Ian Shannon - A Veneer of Vulnerability: chief police officers’ legitimating tales

This seminar draws on analysis and interpretation of semi-structured qualitative interviews with chief police officers in England and Wales and outlines planned further research.

The original research explored how these officers understand the right of police to exercise power. The participants all invoked duties to protect the public (particularly the most vulnerable), policing by consent and explanations based in law and associated checks and balances.

This session addresses the tales that relied on a supposed duty to protect the most vulnerable in society. It is argued that these stories can be construed as a convenient legitimating clothes rack. These narratives enable chief officers, and potentially police and crime commissioners and the Home Office, to dress up their choices, including decisions about how power is used; with the intention of making these preferred priorities acceptable and legitimate to many people.

These accounts are undermined by a failure to clearly conceptualise what vulnerability means and to think through what the implications of acting on this discourse are for the use of police power and for legitimacy.

An unintended consequence of this change in policing priorities and justification of the right to exercise power may be withdrawals of consent and a loss of legitimacy.

The additional research will test and build on the findings that were set out in the researcher’s PhD thesis.

This is part of the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies Work-in-Progress Seminars (WiPS).

All welcome to attend. Lunch will be provided.

This is a free event, though registration is required via Eventbrite.