Policing as Social Discipline

Policing as Social Discipline

Policing as Social Discipline

Policing as Social Discipline

Synopsis

This book challenges the traditional idea that policing is the first stage in a criminal justice process, the phase in which the police use their powers of criminal investigation to feed cases into the legal system for authoritative resolution in the courts. Choongh argues that the political space allowed to the police on the streets and in the station house enables them to pursue a very different agenda of social discipline--indeed, one targeted at certain sections of the community. This alternative perspective provides many new sociological insights into the use of police powers in modern society.

Excerpt

Clarendon Studies in Criminology, the successor to Cambridge Studies in Criminology, which was founded by Leon Radzinowicz and J.W.C. Turner more than fifty years ago, aims to provide a forum for outstanding work in criminology, criminal justice, penology and the wider field of deviant behaviour. It is edited under the auspices of three criminological centres: the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, the Mannheim Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice at the London School of Economics, and the Oxford Centre for Criminological Research

Dr Satnam Choongh stimulating and provocative Policing as Social Discipline is the fourteenth volume to be published since this series was launched in 1994 and the fifth to discuss aspects of policing.

He shows that the assumption by the police of powers to interrogate suspects was at first regarded by the judiciary as unconstitutional: a breach of the principles of an adversarial system of criminal justice. As interrogation became accepted, attempts were made to circumscribe the powers of the police through various procedural rules and codes, in particular the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). Dr Choongh's study sets out to show that this approach has not solved and will not solve the problem.

Firstly he argues, as have several others, that the very nature of the power relationship between the police and suspects in the confines of the police station is such as inevitably to run the risk of manipulation, distortion, and fear: the seedbeds of wrongful conviction. But his main argument is that, in reality, a good deal of what goes on in local police stations has little to do with eliciting evidence of a kind which would be crucial to securing a conviction. Rather, some of those who enter the station under arrest are kept there not as suspects but as 'detainees'--'a category unknown to the law'--for the purpose of social disciplining, for a short spell of summary punishment in the cells. Persons from the 'suspect class', in particular those who challenge in one way or another the authority of the police, are often detained and subjected to various humiliations in the police station so that the police can assert their power over them and teach . . .

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