When Police Racism is Denied, Does it Go Away?

The Macpherson Report remains a touchstone in and a flashpoint for debates on institutional racism within the London Metropolitan Police. Twenty years after its publication, how well does the capital’s police force fare today in the face of accusations and denials of racism? This article casts a critical look at the evidence to expose how institutional racism within the “Met” remains an uncomfortable reality that cannot be denied without denying the facts, ignoring the truth, or remaining willfully blind to it.

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Dr. Lambros Fatsis is currently Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology at the University of Southampton and the winner of the British Society of Criminology’s ‘Blogger of the Year Award’. In September 2019, he will join the University of Brighton as a Lecturer in Criminology.

 

Amid a plethora of Home Affairs Committees, events, debates, and impassioned commentaries that interrogate the legacy of the Macpherson report and muse on the current state of the London Metropolitan Police, as far as institutional racism is concerned, recent statements by the Met Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, do much to spark further interest in and controversies around the issue. During a Home Affairs Committee session on the Met’s progress in implementing the recommendations of the Macpherson Report, including steps taken to address that report’s findings on institutional racism in the police, Cressida Dick reportedly said that the Metropolitan Police is no longer ‘institutionally racist’ and stressed that the label itself is ‘toxic’ and ‘unhelpful’. Insisting that the force has been ‘utterly transformed’ since Macpherson’s time, the Met Police chief added that: ‘The label now does more harm than good, it is something that is immediately interpreted by anyone who hears it as not institutional but racist – full of racists full stop, which we are not. It is a label that puts people off from engaging with the police. It stops people wanting to give us intelligence, evidence, come and join us, work with us’.

The Met Police Commissioner, therefore, seems confident that: (a) institutional racism in today’s Met is a thing of the past, (b) that it harms the reputation of the force, and that (c) when the term is used we hear the word “racist” louder than the word “institutional”; thereby thinking that the police is populated by racists. She then reassuringly claims that not only is the Met not ‘full of racists’ but that this misperception damages the relationship between the public and the police and undermines citizens’ confidence and trust in the force, while also discouraging potential recruits to join. As a result, institutional racism is suddenly pronounced dead, the definition and meaning of the term becomes misunderstood, and we are left to consider the reputational damage of institutional racism on the Met, instead of worrying about its impact on those who suffer from its consequences. On all three counts, this is a deeply unsettling statement which denies the facts, distorts what words mean, and prioritises the public image of a civil force of the state over its accountability to the public that it ostensibly serves and protects.

Starting with the premature obituary of institutional racism within the Met, it should be read against the latest evidence which clearly points to its existence today. Relevant research findings unambiguously demonstrate racial disparities and disproportionality in the use of stop-and-search, the Gangs Matrix, or the policing tactics used to tackle knife crime and clamp down Black music genres like grime and drill. Last year alone, an influential report for Stopwatch and Release by LSE academic Michael Shiner and his colleagues did much to demonstrate the discriminatory effects of stop and search, echoing earlier evidence from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a Criminal Justice Alliance briefing, and other oft-quoted academic research (here, here, and here). The Met’s gang database (the Gangs Matrix) fares just as badly with two damming reports by Amnesty International and Stopwatch exposing its racist logic, as did the Information Commissioner’s Office which noted ‘the potential to cause damage and distress to the disproportionate number of young, black men on the Matrix’. Buttressing claims of the effectiveness of stop-and-search as a vital tool for fighting knife crime, a report by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies condemned the overall approach as ineffective, unjust and damaging to the people that it (cl)aims to protect, as did the Youth Violence Commission which advocates for a public health alternative. As for the policing of UK grime and drill music, my own research demonstrates how the discriminatory policing of both genres serves as a unique case study of institutional racism within the Met today.

Were this not enough, on her visit to the UK last year the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, appeared ‘shocked by the criminalisation of young people from ethnic minorities, especially young black men. They are over-represented in police stop and searches, more likely to face prosecution under the country’s joint enterprise provisions, and are over-represented in the prison system’. None of this is secret knowledge and even a cursory glance at the government’s Race Disparity Unit ‘ethnicity facts and figures’ on stop-and-search and arrests would suffice to convince anyone of the discriminatory treatment of Black people by the police and other UK criminal justice system institutions.

Factual evidence aside, the Met Police Commissioner’s comments are also striking for the way they misrepresent what institutional racism actually means. In Macpherson’s famous formulation, institutional racism ‘consists of the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people’. The institutional origins of racist behaviour and discriminatory outcomes are not separated in Macpherson’s definition, as they are in Cressida Dick’s interpretation of the term. Yet, she argues that people somehow mentally uncouple the two when the term is used, while also claiming that the term implies that the Met is ‘full of racists’ instead of pointing to a collective failure of an organisation whose processes and attitudes are to blame. The difference between Macpherson and Cressida Dick is that the former points to racism as a feature of the institutional structure and collective mentality of the Met, whereas the latter misunderstands racism as individual prejudice alone. In so doing, a structural characteristic of an entire organisation is denied, and attributed instead to a few individuals who independently act out their own prejudicial attitudes as individuals. Individual officers therefore appear unaffected by their socialisation into an institutionally racist mindset, nor do they act as a team in line with that institution’s logic and unwritten rules. Since racism, according to the Met Commissioner, is an individual trait it has nothing to do with the institutional make-up of the organisation, and since it does not characterise the entire force it cannot exist. The term institutional racism, however, refers to racist attitudes that are built into organisations by design, with the assumption being that individuals take on the prejudices of an organisation and do not act independently of it, especially when they work in groups.

What makes all the above so difficult to stomach is not a logical fallacy, which mistakes something structural and systemic for something individual or (co)incidental, but a dangerous argument which shows little regard for the casualties of such structural arrangements. To perceive institutional, structural, systemic racism merely as a ‘toxic label’ is to deny how toxic the reality of it is for the people and communities that are disproportionately affected by it. Worse still, it reveals a denialist logic which refuses to admit the existence of institutional racism, thereby discounting the relevant evidence. Such a stubborn stance contradicts the Met’s self-understanding as a professional police force which acts on the basis of evidence in order to oversee public safety. On the contrary, such statements give the impression that the Met chooses to defend itself instead of protecting the public to whom it is accountable, and that it chooses to tackle crime by strangling the facts that should guide its mission, its ethos, and its conduct.

