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Interpreting Policework: Policy and Practice in Forms of Beat Policing

NCJ Number
R Grimshaw; T Jefferson
Date Published
322 pages
There exists wide and often acrimonious disagreement over the purposes and objectives of police organizations, how these activities are structured, and their relations with the wider society.
This text provides an analysis of central theoretical and political thought in police sociology and relates it to present practice and political debate. An examination of descriptive and ethnographic materials based on 1978-1980 observations of a large metropolitan English police force using a unit and a resident beat system shows that the bipolar nature of police policies could not be explained by machine, subculture, environmental, or class functionalist conceptualizations of organized police work. Thus, the notion of policy as a universal, homogeneous entity (instructions, guidelines, or principles to inform practice) cannot withstand critical scrutiny. Rather, results support a conception of a policy embracing two distinct forms (administrative and operational), each possessing a distinctive discourse (rational-scientific versus common sense), and producing distinctive kinds of practical outcome. A structural analysis reveals that unit work is determined by a variety of legal demands from a variety of fora, all of which ultimately depend on the discretion afforded the police constable. Index and approximately 190 references.