The policing task and the expansion (and contraction) of British policing

Millie, Andrew (2013). The policing task and the expansion (and contraction) of British policing. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 13(2) pp. 143–160.



Over the past four decades the police service strength in England and Wales grew by nearly a third. This was at a time when the population grew by just 10 per cent. This sustained period of growth came to an end with the 2010 spending review which called for a 20 per cent cut in government funding of the police. In this paper the expansion of the state police is examined, expansion that is all the more remarkable coming at a time of increased competition and – from the mid-1990s onwards – falling levels of recorded crime. But not only did the number of police officers increase, so too their roles and responsibilities, reflective of Simon’s (2007) governing through crime meta-narrative and symptomatic of the criminalization of social policy – or more specifically the ‘policification’ (cf. Kemshall and Maguire, 2001). In this context it is argued that enforced contraction could be a positive opportunity to reappraise what the state police ought to be doing. The policing task is conceptualized as being either wide policing or narrow policing. Examples are given where narrowing may be both possible and beneficial. It is acknowledged that other agencies are facing similar cuts and may not be able pick up tasks left by the police. However, it is argued there are tangible benefits of having a state police that is more focused.

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