Pretending that institutional racism is a thing of the past, is to fail to see how and why it is present today. Yet, the Met chief seems either unable to see all this or willfully blind to it all. If it is the former, she could be dismissed as inadequate. If it is the latter, she might be suspected of being dangerous. Either way, she seems disconcertingly vulnerable to the siren call of hawkish policing and deaf to the evidence that renders it illegitimate. Her pledge to ‘relentlessly’ pursue gangs through increased stop and search doesn’t simply clash with evidence that this police power is ineffective, discriminatory and unjust, but also jars with the lack of concrete evidence to link knife crime and gang membership. Such a stance does chime well, however, with the government’s recent promise to increase stop and search powers and relax rules of conduct to make criminals ‘literally feel terror’. Similarly, the Met chief’s refusal to acknowledge institutional racism as a reality within the force that she leads, eerily echoes statements by the new head of No. 10’s Policy Unit, who famously dismissed institutional racism as a ‘myth’ and decried the establishment of the Race Disparity Audit as serving a ‘phoney race war’ that is ‘dangerous and divisive’.

Twenty years after Macpherson diagnosed the Met with institutional racism steadfast refusals to see it, point to a reluctance to see what is evident through facts. We should, therefore, be reminded that when ‘racism is how the world is seen’, as Sara Ahmed brilliantly put it, ‘it remains possible for racism not to be seen’.

This article gives the views of the author, not the position of the institution he works for.

 

Contact

Lambros Fatsis, University of Southampton

Twitter: @lfatsis

Copyright free image courtesy of Pexels

 

 

 

Academic Integrity and making a difference

The Police Education Framework and academic delivery

EmmaWilliams

 

Emma Williams is the Director of the Centre for Police Research at CCCU. Her interests are police professionalism, rape investigation, gender and policing and police legitimacy. Previously Emma worked as a principle researcher in the Metropolitan Police Service.

 

 

The Police Education Qualification Framework (PEQF) has fundamentally changed the approach to police recruitment and the conversation about how new officers embark on a ‘professional’ career. Three entry routes dictate that ALL joiners must now have a degree (a College of Policing approved degree no less); or they will undertake a conversion programme through the higher education diploma in policing (DHEP); or the police constable degree apprenticeship (PCDA) which ultimately gives them a degree at the end of three-year probationary period.

I use the term conversation above in the context of the recruitment issues. However, there have been an abundance of conversations about this huge change to policing which have been difficult, controversial, challenging and personal. There have been disputes between police and academics, academics and academics, police and police and policy makers and all of us. Whatever the longer term outcome of this reform, there continues to be a binary conversation about what should and should not be considered as credible and useful knowledge in the practical policing world.

In academia what counts as ‘credible’ knowledge and research in the police service has been debated extensively (Chan, 2003; Charman, 2017; Fleming and Wingrove, 2017; Williams and Cockcroft, 2019). Indeed, the drive to professionalise the police through academic qualifications is certainly not new. Some universities have been delivering police education for many years both within the UK and internationally. However, this is the first time that an organisation overseeing a wider professionalisation agenda in policing has provided a platform to formalise this, standardise it and roll it out nationally for all officers.

There are so many issues that feature within the debates about this decision. They range from the curriculum content being too prescriptive and not academically independent, academic work not being practically relevant, too many cops being involved in programmes and therefore the PEQF being a recreation of police training, de-professionalising serving cops through this process, not encouraging diversity and limiting accessibility to the service: these are just a few of them. This article covers some of my own concerns about a number of these issues.

Essentially the aim of both education and research, in a policing context, is about enhancing reflective practice and informing decision making. It is not about replacing the learnt, tacit knowledge held by officers, it is about incorporating something different to better understand wider context and the complex environment within which they operate. Unfortunately, many have conflated the PEQF with the evidence based policing mantra and the notion of introducing a pure scientific and prescriptive approach to encourage compliance in police officers. The top down curriculum requirements that universities have to sign up to in order to gain COP approval doesn’t help this perception and therefore universities involved in this new era of police education need to ensure that there is integrity in the delivery of the programmes and reflection of where academic theory meets police practice.

Central to all our research and teaching at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) is the practitioner. We use their experiences to enhance and develop what needs to be a flexible curriculum that meets the fast changing nature of the policing world. Yes, part of the curriculum will be focused on imparting knowledge of ‘what works’, originally seen in the application of new public management to policing in the 1980s. However, universities have a responsibility to additionally impart to police students the invaluable work of police sociologists such as Punch, Holdaway, Heidensohn, Muir and Bittner whose insights remain imperative to the constitution of police knowledge and understanding. The topics of their work remain prominent in policing today: Discretion, mental health, community policing, race and gender. Indeed, as Jock Young (2004) argued, the role of criminological research as an administrative method to consider ‘what works’ in crime prevention and reduction reinvented and narrowed the discourse of criminology. We have an obligation to make sure the same thing does not happen in teaching and researching policing studies.

Myself, Jennifer Norman and Mike Rowe (2019) recently wrote an article addressing these issues and one concern we raised was that the PEQF has been perceived by many as a method of de-professionalising the personal identity of police officers by teaching a curriculum that is about compliance, risk aversion and prohibiting innovation. There are police officers who firmly believe that the PEQF is trying to drive a future of cloned police officers who will all leave university with exactly the same blueprint of police knowledge ready to deliver a certain ‘type’ of policing when they enter the working sphere. It is vital that higher education institutions offering the PCDA, DHEP and preservice degree maintain some independence in the design of their courses. It is the WAY they are delivered that is key. It is our role as academics to give officers the tools to think critically, problem solve and be reflective – it is not to give them information about what they should do and when, or, as some commentators believe, turn them into managers by Mcdonaldising police knowledge (Heslop, 2011).

