Dr Emma Williams takes a look at how policing is portrayed in the media.
Dr Elaine Brown, Senior Lecturer in Counter Terrorism, discusses tackling cyberbullying in relation to the recent terror attacks.
Graham Hooper, Principal Lecturer in the School of Law, Criminal Justice and Policing, challenges the increasing number of police forces in the UK calling for the use of spit hoods.
Policing is an occupation with special risks. Every day police officers are assaulted and injured in the course of their duties, often minor, but sometimes seriously and very occasionally fatally.
For a considerable time, equipment to protect the police, and the tactics that went with it, moved incredibly slowly. Indeed, little differentiated the Victorian bobby walking the gaslit streets of London, with the modern constable on the beat in the late 1990s. Their protective equipment was nothing more than a 14-inch piece of wood, the police truncheon, tucked discreetly down a special pocket in their uniform trousers, some jangling handcuffs and, well, that was it.
But in the last decade and a half, the police have acquired a significant range of new protective equipment that has both transformed their capability to protect themselves but also radically changed their street appearance. The truncheon was replaced by new metal batons, CS spray, or the more potent PAVA spray, was introduced, and the Taser widely issued as a ‘less-lethal’ weapon to use in certain conflict situations. In many forces, through changes to their uniform, officers also took on a more paramilitary appearance.
And now many police forces are adding something else – the spit hood – a device used to shroud the head to prevent a detained person from spitting or biting an officer.
The arguments put forward by the police for spit hoods are simple and, in one sense, compelling; they prevent exposure to the risk of saliva-borne infectious diseases such as hepatitis. But after that, the debate becomes much more contentious and a good deal more ethical.
Some have argued that the spit hood is dehumanising and has strong visual associations with torture. Taking this view, the introduction of the spit hood goes beyond mere debates about the best way to protect police officers doing their job. The central question seems to be is the spit hood fundamentally at odds with some of the important tenets so often cited as making British policing ‘special’ or different from others around the world – things like restraint, legitimacy, consent, fairness, proportionality and adherence to the principle of minimal force, still largely secured by officers who do not carry firearms?
Although not always an easy journey, the police have evolved broadly to match and be complementary with the kind of state we are. As a liberal, democratic, pluralist, rights-based country, British policing has been deliberately constrained and limited, mainly through restricting its powers and imposing accountability upon it. The spit hood throws up a challenge to this equilibrium because it seems to some to be dramatically out of keeping with what policing represents in a society like ours. It’s the very same arguments that have permeated fierce debates on undercover policing, the use of water cannon, and kettling in public order situations. Simply put: are spit hoods too oppressive to be legitimate in a country like ours?
Graham Hooper is a Principal Lecturer in the School of Law, Criminal Justice and Policing at Canterbury Christ Church University.
Dr Steve Tong and Emma Williams from the Canterbury Centre for Policing Research (CCPR) at Canterbury Christ Church University, comment on the recent proposals for police education from the College of Policing.
The police service has long held a symbolic place as a highly regarded British public institution within the United Kingdom and throughout the world. The mission for the Police Service in the United Kingdom has been based on the concept of policing by consent, local accountability and a minimum use of force. While there are criticisms of the police this is not unique to the UK. Comparatively speaking the ethos behind the British model of policing is exemplary when compared to others and this is highlighted in the high levels of trust the public generally have of the police compared to other professions. However, policing is not getting easier, the expectations of what officers can do is growing and a variety of complex challenges are calling into question what the police service of the future will need to remain effective.
The police have been described as one of the last unreformed public services in relation to being recognised as a profession. This has been for a variety of reasons. Police officers are expected to use discretion and are required to have common sense. This is often based on learning from experience and having gut instincts that inform their decision making. These skills and abilities are, currently, learned in the work place via experience or through police training neither of which are currently acknowledged in terms of academic accreditation. This might appear unusual to those outside of the police when we consider other professionals such as nurses, lawyers, paramedics, teachers and others as they are all professions with an appropriate recognition in terms of qualifications.
The key issue with the current arrangement for police learning and development is that police officers do not receive appropriate recognition for their skills, knowledge and abilities. Most policing commentators would argue that the police role and the skills officers require are comparable to other professions. Furthermore, the police role is becoming more difficult. Police officers will be expected to be increasingly computer literate, have an ability to learn independently and reflect on their practice, apply evidence when developing tactics and strategic plans, understand how crime is committed in new ways and have an ability to capture evidence from a range of digital devices that will continue to change. The police will need to adapt to a variety of challenges when fulfilling their mission to protect the public where the challenges of vulnerability facing the police is growing.
