Convenient Constructs: How Chief Police Officers in England and Wales Understand the Right of Police to Exercise Power



Shannon, ICN
(2018) Convenient Constructs: How Chief Police Officers in England and Wales Understand the Right of Police to Exercise Power. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Abstract

Chief police officers are an elite group whose beliefs and actions may contribute to reproducing, developing or transforming police legitimacy. This research answers the question, ‘how do chief police officers in England and Wales understand the right of police to exercise power?’ The chief officers who participated in this research all invoked duties to protect the public (particularly the most vulnerable), policing by consent and explanations based in law and associated checks and balances. However, the significant and original academic contribution that this thesis makes is the finding that these legitimating constructs are confused, conflicted and, above all, convenient. Confusion was evident in vague accounts of vulnerability and hazy notions of consensual policing. When discussing law, operational independence was described as ‘grey’, which may have implications for the ability or will of chief officers to resist the imposition of priorities that infringe on civil liberties. Conflict was found between a rhetoric of consent and the practice of coercion. Narratives of vulnerability and policing by consent also clashed, as hunting threats to the vulnerable may not compensate for failures to tackle issues that are more immediate for many people. Participants’ claims that law and associated checks and balances are important in ensuring police power is used properly sat uncomfortably with their distaste for the process of scrutiny. These tensions and conflicts contributed to participants’ perceptions that they were pressured and that their positions were precarious. Narratives of complexity and change can be convenient in helping chief officers assert a privileged position when making decisions about the use of power. The vagueness of vulnerability and hazy conceptualisations of consent may also be convenient legitimating narratives, which cloak coercion and control. A leitmotif was a convenient construction of a broadly consensual ‘now’ contrasted with a more coercive ‘then’, which could camouflage contemporary concerns about police legitimacy. Together these stories conveniently help chief officers, and potentially politicians, to set priorities for the use of police power that are difficult for citizens to challenge, particularly when ‘folk devil[s]’ (Wells, 2016: 278) and policing myths (Emsley, 2014) are called on in attempts to legitimate such agendas.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Police, Legitimacy, Power, Chief Police Officers
Divisions: Fac of Humanities & Social Sci > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2018 13:56
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2021 10:11
DOI: 10.17638/03027487
Supervisors:
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3027487