As Brown et al (2018) argue policing is a social institution that deals with both developing legitimacy and public trust and with processes such as deployment, operational practice and workforce planning. The latter and its association with accountability, targets and rational process is just one part of what officers do. Innes (2010) described police research as either being focused on the ‘motors’ that drive change and reform or on the ‘mirrors’ which deepen contextual understanding of ‘real’ police work through reflection. Those who perceive the PEQF as offering only a tightly defined curriculum with the research components being focused on efficiency and understanding ‘what works’ argue that the importance of richer ‘mirror’ research is diluted down. Arguably, it is this contextual knowledge that will aid officer reflections when they make decisions about their behaviour and actions: this is what is ethical and moral here for police legitimacy.

I am not suggesting that these concerns will play out in the delivery of all programmes nor am I suggesting that it is simply the content of the programmes that need debating in this conversation. Indeed, our own research at CCCU with our police students found many organisational factors that inhibit officers even being able to apply their new knowledge in practice (Williams et al, 2019). However, the fact that these structural issues are reported to relate to factors such as hierarchy, risk aversion, performance measures and prescriptive tool kits does leave me asking: Is the critique of the curriculum actually right and does it actually reinforce or justify current police processes? Our respondents saw these organisational factors as obstructing discretion and limiting the use of the reflective methods we encourage in our classrooms. If we as academics delivering these programmes want to change this, we need to be creative in the way we deliver the content, and diverse in the approach we take to covering notions of ‘good’ police research. Indeed, we need to not recreate the status quo but influence officers’ ability to challenge it, be different and furthermore, work with organisations to develop environments where they staff feel safe to do so.

Finally, and I guess this is the most controversial part for us all, is my hope that universities don’t become driven by the commoditisation of police knowledge. We need to ensure universities do not deliver prescriptive courses which do not make translatable the important theoretical criminological and sociological perspectives that are so critical to understanding police business today. This also relates to how the PEQF may impact on current officers’ sense of professionalism and the value placed on their own experience. Reinforcing the application of top down processes within the police organisation through top down learning and tightly defined notions of knowledge may constrain the use of new ideas and personal expertise. We must not deliver ‘off the shelf’ teaching which restricts understanding and the application of the type of situated knowledge that is so pertinent in the police environment. We do need to capitalise on the ‘diffused and seminal intelligence of the rank and file’ (Sklansky, 2008:11), allow for their reflections and the wider use of various forms of academic knowledge.

I very strongly support the drive to encourage further collaborations between the worlds of academia and policing but I hope we can remain objective and independent. That is our role. Universities are about learning, thinking differently and testing new ideas. They are not about delivering teaching methods that promote a equals b – in fact we should be problematising those notions. If we really want to recognise and support the role of the professional here we need impart rich knowledge that allows them to apply their own professional knowledge to a wide range of situations alongside the reflection of academic learning.

The PEQF has a real opportunity to instil new knowledge in the police organisation. Qualifications are not in place to deliver an army of ‘narrow minded experts or scientific freaks’ (Jaschke and Neidhart, 2007: 306). If the content is not delivered ethically and in diverse ways, it might be that the PEQF becomes viewed as yet another prescriptive tool to govern officers’ behaviour and confirm the status quo.

 

Brown, J., Belur, J., Tompson, L., McDowall, A., Hunter, G., and May, T. (2018). Extending the remit of evidence-based policing. International Journal of Police Science & Management Volume 20 (1), 38-51.

Chan, J. (2003) Fair Cop: Learning the Art of Policing. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Charman, S. (2017) Police Socialisation Identity and Culture: Becoming Blue London: Palrgrave

Fleming, J. and Wingrove, J (2017) ‘We Would If We Could … but Not Sure If We Can’: Implementing Evidence-Based Practice: The Evidence-Based Practice Agenda in the UK.  Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, Vol 11 (2): 202–213.  https://doi.org/10.1093/police/pax006

Heslop, R., (2011). The British police service: professionalization or ‘McDonaldization’? International Journal of Police Science & Management, 13 (4), 312–321.

Innes, M. (2010) A ‘Mirror’ and a ‘Motor’: Researching and Reforming Policing in an Age of Austerity, Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, Vol 4 (2): 127–134, https://doi.org/10.1093/police/pap058

Jaschke, H.G. & Neidharte, K. (2009). A Modern Police Science as an Integrated Academic Discipline: A Contribution to the Debate on its Fundamentals. Policing & Society, 17 (4), 303-320.

 

Contact

Dr Emma Williams, Canterbury Christ Church University

Email: emma.williams@canterbury,ac,uk

Twitter: @emwilliamscccu

Website: https://cccupolicingandcj.wordpress.com

 

Images: courtesy of the author and Unsplash

A Green Criminological Take on the BSC in Lincoln

The BSC Annual Conference 2019 in Lincoln from a PGR perspective.

EGladkova

Ekaterina Gladkova holds a BSc in International Relations and an MSc in International Development. She is currently conducting PhD research that focuses on the links between farming intensification and environmental (in)justice and has its roots in green criminology.

 

 

My first BSC Annual Conference ‘Public Criminologies: Communities, Conflict and Justice’ held at the University of Lincoln in 2019 was an intellectually invigorating and socially exciting event. Over 200 papers were presented, illuminating different aspects of the current criminological research and engaging with the pressing social and environmental issues. The latter was particularly significant to me because it resonated with my personal academic interest in green criminology and provided an opportunity to catch up with the research of others working in the same field. Great sessions that intersected environmental problems with the criminological discipline, such as Capitalism and Environmental Harm; Deviance and Social Control in an Age of Ecological Disorganization, were held. Two roundtables – Green Criminology and The Intersection of Indigenous, Cultural, Southern and Green Criminologies – gave an opportunity to debate about harms and crimes against the environment and discuss prevention strategies both within and beyond Western knowledge structures.  Moreover, a plenary on Climate Change and Criminology from Professor Rob White continued breaking criminological silence on one of the defining issues of our time – global warming – and discussed how criminology can both address the issues around climate change denial as well as engage with climate change mitigation and adaptation. Yet, one of the highlights of the green criminological strand of the BSC 2019 was the launch of Green Criminology Research Network during the roundtable titled Green Criminology: The Past, Present and Future. The roundtable discussed the origins of green criminology, synthesised its current developments, and outlined some directions for the future of this area.

