Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

'Standing on the Inside Looking Out': The Significance of Police Unions in Networks of Police Governance

Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

'Standing on the Inside Looking Out': The Significance of Police Unions in Networks of Police Governance

Article excerpt

Scholars and practitioners now recognise the importance of 'governing through networks if policing agendas are to be promoted effectively and democratically. Central to such an agenda of networked governance is the identification or creation of community-based structures and processes that can be harnessed by, and linked to, other forms of governance in furtherance of security outcomes. However, notions of community have generally been limited to the 'communities' outside of police organisations. This article explores the idea of a police union as 'a community of interest'. We suggest that police unions are 'communities' that have the potential to impact significantly on the governance of security. As 'insider groupings' police unions are engaged in complex networks of police management, policy decision-makers and civil society groupings both at the national and international level. Given their organisational status, police unions have the potential to constitute themselves as active, forward-thinking social agencies within policing network arrangements. But, in order to do this they need to move beyond the demands of their conservative social base and their preoccupation with industrial issues and embrace the changing world of policing. In addition, they may need to network with a range of agencies beyond the security industry such as social justice groupings and the broad trade union movement.

In seeking to describe the 'pluralisation' of policing, the scholarly literature has focused on two key lines of inquiry. First, there have been attempts to develop new explanations for the changing character of governance, stressing its 'networked' (Castells, 1996; Dupont, 2004; Rhodes, 1997) or 'nodal' character (Johnston & Shearing, 2003; Shearing, 2001). Scholars have written about the diversification of institutions involved in crime control and other policing activities (Bayley & Shearing, 1996; Bayley & Shearing, 2001; Grabosky 2001; Johnston, 1996; Johnston, 2000), the privatisation of policing and the 'responsibilisation' of non-police actors (O'Malley & Palmer, 1996). In the field of policing, order and security is now pursued by private security agencies, citizen groupings and the public police--all attempting to maximise security and minimise risk (Johnston, 2000).

A second line of inquiry concerns the normative implications of networked policing arrangements for the future of democracy. While some argue that democracy can be deepened through de-centred forms of governance (Burris, 2005; Johnston & Shearing, 2003; Shearing & Wood, 2003), others suggest that state institutions should retain their monopoly in areas like policing, where 'public' good considerations must prevail over 'private' interests and objectives (Loader & Walker, 2001; Loader & Walker, 2005; Marks & Goldsmith, 2006).

Despite this growing body of work there are significant theoretical and empirical gaps regarding what we know about the complex features of institutions and groups that participate in the organisation, delivery and regulation of policing and security. One significant gap pertains to the different sets of interests that shape the activities of particular networks. For example, the literature on 'nodal governance' suggests that contemporary forms of governance are often driven by sets of interests that are neither purely public nor private in nature, but rather exist somewhere along a continuum of 'common' interests (Shearing & Wood, 2003). Evidence of this can be found in forms of corporate governance, ranging from university campuses to shopping malls, all of which authorise security practices in accordance with sets of interests that are partially public and partially private. However, this empirical emphasis on 'communal' governance outside of the government sector has failed to acknowledge communities of interest that operate within public sector institutions like the public police--that is, those that are (as our title suggests) 'standing on the inside looking out'. …

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