Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Law

Research Student: Sean Butcher

Civilian Activation in Policing Plurality: A theoretical and ethnographic analysis of volunteer citizen patrol schemes in England and Wales

Photo of Sean Butcher

My research constitutes an investigation of volunteer citizen patrol as a form of civilian, plural policing. It aspires to locate and explore citizen patrol schemes within broader contexts currently defined by a fundamental reorganisation of public services, and attempts at an increased ‘activation’ of civic society. An empirical, ethnographic undertaking will allow for an analysis of the arrangement and contribution of specific patrol schemes, the creation of a typology of scheme volunteers, and an assessment of relations between schemes, their volunteers and partner organisations.

The main aims of the research are:

  1. To explore the fundamental characteristics of, and consistency with which citizen patrol has been developed across communities over extended and recent historical periods.
  2. To investigate relevant current social, political and economic contexts in which citizen patrol, as a form of civilian, plural policing operates.
  3. To explore the effects of, and determine how ‘effectiveness’ and ‘ineffectiveness’ may be defined within the context of citizen patrol schemes.
  4. To conduct an empirical, ethnographic analysis of a selected citizen patrol scheme(s). This exercise will explore:
    • The arrangement and provision of identified local scheme(s)
    • The nature of its policing contribution and function
    • A typology of scheme volunteers
    • Relationships with police and other partners.

These aims allow for an investigation that reaches beyond mere ‘evaluation’ of citizen patrol schemes, and enables one that will facilitate a critical discussion around what the emergence and development of such schemes represents within broader contexts. It will aid in the assessment of such schemes as a form of social capital that carries implications for community cohesion and partner crime control agencies. The empirical element of the research presents an opportunity to collect and analyse data around the arrangement and contribution of schemes that little research evidence currently exists of.

Background

In 2011, I graduated from Buckinghamshire New University (BNU) with a First Class BSc (Hons) in Police Studies with Criminal Investigation. During this time I served as a Thames Valley Police special constable within a diverse local policing area. Later, in 2012 I completed an MSc in Criminal Justice Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. I was awarded departmental outstanding academic achievement awards for my performance at both institutions.

Between 2011-15 I lectured on a variety of sociology, criminology and police-specific undergraduate modules, in addition to supervising final-year dissertation students at BNU. During this time I completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning & Teaching in Higher Education, gaining Fellowship to the Higher Education Academy. I also successfully applied for, and received a number of small grants to undertake research around the emergence and contribution of university police pre-join routes as a means of professionalizing police training.

Between 2014-15 I was appointed a Leader & Improvement/Research Fellow at NIHR CLAHRC Northwest London. During this Fellowship, I undertook research that examined the nature of multi-agency working relationships within a number of multi-agency safeguarding hubs (MASHs) across London.

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

I was drawn to PhD study by the prospect of joining a community of like-minded researchers with an interest in systems of criminal justice and social control. I hope that by engaging in research at the PhD level, that I will be able to contribute to an evidence-based understanding of the manifestations and implications of recent developments in policing, and more broadly in criminal justice policy.

I was also drawn to PhD study by the opportunity to develop existing and learn new skills as an effective researcher and communicator – skills that I can develop both within the University, and as a White Rose Doctoral Training student. It goes without saying that many of these will be integral to my post-PhD career as I attempt to advance knowledge both concerning and beyond the particulars of my PhD research.

What makes me passionate about my subject?

I developed an interest in partnership work and police pluralisation whilst serving as a special constable and studying the changing nature of police work as an undergraduate. During this time I encountered many of the growing number of organisations that the police work alongside – and the challenges partnership work and accelerating pluralisation presents. The nature of this work and its implications became a consistent feature of my later further study.

Following those experiences, I retain a keen desire to advance knowledge about policing providers beyond the police – specifically those at the ‘informal-voluntary’ or ‘community-delivered’ level, at a time when the contribution of those providers is the subject of increased political interest. Largely un-researched (in comparison with various other levels of plural policing), as this interest grows questions around nature, function and accountability arise that I am keen to investigate further.

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

Following the completion of my PhD, my immediate plans will largely consist of disseminating my research findings – both within academic and policy-making environments. I hope to continue to further develop the particulars of my research findings, secure funding for future projects, and more broadly contribute to a growing discussion about plural policing and its implications within academic and professional settings.

In the longer term I hope to return to teaching, building upon the experiences I gained prior to undertaking my PhD. I aspire to continue to introduce innovation into my own teaching practice, a commitment I earlier undertook whilst completing my Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Moreover, in addition to teaching on relevant traditional academic programmes, I hope also to teach relevant short and professional courses designed for those currently in and aspiring to various police and partner agency roles.

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