I also had an opportunity to present my paper during the PGR segment of the conference, illuminating one particular aspect of my research. An underlying theme of my research is food production, as I aim to advance the criminological understanding of both isolated deviancy and systemic harm featuring in the fabric of modern food systems. The research adopts a socio-legal approach, scrutinising a particular routine practice that underlies the modern-day meat production: industrial farming. While this large-scale, high input / high output, technology-based practice results in environmental and social grievances (Passas, 2005) as well as severe harm to animals (Wyatt, 2014), it nevertheless is the chosen mode of meat production globally. It, therefore, can be seen as an ‘ordinary harm’ (Agnew, 2013) that contributes to environmental destruction and undermines social cohesion.

Some countries jump on the bandwagon of industrial farming as they decide to re-structure the way they farm and Northern Ireland is one of them. A sharp increase in the number of industrial pig and poultry farms was reported in 2017 (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 2017). Industrial, or intensive, farms refer to the farms that house at least 40,000 poultry birds or 2,000 pigs grown for meat or 750 breeding pigs. The number of such farms in Northern Ireland went up by 68% from 154 in 2011 to 259 in 2017 (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 2017). In addition to the global dynamic in farm intensification, an industry-led Going for Growth (GfG) strategy adopted by the Northern Irish government in 2013 also provided an impetus to intensify meat production. My research takes the case study of pig farming intensification to analyse this alarming trend.

Farming intensification threatens an already fragile natural environment in Northern Ireland and also has detrimental consequences for human health and wellbeing. The paper I presented at the BSC 2019 used an environmental justice perspective to analyse farming intensification through the lens of a community affected by this phenomenon. It discussed environmental harms and risks from the existing farms in the area that the community is currently exposed to and suggested that these harms are likely to be exacerbated as pig farming intensification gathers pace. I also looked at the opportunities for the local residents to engage in environmental decision-making around intensive farm projects. The latter appear to be limited and I concluded that farming intensification in Northern Ireland is marked by recognitional and procedural environmental injustice.

The BSC Annual Conference was a perfect opportunity to present this work as it resonated with the main theme of the conference – Communities, Conflict and Justice – and showed how an ‘ordinary harm’ of farming intensification can produce a local conflict that reveals the flaws in environmental decision-making procedures.

Overall, my first BSC Annual Conference experience was very positive and I am looking forward to the next year’s conference!

Contact

Ekaterina Gladkova, PhD researcher at Northumbria University in Newcastle,

e.gladkova@northumbria.ac.uk

@EkatGladkova

Images: courtesy of the author and CopyrightFreePhotos

Attending my first ever Academic Conference

An account of my experience, as a first year PhD student, at the British Society of Criminology Conference 2019.

CHerriott2019

 

Charlotte Herriott is a first year PhD researcher at Anglia Ruskin University, researching the impact of sexual history evidence upon mock jury deliberations in rape trials in England and Wales.

 

From the first few weeks of enrolling on my PhD, there seemed to be some sort of buzz about academic conference season. My supervisor, the doctoral school and peers alike all spoke of attending academic conferences throughout their academic careers: to present work, hear about other research being undertaken in the field, and to network with other academics.

To me – being shy, kind of awkward and having the most atrocious memory when it comes to anything academic that I have read – academic conferences sounded scary, intimidating and dare I say, a bit boring. I was definitely anxious about the prospect of having to engage in deep, academic discussion and seeming like I didn’t belong in the academic world, and I really didn’t want to stand up in front of a room full of people and get grilled on my research decisions. So academic conferences were something I tried to put to the back of my mind as these were ‘ages away,’ right?

Wrong! I know everyone says it, but three years really isn’t that long to get a PhD done! All of a sudden I appear to be approaching the end of my first year as a PhD student – whilst still sometimes feeling just as lost and confused as I did back in September – and safe to say, it’s flown by.

Anyway, conference season well and truly approached me.

My supervisor recommended that I submit an abstract for the British Society of Criminology conference. So, trying to impress, but secretly hoping that I got rejected, I sent off my abstract and shortly received that bitter sweet email to tell me that my abstract had been accepted.

The next hurdle was funding. Unfortunately my department had no funding available for me to attend the BSC conference and being a student I didn’t exactly have the spare cash lying around to pay for this myself. Thankfully the BSC run a postgraduate bursary programme for students like myself who are struggling to gather the conference fee and I was lucky enough to receive this award meaning that I was funded to attend the whole conference.

Soon enough, the time came around for me to travel to Lincoln, full of trepidation, to attend my first ever academic conference. Turns out – I had nothing to worry about!

First of all, I was expecting masses of people and huge lecture theatres with presenters presenting to hundreds of people at a time. Yes the plenary sessions (keynotes) may have had around a hundred people – but the panel presentations were given in normal classrooms to up to about 25-30 people: much less intimidating!

Not only this, but the gruelling interrogation that I was expecting presenters to get from their clued-up academic audience, was also far from reality. In practice, the atmosphere throughout the conference was thoroughly supportive, friendly and constructive. Questions tended to be helpful and triggered useful and engaging discussion, not only for presenters but definitely for myself and others in the audience of these talks. The discussions had during and after presentations therefore gave me useful insights into different perspectives and enabled me to really reflect on my own research decisions.

Having never previously studied criminology myself (I did law at undergrad and sociology at masters) I was also slightly apprehensive that I would not understand a lot of the presentations or that these would not be applicable to me (researching sexual violence). Again, this was a complete misapprehension as there were so many different panel talks on at once and always something applicable to my field. These talks were consistently engrossing and worthwhile, making me consider and question my research decisions and ultimately helping me to produce a clearer plan of how I undertake my own research and what to examine in my literature review.

