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Skinns, L.; Rice, L.; Sprawson, A.; Wooff, A. (2017)
Publisher: Emerald
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: Information Society, 364 Criminology, K Law, Social justice, Legitimacy, coercion, power, uncertainty,
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine how police authority – in its “soft” form – is used and\ud understood by staff and detainees in police custody in England, examining how these meanings are shaped\ud by this unique police setting. It is argued that the nature of this setting, as fraught and uncertain, along with\ud the large volume of citizens who come into contact with the police therein, makes police custody the ultimate\ud “teachable moment”.\ud Design/methodology/approach – The present paper is based on in-depth qualitative data collected\ud between March 2014 and May 2015 in four custody suites (in four forces). In each site, the researchers spent\ud three to four weeks observing and then interviewed 10-15 staff (largely police officers, detention officers but\ud also a few other criminal justice practitioners) and 10-15 detainees. In total, the paper is based on 532 hours of\ud observing and 97 interviews (47 with staff and 50 with detainees).\ud Findings – One way that the staff used their authority in the custody suites in the research was softly and\ud innocuously; this entailed for example staff communicating in a respectful manner with detainees, such as by\ud being deliberately polite. The authors conclude that this “soft” power was a dynamic, processual matter,\ud shaped in particular by the physical conditions of the suite, the uncertain and insecure nature of detainees’\ud circumstances, as well as by the sense of disempowerment they felt as a result of being deprived of their\ud liberty and autonomy, all of which contributed to police custody being the ultimate “teachable moment”.\ud Originality/value – The paper draws on a range of qualitative data collected from both staff and detainees\ud in four types of police custody suites as part the “good” police custody study. It therefore makes an original\ud contribution to the field which has tended to rely on cross-sectional surveys of citizens not policed populations\ud (Harkin, 2015; Worden and Mclean, 2017).
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