Police and Policing: Culture, Discretion & Accountability
Criminology and the police
o Institutions, personnel, practices.
o Police, courts, corrections.
o Classical and positivist theories.
Police – most visible.
o More likely to have some kind of a first hand experience with police.
o Have significant power invested in them by the state to patrol and
enforce the law.
o Mediate relationships between law and the community and the CJS
and the community.
Gatekeepers of the system.
Gap exists between ideals of policing and what was occurring in practice (day
to day operation).
o Between formal rules and how they were conducting themselves.
Prior to 19 century:
o Policing was local.
o Appointed as constables.
o Numerous duties, bad pay.
o Job fulfilled by labourers, soldiers and servants.
o Lacked discipline, skills and accountability.
o Drunk, immoral and behaved poorly.
o Rich and poor people lived in close proximity.
o Centralised, state controlled policing.
Conducted in local areas.
o Expected to be on the job 24 hours a day.
o Frequently criticised because lacked skills to maintain social order.
Emergence of ‘modern’ policing
Practices still evident today:
o Force used as a last resort.
o Uniform and presence – deterrent.
o Politically neutral but accountable and funded by government.
o Professionalisation (training and education).
Politically neutral – stays the same even if the state government changes.
Approaches to policing
Problem orientated policing:
o Identify and solve “problem” rather than “treat” symptoms.
o Focus on trying to prevent the crime or stop the problem happening
before it rather than just reacting.
o Discover root cause and try to illuminate it e.g. not just arresting drug
users, focusing on the dealers and how to stop them.
Evidence-based policing: o Scientific evidence.
o Based on research, focus on linking research and practice to improve
o Do what research has shown to be effective e.g. looking at what other
countries are doing and adopting it if it works.
o Alternative diversion processes e.g. conferencing.
o Moving away from CJS and try to repair harm to the victim.
o E.g. instead of sending them through the CJS they send youths into the
community – if they graffiti they might help clean it or pay for it to be
cleaned instead of being arrested.
Zero tolerance policing
Arresting or applying a certain action for all offences or for specific offences.
Extensive criticism – if you arrest anyone doing a minor crime you will
eventually deter major crimes from happening (broken window theory).
Claims – petty crime and anti-social behaviour will have a zero tolerance and
major crimes will then be deterred.
Rates of petty and serious crimes fell significantly in NY and it is attributed to
o Criticism – crime could have shifted from Manhattan to other cities.
Operation unite – Australia and NZ.
o Zero tolerance approach to alcohol-fuelled violence.
o National arrests 900+ each campaign.
o Target alcohol abuse, violence, anti-social behaviour.
o 5 campaigns since December 2009.
Community based policing
Try to generate a better relationship between police and young people, and
police with groups that might be marginalised (so they can change the way
they see the police).
Police must be able to talk to the community about concerns and share
Community has to be supportive and involved in the process.
E.g. Neighbourhood Watch, Crime Stoppers.
o Empowerment of communities.
o Improved police-community relationship.
o Decreased potential for conflict.
o Reduced fear – more police in the community and understanding them
better decreases fear.
o Better crime prevention strategies.
o Used as a way of getting information.
o Potential to increase level of coercive contact.
o One-way street – community expected to change but not police.
o Police have power to decide who participates.
o Ignores strong power relations. Shift in policing approaches
Shift from traditional to mix of traditional and community based styles.
Old function – paramilitary approach, maintain order, apprehend offenders.
New function – enforce the law, prevent crime, detect crime, conflict
resolution, social services, social cohesion.
Change in interviewing techniques.
o Way police were interrogating offenders wasn‟t effective – now they
try to engage them into a more conversational type approach e.g. ask
how their life is.
Based on research – example of evidence based policing.
Shifting communicating styles:
o SM networks and crime updates.
o „Police News‟ on YouTube.
Importance of trust and confidence in police
The more legitimacy and confidence we have in the police, the more we
respond to the police and the law.
Engagement with the community – studies show that the more we see them
representing our values and understanding us, the more confident and
respectful we are of them.
The role of law and order
CJS weak and ineffective.
Police – central political focus.
Primary definers – police leaders and police associations.
Through political processes that police secure resources.
Numbers and powers of the police – key political issue.
Police – street corner politicians, law, legislation, visible social norms.
How they approach the role:
o Political context – legislation, police powers, budgets, media
campaigns, law and order agendas.
E.g. change in laws regarding parole.
o Social context – what is happening in society, social
E.g. expectation that they‟re going to