I presented my research poster at the postgraduate conference, which turned out to be extremely valuable and beneficial. Lots of people gathered round the various posters and were really engaged and positive about the research being presented. As I’m sure is the case for many PhD students and academics; once you start talking about your research, you can go on for hours! So it was really nice to be in this informal- but expert – environment and discuss my research decisions, background to my research and my own findings with others in the field. And much to my own shock, I managed to win the poster prize of a £75 SAGE voucher, which was an absolute bonus and a real boost for me to realise that others in the field commended my work.  I was previously told that a poster presentation is great Viva practice, as you have to explain your research and defend your decisions and conclusions – so it was great to have this kind of experience and receive constructive feedback on my work. Whilst it had been something I was anxious about, I actually really enjoyed it.

Finally – the social side and the dreaded ‘networking.’ This was probably the part of academic conferences that I was most nervous about, but in reality turned out to be the best part of my conference experience. I had been nervous that everyone would be involved in deep, intellectual discussion and that I wouldn’t know what to say or who to talk to. In practice, all those who I met at the conference were completely down to earth and easy to get along with. I met a great bunch of PhD students and made some amazing friends who I will definitely keep in touch with. We are constantly told about mental health during the PhD and the isolating experience of conducting PhD research, so to meet other people going through the process and having the same difficulties, worries and fears was absolutely invaluable. At times, we did chat about our research, feminist theory, and methodological choices etc. but this was always useful and interesting to gain other people’s insights: not scary, intimidating or over my head at all. Also at times, we just chatted about anything and everything and had a great laugh.

So what do I take away from my first academic conference?

  1. Some amazing friends and a brilliant ‘network’
  2. Conferences are definitely nothing to fear (and are actually so much fun)
  3. I have learnt not to be scared to present research at a conference – this experience is invaluable
  4. To attend the BSC Conference 2020!

 

Contact

Charlotte Herriott, Anglia Ruskin University

Website: https://sites.google.com/view/charlotteherriottresearcher

Twitter: @CHerriott6

Images: courtesy of the author

End Child Imprisonment!

How many more children must die, whilst in the alleged ‘care’ of the state, before the government abolish the inhumane incarceration of children?

Sharon Hartles photo

Sharon Hartles is a MA Postgraduate Crime and Justice student with the Open University.  She has an interest in crimes of the powerful, including state and state-corporate crime.  In an explicit attempt to move beyond criminology, she draws upon a zemiological approach to evidence the social, political and economic context in which crime is produced and interwoven into society via socio-economic inequalities.

As of the 27th June 2019, thirty five children (aged 17 or under) have died in penal custody in England and Wales since the 13th July 1990. This death rate equates to an average of one death every ten months. The social blindness and on the whole social acceptance/denial of this outdated and barbaric form of harm, by the vast majority, underpinned through the punitive desire to punish wrongdoers, must end. There has to be a better way, an alternative form of penance, which must be framed by an overarching consensus to reconcile and restore harm produced within, and by harmful societies.

On the 13th July 1990, Philip Knight became the youngest person to commit suicide in a prison in the United Kingdom. The prison where this tragedy took place was for adult, male prisoners aged 18 or over: Philip Knight was a 15 year old child. Alan Williams, Swansea West MP, (1964 – 2010) declared to the House of Commons, on the 26th July 1990, that Philip had been sent to a Swansea category B/C male prison because “nowhere else could be found for him”. About a week before Philip committed suicide by hanging himself, he had cut his wrists. As a 15 year old child it can be claimed, that Philip lacked the necessary life experiences on which to draw upon, which left him less able to manage suicidal and bleak thoughts, demonstrating why there is a clear need to abolish the imprisonment for children.

Following on from Philip Knight’s death, between 1990 and the 6th October 2002, 24 more children aged between 15 years and 17 years, suffered apparently self-inflicted deaths. With the exception of Chris Greenway, aged 16, who died in 1995 and whose death was categorised as murder/homicide, the victims include: David Dennis, aged 17 (died 30th May 2000), Philip Griffin, aged 17 (died 1st August 2000), Kevin Henson, aged 17 (died 6th September 2000), Anthony Redding, aged 16 (died 15th February 2001), Mark Dade, aged 16 (died 27th July 2001), Kevin Jacobs, aged 16 (died 29th September 2001), Joseph Scholes, aged 16 (died 24th March 2002) and Ian Powell, aged 17 (died 6th October 2002) to detail just eight out of twenty-three deaths.

On the 9th April 2004, Gareth Myatt, a 15 year of child died in prison custody, whilst in Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre near Rugby. Unlike the 24 out of 25 categorised self-inflicted deaths aforementioned, Gareth was the first child to die while being restrained in custody. Gareth was less than five feet tall and weighted six and a half stone (this being the average height and weight for a twelve year old boy). Gareth’s physical stature was clearly that of a young child. However, this did not stop three officers (David Beadnall, David Bailey and Diana Smith) restraining Gareth in the seated double embrace restraint position in an ordeal which lasted for six or seven minutes. During this time Gareth was told by David Beadnall ‘if you can talk then you can breathe’, and you are going to have to shit yourself. Gareth died as he was held down in the restraint position from positional asphyxia after choking on his own vomit. Yet, on the 28th June 2007 a jury ruled Gareth’s death to be accidental.

Four months after Gareth Myatt’s death, Adam Rickwood, died on the 8th August 2004, aged 14. To date, Adam is the youngest child to die in custody in England and Wales. His death categorised as self-inflicted. A further 8 children have died since August 2004 including: Gareth Price, aged 16 (died 20th January 2005), Sam Elphick, aged 17 (died 15th September 2005), Liam McManus, aged 15 (died 29th November 2007), Ryan Clark, aged 17 (died 18th April 2011), Jake Hardy, aged 17, (died 24th January 2012), Alex Kelly, aged 15, (died 25th January 2012), Daniel Adewole, aged 16 (died 4th July 2015) and Caden Steward, aged 16, (died 27th June 2019) to catalogue the latest in this series of deaths.

