'Lurking' and 'loitering': Historic Approaches to Policing Suspicious Behaviour in Britain and their Contemporary Resonances

Dr Bland’s research examines the history of policing, specifically the policing of suspicious persons, and its implications for police practices and their impact on minority communities today. This Fellowship will be used to further examine and disseminate Dr Bland’s findings on the contemporary resonances of historical policing practices, with the view to furthering her interdisciplinary historical social science career.

Dr Bland’s research reveals the impact of policing practices on patterns of arrest and prosecution in London between 1780 and 1850. Scholars have long recognised that the received historical record of crime is a reflection of prosecutions, rather than of criminal activity itself, which is very difficult to quantify in the past. However, Dr Bland’s research reshapes our understanding to show that it is also partially a record of policing, advancing the idea of 'proactive policing': the occasions on which policing agents exercised discretion to arrest defendants on suspicion that they had recently, or were about to, commit an offence.

This Fellowship will enable Dr Bland to explore in greater detail the implications of he PhD findings for present-day policing. In particular, there are parallels between historical policing practices and present day police stop and search powers. While the characteristics of those targeted and stereotyped by police have evolved over time, there are clear continuities in the implications of these practices for the policed society.

The Fellowship will engage police practitioners about issues of police profiling and criminal stereotyping as well as profile raising and networking activities. The Fellowship will be supervised by Dr David Churchill and Dr Henry Yeomans. It builds on Dr Bland’s PhD research, which was supported by the AHRC-funded Digital Panopticon Project.

Project website