‘Civilizing Policing’? What can police-public consultation forums achieve for police reform, ‘democratic policing’, and police legitimacy?
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Abstract: Considering police-public consultation forums as a device, or tactic, to ‘civilize’ policing, the possibilities and limitations of ‘civilizing policing’ using this method can be shown. Police-public consultation forums can ‘civilize’ policing – in the sense Loader and Walker (2007) use the term – by contributing to police reform, democratic policing, and police legitimacy. Using the case of Edinburgh, Scotland, the achievements of police-public consultation forums for reform, democratic policing, and legitimacy, are examined and an argument made that consultation forums can make positive contributions in each of these areas. However, the example of consultation forums also reveals significant conceptual and structural limitations to the ideas of reform, democracy, and legitimacy when applied to the police. These limitations are articulated using the social theory of Simmel, Weber, and Lukes: Simmel and Weber reveal the inflexibility and non-negotiable aspects of the police that defies reform and democratic ambitions; Lukes provides an important precautionary perspective on the ‘democraticness’ of democratic devices; and, comparing Lukes with the work of Weber provides a view on legitimacy that reveals advanced complexities to ‘police legitimacy’. In sum, police-public consultation forums contribute to ‘civilizing policing’, but it is also useful to reflect and consider the non-negotiable limits the ‘form’ of the police applies to possible positive change.
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