Thirty-five children aged between 14 to 17 years, all boys, have died in prisons over a 29-year period from 1990 to 2019. 31 out of these 35 deaths have been categorised as self-inflicted. This excludes Chris Greenway’s death which was categorised as homicide, Gareth Myatt’s death which was categorised as accidental, Daniel Adewole which was categorised as natural causes and Caden Steward’s which is not believed to be self-inflicted, yet it is not being treated as suspicious. 34 out of these 35 deaths have taken place in Secure Training Centres (STCs for children aged 12 to 17) or Young Offender Institutions (YOIs for children aged 15 to 17), with the exception of Philip Knight whose self-inflicted death took place in an adult male prison. It is ironic that the STCs and YOIs are establishments that the Ministry of Justice commissions from Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service claim to provide ‘specialist’ custodial places for children aged 12 to 17.

The rebranding and relabelling as ‘Secure Training Centres’ and ‘Youth Offender Institutions’ helps to maintain a smoke and mirrors mirage. These are nothing short of childrens prisons. Further labelisation via the categorisation of self-infliction of these children’s deaths does little but detract away from the trauma, harm and abuse that such institutions which incarcerate children like STCs and YOIs perpetuate. There is a huge body of evidence detailing systemic abuse and child maltreatment within STCs and YOIs, delivered at the hands of Serco and G4S custody officers:

The private sectors such as Serco and G4S have increasingly influential workings on the criminal process. Both assume the right to punish on behalf of the government and as such manage and deliver (in)justice services. Fundamentally, the child abuse which takes place in STCs and YOIs is state-supported and state-sanctioned.

This emergence of the marketisation and privatisation of the prison industrial complex has led to the favoured response of imprisoning children because it is a booming business and there is profit to be made in the ‘corrections’ industry. It appears to be the case that as long as operational obligations are met, profit from the operation of the incarceration of children together with the inhumane practices implemented are in the main hidden away from the public. Interestingly, up until July 2016, all of the Secure Training Centres were run by private companies. This helps to explain why even with all the evidence detailing why we should abolish imprisonment for children, record numbers of children in England and Wales continue to be incarcerated to sustain capitalist profit.

Even though the UK Government, in December 2016, admitted that prisons cannot be made fit for children, children continue to be detained in STCs and YOIs (children’s prisons) which are operating at maximum capacity. Although the government announced two and a half years ago that it would phase out child’s prisons, at a debate held in Parliament on the 25th June 2019 (two days before Caden Steward’s death) Edward Argar, the Minister of Justice refused to give a timetable for the closure of child prisons. To add fuel to the fire, Edward Argar stated “that youth secure estate “requires real reform” but that the system needs to retain custody as an option.” However, the notion of reformism in face of its successive failures is paradoxically non-reformist reform. No more reform of reform or ‘old wine in new bottles’.

200 years of reform have led us to a time where on the 8th August 2004, Steve Hodgson a so-called ‘care’ officer, ‘fearing’ he was about to be bitten, by Adam Rickwood, a 14 year old child, in plain speaking, gave a sharp blow to Adam’s nose with two fingers under the nostrils, inflicting a nose bleed, which bled for one hour. At the time Steve Hodgson, acted on ‘instinct’, whilst Adam was being lifted by four care officers to be placed in his room. Although the way he was carried and the use of a blow to his nose – a “distraction technique” – were “unlawful, there were no charges of assault brought against the care officers.

As Adam Rickwood expressed in his final words of desperation, left in his suicide note on the 8th August 2004 – “What right have they got to hit a child?” To their shame, the Ministry of Justice, backed by the Youth Justice Board, requested the continued use of painful restraint methods for non-compliance to be formalised as part of STC rules. The Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules came into force on the 6th July 2007, without parliamentary debate. These ‘rules’ widen the scope for restraint/force to be used against children all of which is permitted under the guise of ensuring “good order and discipline”. The Court of Appeal ruled that the use of painful restraints was an infringement of children’s fundamental human rights. In addition, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, declared that incarceration should be used as a last resort. Even with all that said, the rights of children in detention are still not enforced and the excessive use of restraint/pain-inducing techniques over de-escalation strategies are vehemently favoured as the first response.

The government is clearly failing to protect children, if this were not bad enough, it is actively facilitating the harm of children and blatantly disregarding children’s rights to be protected from violence. When the state, whose role it is to protect, is the perpetrator of harm, who can we turn to? How many more children must die? How many more lessons will be learnt? The time for lesson-learning has passed. The imprisonment of children must end. Now is the time to mobilise, take action and support the End Child Imprisonment campaign launched on the 22nd November 2018 by organisations including: Article 39, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, the Howard League for Penal Reform, INQUEST, Just for Kids Law and the National Association for Youth Justice.

Originally posted on:  sharonhartles.weebly.com

 

Contact

Sharon Hartles, MA Postgraduate Crime and Justice student with the Open University

Email: sh28739@ou.ac.uk

Twitter: @shartles1

Images: courtesy of the author

A lens on life inside the IRC

Female asylum seekers talk about their experiences of life inside UK Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs)

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Dr Maria De Angelis is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology, HEA Fellow, and Independent Researcher at Leeds Beckett University. Maria’s research on human trafficking and immigration detention foreground the relationship between criminal justice and social policy responses.

 

This blog is based on a recent article entitled Female Asylum Seekers: A Critical Attitude on UK Immigration Removal Centres’.

Although the UK’s immigration detention estate is one of the largest in Western Europe, what it’s like to be inside an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) remains a mystery to most. Included in this mix are detainees’ relatives, their support workers, local councillors, concerned citizens, and interested academics like myself. Bucking a steady trend of allowing charities and community groups in to befriend and run workshops (see Music in Detention and AVID, the association of visitors to immigration detainees), researcher access is almost wholly precluded (for exceptions see works by Alexandra Hall and Mary Bosworth). Against this preclusionary standpoint, female asylum seekers living in Leeds answered my call to share their experiences with me. Mobile cameras are defiantly fixed on a UK Border Agency site, as women provide this article’s micro-lens on life inside the IRC.

