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BOOK REVIEW – POLITICS OF THE POLICE


January 11, 2013
By Gilles Renaud

668 words – MR

Policing, politics, culture and control – Essays in honour of Robert Reiner

Edited by Tim Newburn and Jill Peay

Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2012

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by Gilles Renaud

Doubtless as in the case of most readers, I wish I had more time to read excellent titles on policing but the press of other matters often seems to get in the way.

My last opportunity to review law enforcement titles was in the September 2010 issue, when I discussed and I regret not having attempted a review of the Honourable Julian Fantino’s excellent biography, <Duty: The life of a cop> (Key Porter Books, 2007). Thus, when given the opportunity to comment on this outstanding work, I found the time to do so in the expectation that this will encourage others to read some, if not all, of the able contributions of the distinguished writers on the subject of policing.

As many already are familiar with the ground-breaking work of Professor Robert Reiner, the author of a number of well received texts including now in its fourth edition, I need not discuss his life’s work further, choosing instead to draw attention directly to the major chapters of this text: ‘Cop culture,’ by PAS Waddington, at pages 89 to 110, ‘Trial by media,’ by C. Greer and E. McLaughlin at pages 135-154 and ‘The shifting boundaries of policing: Globalisation and its consequences,’ by P.C. Stenning and C.D. Shearing, at pages 265 to 284.

The first reference is to a well-written and well documented analysis of the often crude and simplistic views held by some in attempts to discredit policing in general. It serves in particular to re-affirm that the majority of those who serve and protect consider themselves part of a noble and heroic calling. That reform is necessary in some aspects of policing is not disputed, but the author traces a remarkable path to enlightened changes, keeping in mind the amazing increase in demands made upon the police and the resultant changes to “cop culture”.

I commend in particular the second of the chapters I have singled out because of the authors’ skill in making plain the duties that police are to discharge during times of crisis, the responsible role to be played by the media and how conflicts necessarily arise when these respective functions appear to clash. Many signal insights are provided in terms of how best to re-theorise relations between the Fourth Estate and the police. In this vein, I refer interested readers to by Aaron Doyle (University of Toronto Press, 2003), reviewed by the writer in , (Vol. 48(4) (July 2006), page 623). Though I acknowledge that much of the discussion focuses on precise individuals and peculiar situations, the chapter does serve to explain how best to avoid the difficulties which bedevilled those police forces and officials.

The third and final contribution I have pointed to as being especially valuable addresses the obvious and – no less usefully, hard to ascertain – challenges associated with policing when confronting issues such as hi-tech surveillance, transnational investigations and “non-state-sponsored, ‘private’ transnational policing.” No less ably, the authors discuss the issues that will come to significance in the next few years as technology improves.

I am not suggesting that the other contributions are not valuable but merely that these three are quite useful. Interested readers will profit from the discussion of the need for order within society in the context of a democracy (pages 22 to 36), the controversies surrounding border policing (pages 48-53), policy-oriented policing (pages 78-80) and intelligence-led policing (pages 197-201).

In the final analysis, <Policing, politics, culture and control – Essays in honour of Robert Reiner> is a valuable addition to the bookshelves of all Canadian police forces and an invaluable tool for those officers (and others) pursing studies in policing for academic credit.


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