3: Don’t police solve crime?

Author:

Chapter 2 provided an historical setting to contemporary policing. How do police see their role today? Police define themselves primarily by their functions, including preventing, detecting, and investigating criminal activities, enforcing the law, maintaining public order, and ensuring community safety. We need to be sceptical of the ability of police to solve crime – rates of reporting crime to police are low and the ability of police to solve crime is limited. A distrust of police and the criminal legal system, an unwillingness to cooperate with the police, and various forms of racism and discrimination by police impact on whether people will report and whether they will be believed. Through the use of discretion, police reproduce the social boundaries of who is problematic and who is not. It is a power utilised at an organisational and individual level that is one of the core attributes of policing. It enables police power to be exercised in a targeted and economical way – it is the filter device of criminalisation. Two examples are drawn on is this chapter: the policing of children and young people, and the policing of violence against people from LGBTQI+ communities. Discretion and the policing of young people highlights the discriminatory nature of many police interventions, and in particular how racialisation becomes embedded in police practice – pushing racialised young people into the furthest reaches of the juvenile legal system. Police discretion also impacts on murder investigations. The research into police responses to the killings of people within the LGBTQI+ community strongly suggests a situation where negative perceptions of victim status reproduce heteronormative assumptions and normalise violence.

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