Simply put, this research is a show and tell project – to hear what women have to say about their detention experience and visualise key narratives through photography to maximize their impact.  Publicly available data on immigration detention tends to be quantitative (outlining trends and statistics) and available or not, on Home Office (HO) websites, through government-commissioned reviews , and in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) reports . Contrary to fears that ex-detainees might be nervous of talking detention with me, these women genuinely welcomed the academic interest, demanding to know why it had taken so long. Our semi-structured conversations lasted between two and three hours, with a drink and a bite mid-way to sustain us. The decision to close down the call after the fifteenth participant was based on narrative saturation and not insufficient interest. For this blog, I therefore want to set academic theories of Agamben and Foucault to one side (always a struggle for criminologists) and reflect on the in/exclusionary dynamic which runs through women’s narratives. By this, I mean their accountability (inclusion) under immigration laws and regulations and simultaneous denial of (exclusion from) entitlements and protections under citizenship.

Listening to women’s stories reminds us that these centres are intended to hold for removal persons without a legal entitlement to be in the UK (as indicated in their renaming from immigration detention to immigration removal centres under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, 2002). The fact they provide facilities like a gym, hair salon, shop, or computer room does not distract from the reality of being confined without a criminal charge.  As Trinity from Nigeria remarks, such facilities make for a ‘glorified’ prison environment but it’s still a prison. Women in search of sanctuary relay confinement in an IRC as punishment, with all its inherent pains and losses – family separation, social exclusion, fractured identities, controls and captivity. Importantly, such comparisons with prison and punishment enable women to raise a critical commentary on the ethicality and legitimacy of their immigration detention. As Kia from Uganda puts it:

There was one lady mixed in with us who was classed a foreign national, who killed her husband and her child and who had a history of fighting the guards. She said the toughest place they brought her was the IRC. (Laughs) How can this be right when it’s not a prison and we are not criminal?

But looking at centre routines and practices under the micro-lens of lived experience also raises the fragility of this imposed in/exclusion, firstly across a heterogeneous detainee population and, secondly, between citizen and non-citizen. Unlike ethnic and religious divisions observed in other studies (Bosworth and Kellezi), many describe the kindness of existing detainees towards them on arrival. Joli – a Christian from Namibia – recalls languishing in her room until a Kenyan detainee and professed Muslim showed her where to eat and how to use the computer room. Kia – an Anglican from Uganda – describes arriving with nothing bar the clothes she is arrested in, to be given a wrap by a Russian Orthodox Christian. Inside the walls of the IRC and across such a diverse social group, this kindness magnifies an administrative indifference for ethical care and social belonging (as felt in the removal of mobile phones with cameras and picture galleries; restrictions on free association; and the severance of emotional and community ties). In spite of these segregating measures, women’s affiliation in faith-related networks outside the IRC subverts feelings of non-belonging in wider society, since all faith groups (Mosque, Church, Synagogue) are tasked with prayerful and charitable obligations towards their members. As Kia from Uganda explains:

My local church was like a small community praying and campaigning for people like me. When I had a problem inside they rang round to get legal advice, and when I was to be released they arranged for me stay in the vicarage.

This said, Stonewall has flagged up an absence of faith-inclusive support inside and outside detention for LGBT persons – a shortcoming in need of greater research inquiry.​

In summary, the value of a micro lens on the IRC is the critical commentary on aspects of legitimacy, social exclusion, and ethical care raised through this medium. This, in turn, queries the necessity, efficacy, and defensibility of placing people seeking asylum inside these institutions. Until the Home Office and custodial companies relax their entry restrictions on researchers, it is left to remarkable women like these to make their own plight known and raise a critical challenge of continued asylum governance along present lines.

Contact

Maria De Angelis, Leeds Beckett University

Email:  m.de-angelis@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

Images: courtesy of the author (https://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/staff/dr-maria-de-angelis/) and Jeremy Abrahams (https://www.jeremyabrahams.co.uk). This is part of an ongoing visualisation of asylum lives in and beyond immigration detention.

Deviance in football: An organised fraud and regulatory bias?

A criminological analysis of UEFA’s regulatory response to an alleged contravention of Financial Fair Play by Manchester City FC

PDuncanPete Duncan is a current MRes Criminology student at The University of Manchester. He has widespread criminological interests, including political economy, drug policy, drug markets, deviance in sport, residential burglary and research methods.

 

In 2011, UEFA – the governing body of European football – introduced Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations to reduce unsustainable investment in football clubs by billionaire owners. Clubs were only allowed to spend money that was earned through footballing endeavours. It is alleged that Manchester City Football Club (MCFC) contravened FFP regulations at least twice. This post will use criminological theory to analyse these alleged acts of deviance and UEFA’s regulatory response.

In a recent article, investigatory newspaper Der Spiegel published documents from Football Leaks to provide insight into the methods MCFC are purported to have used to bypass FFP regulations. It is alleged that MCFC’s owners – Abu Dhabi United Group Investment and Development Limited (ADUG) – injected funds into MCFC via hidden payments processed through the accounts of their sponsors, thereby making extra funds available for expenditure whilst appearing to abide by FFP regulations. Figure 1 depicts how this agreement differs from the usual club-sponsor relationship.

Diagram_Duncan

Figure 1: Disparity between usual club-sponsor relations and those allegedly manipulated by ADUG

The Action Fraud website defines fraud as ‘when trickery is used to gain a dishonest advantage, which is often financial’. If the allegations are true, it seems clear ADUG utilised trickery to increase the funds available for expenditure by their subsidiary MCFC. As expenditure is positively associated with footballing success (see page 112 of this UEFA benchmarking report), and success brings further revenue which can be legitimately reinvested, the ability to increase expenditure would clearly have given MCFC a dishonest financial advantage.

The well-known routine activities theory stipulates that offending requires the temporal and spatial convergence of a motivated offender and a suitable target. When co-offenders are required for an offence, they similarly must meet offenders in time and space.

