Trends in Policing
Interviews with Police Leaders Across the Globe, Volume 4
Edited by Bruce F. Baker, Dilip K. Das
Published June 15th 2012 by CRC Press – 350 pages
Published June 15th 2012 by CRC Press – 350 pages
The fourth volume in this police interview series provides a novel approach to examining organizational structure, leadership, functions, public projects, training, police culture, and the societal context of policing in different countries. A thorough and in-depth analysis, this book presents an inside view of how key police, corrections and judicial leaders, and administrators view their jobs and the difficulties associated with the changing nature of their work. The text fills a descriptive and theoretical void in the published literature on comparative policing and criminal justice.
From the Introduction by Robert Reiner, London School of Economics, Professor Emeritus:
This book is the fourth in a series of interviews with police leaders around the world that Professor Dilip Das has edited (the previous three jointly with Professor Otwin Marenin, this one with Professor Bruce Baker). Together they now compromise some fifty interviews in total, with senior police executives from all parts of the globe, conducted by a team of experts (some academic, some practitioners), working to a similar agenda of topics for discussion. These cover such issues as an account of the interviewee’s background, education and career, conception of the police mission and role, views on strategy and tactics, democratic policing, the major changes they have experienced, the relationship between theory and practice, and the impact of globalization and the terror threat. Altogether these constitute a resource of immense value to academic analysts of policing philosophies, leadership, contemporary change and likely futures, as well as to policy-makers and practitioners who wish to have a sense of where the leaders in their field have come from and are going.
Anyone familiar with the problems of studying elites, particularly in the always controversial field of law enforcement - problems that are multiplied when conducting comparative international research - will be greatly impressed by this achievement. A quarter of a century ago I embarked on a project aimed at interviewing all serving chief police officers in England and Wales, and did eventually succeed in talking to forty of the total forty-three. This was a formidably challenging quest, as recounted in the book that reported the results, published as Chief Constables by Oxford University Press in 1991. But the difficulties I faced pale into insignificance compared to the logistical and access problems that faced this much more ambitious international enterprise. By any reckoning this book and its predecessors are a major contribution to the study and practice of policing around the world.
The value of the work lies largely in the richness of detailed insight into the perspectives of the diverse array of police leaders. They are drawn from all the continents, and are responsible for a broad variety of policing contexts, from metropolitan to largely rural areas, developed and developing countries, from emerging democracies to ones where democratic institutions have prevailed for centuries. They are diverse in age, ethnicity, education, background, and career trajectories. But despite the appointment of women police chiefs in some jurisdictions in recent years, they are unremittingly masculine. All the interviewees in this fourth volume are men, and this was true of the earlier volumes too. Given the complex diversity of subjects it is hard to suggest generalisations about the results. But I will draw out some of the key points that struck me about the interviews. In line with Kenneth Burke’s celebrated dictum that ‘a way of seeing is also a way of not seeing’, I will also venture to suggest some inevitable limitations of the material, as well as questions that still need addressing.
‘Elites need to be interviewed. The best way of finding out about people is by talking to them. It cannot guarantee the truth, especially from people well practised in the arts of discretion. But it is superior to any alternative way of discovering what they believe and do.’ These words of the British political scientist Professor Ivor Crewe (in a 1974 paper on ‘Studying Elites in Britain’ from the first volume of The British Political Sociology Yearbook which he edited), were formulated about researching elites in general. But they are particularly apt for police elites, who like their colleagues are ‘especially… practiced in the arts of the discretion’.
Interviews are unlikely to reveal the truth about wrong-doing or errors (at least one of the subjects in this book has since resigned whilst under investigation for disputed allegations of malpractice), but that is almost equally the case with any other method of empirical research. More fundamentally, interviews are a problematic guide to practice as distinct from the ideology of their subjects, and a fortiori to what happens in their organisations. This is the case with all institutions, but is particularly an issue with policing, for reasons that were established by the classics in the field fifty years ago.
The nature of the work makes police operations have ‘low visibility’ not only to outsiders but to organizational superiors. This is partly because of the necessarily dispersed character of everyday policing, partly because the disciplinary and presentational roles of senior officers bolsters a cultural gap between ‘street’ and ‘management’ cops. Recruiting chiefs from those who have progressed through the ranks (as almost all the interviewees have) rather than by lateral entry alleviates the problem, but only in part. It remains true that as the late James Q. Wilson observed in his seminal 1968 book Varieties of Police Behaviour ‘the police department has the special property… that within it discretion increases as one moves down the hierarchy’.
A variety of legal, technological and policy changes (such as the British Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and the NYPD’s celebrated Compstat) have over the years sought to open up the backstage, low visibility areas of operational practice, with some success. And as several contributions to this volume discuss, the proliferation of citizen recording devices has exposed police deviance to new risks of discovery. But the fundamental problem of guarding the guardians remains. The first case of police brutality captured on citizen camera, the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, resulted initially in acquittal of the filmed officers. And more recently, Compstat and the legendary New York crime reduction miracle have been exposed as at least in part vitiated by data rigging (as shown in J.Eterno and J.Silverman The Crime Numbers Game: Management By Manipulation CRC Press 2012).
Interviews are a problematic guide to practice, but well conducted ones such as the ones in this book are revealing insights into the experience and world-views of their subjects. What emerges clearly here is the massive advance that has been made in recent times around the world in the professionalization of police leadership. Today’s police chiefs are highly educated and apply the fruits of this in their approach to leading their organisations. They are eager to encourage and incorporate research into the practices of policing, reflexively applying and evaluating new strategic approaches based on intelligence analysis and partnership with other agencies relevant to maintaining order and security. They have broad interpretations of policing philosophy and mission, seeing their roles as peace-keeping rather than enforcement in a narrow sense.
They are cosmopolitan in their sensibilities, welcoming the greater interdependence of national policing organisations resulting from globalization whilst also acutely aware of the threats this brings, most evidently from terrorism. What is charted in these interviews is the emergence of an internationally interdependent global policing elite, moulded by the fruits of policing research, alive to the need to develop intelligence-led and multi-agency approaches to the complex issues they face.
There are some striking absences from the discussions, however. In a classic paper the co-editor of the first three volumes in this series, Otwin Marenin, pointed to the Janus-faced character of policing, as ‘Parking Tickets and Class Repression’ (Contemporary Crises 6/2 1983). Policing simultaneously reproduced general order – the universally beneficial conditions of existence of social co-operation and survival – and particular order – the hierarchies of power and privilege that blemish all known societies. The latter dimension of policing is absent from these interviews, apart from scattered and vague references to the problems of social division and the duty to serve all people equally.
In large part this reflects the generational experience of these interviewees, who were formed in decades when throughout the world there appeared to be progress towards greater prosperity, peace and democracy. Since the economic traumas that have multiplied since 2007 there has been a resurgence of internal insecurity and multiplying threats to domestic peace and order within most countries (which I explore in my book Law and Order: An Honest Citizen’s Guide to Crime and Control Polity Press 2007). This new conjuncture is hardly hinted at by the interviewees, except in the limited sense of worrying about diminishing police resources in a new ‘age of austerity’ as it is commonly but perhaps misleadingly dubbed in the media. Let us hope that the intelligence, thoughtfulness, and professionalism portrayed in these remarkable interviews is resilient enough to cope with these deepening challenges.