The Transformation of Policing? Understanding Current Trends in Policing Systems
Posted: 29 Feb 2008
Date Written: 2002
This paper considers David Bayley and Clifford Shearing's (1996) argument that policing systems in developed economies are currently undergoing radical change. It is clear that a number of significant shifts have occurred including major reforms in public policing, and a substantial expansion of the private security industry. However, we question the degree to which current developments in policing should be interpreted as a sharp qualitative break with the past. By focusing primarily upon change the risk is that we overlook the significant consistencies and continuities that are equally important in understanding historical trends. We also question the extent to which the developments highlighted within this transformation thesis can be seen as global. We argue that the transformation thesis fails to take sufficient account of important differences between the nature and form of policing in North America, and of that in other countries such as Britain. We conclude by arguing that it is helpful to locate the set of changes within the framework of policing in a wider context. Thus, rather than view current developments as a fragmentation of policing, we see them as part of a long-term process of formalizaton of social control. The key development that appears to have taken place concerns shifts between what we term primary and secondary social control activities.
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