also voiced its doubts. In making this proposal Morgan and Newburn appear to place a lot of faith in the development of a police service model, something that they probably envisage would be furthered by an increasing localization of policing. It is always possible that this could occur and some service aspects have undoubtedly emerged because of the impact of consumerism in the past decade through Quality of Service initiatives and the Statement of Common Purpose and Values. The impression of a service can easily be reinforced from conversing with able chief officers who can articulate the language of total quality management and responsiveness to customer demands. But it seems more questionable if we draw attention to the simultaneous development of a police force through the acquisition of, and campaigning for, CS gas and long-handled batons--barely mentioning countless and recurring controversies about police practices--as well as further intensification of intelligence networks and transnational policing.
A second principal concern takes us back to the context that the discussion in this book is located within. For Morgan and Newburn the dilemmas that they seek to resolve arise from the rapidly changing social and economic conditions in Britain and beyond. In privileging this context, the authors restate the familiar tendency to see the police as reacting to events rather than shaping them. There is of course a danger of going too far in the other direction but it is surprising that even sociological criminologists do not, at the very least, make more of the idea of `duality of structure'. That is, the police could be seen as both shaped by external events as well as actively shaping their environment in some or many ways. Ian Loader makes a related point in a recent article in Policing and Society (vol. 7, pp. 143-62) when he questions the Independent Inquiry's supposition that it is both possible and desirable to seek to meet public demands for policing. For present purposes, the key point that Loader makes is that both public and private policing systems are not simply responding to a pre-existing demand; rather they are agents in the construction of demand, creating a space that they seek to occupy. In addressing broad policing dilemmas, this book contributes to the partial de-centring of the police from crime and security discourses, but questions about what the police role is or should be still remain.
Karim Murji Roehampton Institute London
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||British Journal of Criminology|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1998|
|Previous Article:||CRIME AND THE BUSINESS CYCLE IN POST-WAR BRITAIN REVISITED.|
|Next Article:||Critical Criminology: Visions From Europe.|