If the academic community can assist with the further development of policing as a profession, we as the Canterbury Centre for Police Research (CCPR) welcome that. Just as practitioner knowledge and experience can enhance our curriculum for teaching, we hope to be able to provide officers with further information on which to draw on and use alongside their experience when making hard operational and strategic decisions. We do not think the academic community can ‘teach policing’ but we do feel that academic skills such as understanding complex problems, asking critical questions and challenging the status quo could assist the police in delivering their roles.
We welcome the College of Policing’s proposals to award hard working police officers and staff the opportunity to gain academic qualifications from their existing training and experience. Experience is critical in policing as is the use of discretion and reflection. Gaining qualifications and having the options to enhance these via academic programmes (if officers so wish) is an exciting opportunity for those that wish to engage in this process.
For more information about the Canterbury Centre for Police Research (CCPR) visit the University website.
Dr Elaine Brown, School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing, asks if a change in focus by French Police is causing order problems
Dr Elaine Brown from the School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing, explains how high profile security at Euro 2016 risks rising the tension with fans
The Police and Crime Commissioner elections are on the horizon, and with the previous election turn out recorded as 15%, Dr Steve Tong, Director of Policing and Criminal Justice at Canterbury Christ Church University, explores how democratic the elections really are.
Dr. Fahid Qurashi, Lecturer in the School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing, explores the issues around the Government’s Prevent strategy and the impact it has on UK schools.
Senior Lecturer in Policing in the School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing, Dr Paul Swallow, provides his thoughts on the different factors that could have motivated the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.
For many people, the terrorist attacks in Paris brought home memories of similar events elsewhere and the question will be asked if such attacks could happen again. The short answer regrettably is, yes, and the apparent similarities between many recent attacks, brings home that very point.
What really lies behind these attacks? Are they really motivated by religious tensions or caused by something more fundamental? Issues relating to the wealth and economic strength of the so-called ‘developed world’ and the poverty of ‘Third World’ countries are well known. In terms of life expectancy, education, access to medial support even in terms of safety from attack and having enough food to eat, the developed world has a significant advantage. These factors contribute to immigration from such states, and concerns relating to the relative inability of immigrant communities in the developed world to settle quickly, to become accepted and to enter easily into the social and political life of their adopted states are well known. It is easy to see how this can foment into resentment against the power and exclusiveness of the ‘West’, and how resentment can develop into anger and ultimately violence.
In recent attacks, the terrorists came from such immigrant communities and shared similar backgrounds. They were frustrated, angry young men perhaps feeling disadvantaged and excluded by their ‘host’ countries and all evidently susceptible to radicalisation by extremist elements. They became prepared to kill and be killed for an unattainable, ultimately pointless cause. All claimed to be taking revenge on behalf of oppressed people abroad in the name of religion.
Why was France attacked again? Two possible reasons, both highlighting France’s structural differences from other countries. These are the concept of ‘laïcité’ and secondly the structure and powers of the police.
Foremost among these is the concept of ‘laïcité’, the ‘neutrality’ of the French State towards religion of any kind. Laïcité and egalité (equality) are deeply rooted in French law and administration and in France’s idea of itself. Once granted ‘nationalité française’ (French nationality) a French citizen is an equal member of French society, and her or his religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation are nothing to do with the state.
Laïcité caused France in 2004 to introduce legislation to ban the wearing of religious symbols in schools and in 2010 legislation banning the wearing of the Burqa and the Niqab, traditional headwear for some Muslim women. These laws may have been interpreted by some as an attack on religious expression.
In terms of policing, France has three main police services, the ‘Police Nationale’ (PN), which policies large towns and major cities, the ‘Gendarmerie Nationale’ (GN), a military police service which is more prominent in the countryside and smaller towns, and the smaller ‘Police Municipale’ forces operating under the authority of the ‘Maire’ in many towns and cities. It is well documented that these police forces do not cooperate well together, and this can only hinder their efficiency. The so-called ‘guerre des polices’ (‘war between police forces’) does exist in reality.
It should also be noted that not all French police officers have full investigative powers, as the term would be understood in the UK. In France, investigative and arrest powers are linked to a legal qualification. Most police officers will have the legal ‘quality’ or ‘status’ of ‘Agent de la Police Judiciaire’ (APJ) and fewer, often those in senior ranks will have the legal status of ‘Officier de la Police Judiciaire’ (OPJ). Only officers holding the qualification of OPJ are able to exercise full police powers of arrest and detention, and the role of the APJ cadre is to assist OPJs and to respond to their orders.
It is not certain that these issues have contributed to the recent attacks, but for those considering the risks from terrorism elsewhere they may be a pertinent starting point.
Dr Paul Swallow is a former senior counter-terrorism intelligence officer with New Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and Counter-Terrorism Command. Dr Swallow specialised in the international aspects of counter-terrorism, representing the UK in bodies such as NATO, Europol and Interpol.