Plural policing in the UK: policing beyond the police

Authored by: Adam Crawford

Handbook of Policing

Print publication date:  August  2008
Online publication date:  August  2012

Print ISBN: 9781843925002
eBook ISBN: 9780203118238
Adobe ISBN: 9781136308529


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Until recently policing had become synonymous with the activities of the modern professional police. It was not always so. Until the eighteenth and early nineteenth century in Europe, ‘policing’ referred to a much more general schema of governance (Zedner 2006a). Crime was only a marginal element in this body of police regulation. With the birth of the modern professional police in 1829, the responsibility for policing, over time, became firmly located within the state. Its paid agents alone ultimately were to be responsible for the nature and form of policing and crime control. In many senses, the development of the professional police was coupled to the formation of the modern state. As a consequence, policing came to be seen as a product of what the police actually do. This is not to say that the private or non-state provision of policing and security services disappeared, but rather they came to assume, or were perceived to occupy, a less significant and more subordinate role. As Shearing (2006) notes, the manner in which state-centred thinking came to dominate the social sciences subsequently blinded much analysis from understanding the governing capacities of diverse forms of non-state policing and ‘private government’.

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