Co-offenders must be trustworthy and possess the required skillset or status to fill the gap in a motivated offender’s ability to offend on their own. In this case, the implicated sponsors represented suitable co-offenders. For example, the Chairman of Etihad – MCFC’s main shirt and stadium sponsor – is also a member of the MCFC Board, and therefore presumably trustworthy, and all sponsors made legitimate payments to MCFC within which ADUG could hide their own funds.

The ease with which motivated offenders can locate suitable co-offenders in a network is a measure of that network’s organisation. The convergence of motivated offender (MCFC) and suitable co-offenders (some sponsors) was facilitated by pre-existing personal and working relationships (a number of other sponsors implicated are also Abu Dhabi-based) suggesting this deviant network was tightly organised. Furthermore, the use of sponsors as ‘corporate vehicles’ is additional evidence of organised deviance.

A prerequisite of any deviant act is the opportunity to deviate, and it has been suggested that opportunities are more likely to be taken when they are encountered in a familiar environment. MCFC’s ability to manipulate pre-existing relationships to agree sponsorship contracts with familiar and willing entities provided a suitable opportunity to circumvent FFP regulations.

Other explanations for the alleged deviance relate to the notions of ‘amoral calculators’ and ‘techniques of neutralisation’. Both suggest that deviant behaviour may be explained by moral variation. The former suggests the deviant cares not for the immoral nature of their behaviour, whereas the latter (specifically the ‘appeal to higher loyalties’) suggests deviant decisions may be justified as loyalty to the goals or norms of a subgroup (MCFC in this case) outweighs the necessity of conformity. When a colleague questioned whether MCFC’s deviance was acceptable conduct, it is alleged an executive simply responded ‘of course, we can do what we want’. An ‘appeal to higher loyalties’?

UEFA investigated, and on 16 May 2014 a settlement agreement with MCFC was published. MCFC were fined €60m, although €40m of this would be waived if they met various terms. MCFC were also restricted to entering a squad four players smaller than usual for the following season’s UEFA Champions League. This sanction would also apply to the subsequent season should MCFC fail to comply with certain terms.

Whilst this may seem to be a relatively open-and-shut case, it is alleged that MCFC received lenient treatment from UEFA. Leniency can be problematic as the effect of punishment is insufficient to deter future deviance. It seems hard to believe that a €20m fine (€60m minus the suspended €40m) and reduction in permitted Champions League squad size constituted a substantial enough punishment to come close to outweighing the potential benefits brought by substantial overinvestment in playing staff.

UEFA had more severe punishments available to them, principally excluding MCFC from participation in future UEFA competitions (see page 9 of the FFP regulations), but they elected not to apply this sanction. In this regard, UEFA may be seen to have followed due regulatory process as scholars have suggested regulation may be most effective when heavy sanctions are available but not used. Another justification for leniency is that severe sanctions can have significant negative consequences for many innocent individuals within an organisation, with revocation of a licence having been likened to a ‘corporate death penalty’ capable of rendering thousands of jobs obsolete.

Unfortunately for UEFA, these defences fall apart under closer scrutiny: their responses to FFP violations by economically lesser European teams of the time were more severe. UEFA excluded Romania’s FC Astra from European competitions for the following three seasons because of overdue payments totalling approximately €1.5m. For a club with financial difficulties, as UEFA acknowledged, exclusion from European competitions can be more of a corporate death penalty than it would have been for MCFC, as these clubs rely on the revenue that participation in these competitions provides. Four out of the five other cases closed at the time involved exclusion of the offender from UEFA competitions. Clearly UEFA were not averse to applying the heaviest sanction available.

Der Spiegel allege Gianni Infantino, UEFA General Secretary at the time and current FIFA President, acted as an intermediary between UEFA’s investigatory division and MCFC, helping the latter to propose an agreement that would be accepted by UEFA. These were not Infantino’s duties, and the investigatory team is supposed to be independent (see page 3 of the FFP regulations).

This behaviour could be argued to constitute a clear example of a problem termed ‘regulatory capture’: when a regulator ceases serving their controlling purpose and instead serves the interests of those they are supposed to regulate. Infantino apparently did not intervene in cases involving the likes of FC Astra, suggesting that the term ‘regulatory bias’ may be more appropriate.

Issues of insufficient and disproportionate sanctioning and regulatory bias could perhaps be at least partially understood if they had fostered FFP compliance on the part of MCFC; it has been argued that promoting compliance is the main aim of regulatory systems. However, leaked emails from 2015 allege MCFC remained uncompliant despite their settlement agreement with UEFA and continued to circumvent FFP.

UEFA may have fallen into the ‘compliance trap’, whereby attempts to coerce compliance through moral reasoning instead produce defiance as the regulated feel unfairly stigmatised. Regardless of this, the 2015 allegations suggest that UEFA’s earlier regulation attempt was ineffective.

The criminological literature can provide guidance regarding how UEFA could improve their regulatory practice. Opportunities for deviance could be targeted for situational crime prevention (SCP); removing criminogenic opportunities through environmental manipulation. SCP concepts could be used to supplement UEFA’s attempts to coerce FFP compliance through regulation.

In this case, scrutiny of sponsor structures at the point of contract agreement would give UEFA more insight into potential opportunities for deviance. However, this would be a costly undertaking and may also be limited by jurisdictional issues. Consideration of the other possible opportunities that clubs may utilise to circumvent FFP would give UEFA the chance to take a more proactive approach to prevention.

UEFA could also consider utilising a method of deterrence known as ‘naming and shaming’, which has been suggested to deter organisations that fear reputational damage and shame. UEFA’s current practices more closely reflect ‘naming without shaming’: violators are publicly named but their behaviour is not condemned. For a club with an allegedly substantial interest in promoting a positive image, the threat of being named and shamed could have a significant deterrent effect.

If MCFC are judged to have circumvented FFP a second time, UEFA have a chance to learn from their mistakes and enact effective regulation. Recent reports suggest their response may be more severe this time around.

 

Contact

Peter Duncan, The University of Manchester

Email: peter.duncan-2@manchester.ac.uk

 

Images: courtesy of the author