Convenient constructs: How chief police officers in England and Wales understand the right to exercise power.

Dr Shannon’s ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship builds on his PhD research that used semi-structured interviews to gather data to answer the question 'How do chief police officers in England and Wales understand the right of police to exercise power?'

The chief officers interviewed during Dr Shannon’s PhD invoked duties to protect the public (particularly the most vulnerable), policing by consent and explanations based in law and associated checks and balances. However, the research found that these accounts are confused, conflicted and, above all, convenient in helping chief police officers assert a privileged position when making decisions about the use of power.

The research found that chief officers' claims that law and associated checks and balances are important in ensuring police power is used properly sat uncomfortably with their distaste for the process of scrutiny and they felt precarious. If police chiefs lack the confidence to resist demands for the disproportionate use of police power against those who tend to be policed more than protected, this has implications for the civil liberties of citizens. It also indicates an unhealthy relationship between police chiefs and those overseeing them, with conflict rather than constructive conversations being common.

The Fellowship will be used to disseminate the findings of the PhD thesis in academic and practitioner-facing publications in addition to a range of targeted conference and networking opportunities, drawing on his extensive experience and existing networks as a former Deputy Police Chief. The Fellowship will allow Dr Shannon to engage with police leaders and those responsible for police governance, as well as to further explore the growing role of vulnerability in shaping policing policy and practice with senior leaders in the National Crime Agency, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), the College of Policing and selected forces.

The Fellowship is mentored by Professor Adam Crawford and Professor Stuart Lister.

Project website