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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Undergraduate Course: Critical issues in contemporary policing (LAWS10246)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores contemporary problems in policing in modern societies. The course aims to ground critical issues in their theoretical context to provide a nuanced understanding of their origins and complexity, and the implications for reform. The aim is to enable students to participate in an informed and critical manner in debates on the future of the police.

The first part of the course introduces core theoretical ideas about the role, function and culture of the police, the complexities of police/community relationships and problems of legitimacy. The second part of the course draws on these theoretical foundations to explore critical issues in modern policing. These issues may include the wellbeing and mental health of police officers; sexism and racism both in police work and the police organisation; and the policing of protest. The course concludes by examining the possibilities and problems of change. Through contemporary case studies it explores the politics of police reform, and the meaning and potential of strategies such as transforming or defunding the police.
Course description Part one: core concepts
1. Legitimacy and policing
2. The role and function of the police
3. Police and community relationships
4. Police culture

Part two: critical issues in policing
5. Being a police officer: trauma and mental health
6. Policing and racism
7. Policing and misogyny
8. Policing and protest

Part three: reforming the police
9. The politics of police reform: a case study of stop and search
10. Routes to change: defunding, transforming, advocating
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Spaces on this course are allocated as part of the Law Honours Course Allocation process. Places are generally only available to students who must take Law courses. To request a space on this course, please email
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) There will be two parts of the assessment

1. A 1500 word (30%), theoretical essay in the middle of the semester. This is intended to get students to show their learning of the theoretical foundations of the material, which is covered in the first part of the course.

2. A 3,500 word position/ briefing paper (70%). This will be structured for students, and guidance given on all components of the exercise throughout the semester. We will look at examples of reform, and of advocacy and briefing papers throughout the course.
Feedback There will be no separate formative exercise. However the first assessment (30% essay) will give feedback intended to help students develop their skills and prepare for the second assessment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand core theoretical concepts in police scholarship, including the role, function and culture of the police and their connection with legitimacy
  2. Understand contemporary controversies in modern policing and their origins
  3. Understand questions of justice and injustice as they relate to policing
  4. Understand the potential routes to police reform and appraise the difficulties in enacting these
Reading List
Physical text book
Bowling, B, Reiner, R, Sheptycki, J (2019): The Politics of the Police. OUP. [further copies would be helpful]

Indicative selection of physical books with one chapter that can be requested on ereserve
Bittner, E (1970): The Functions of the Police in Modern Society: A review of background factors, current practices, and possible role models. Maryland: National Institute of Mental Health Centre for Studies of Crime and Delinquency.
Bowling, B. (1998). Violent Racism: Victimisation, Policing and Social Context. Clarendon Press: Oxford.
Cain, ME (1973): Society and the Policeman¿s Role. London: Routledge.
Epp, C, Maynard-Moody, S, Haider-Markel, DP (2014) Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Holdaway, S (1983): Inside the British Police: a police force at work. Oxford: Basil Blackwell
Punch, M (1979): The secret social service. In S Holdaway (ed), The British Police. London: Edward Arnold.
Rowe, M (ed) (2007): Policing beyond Macpherson: issues in policing, race and society. Collumpton, Willan
Scarman, Lord Justice, 1981. The Scarman report: the Brixton disorders. London: HMSO
Skolnick, JH (1966): Justice Without Trial: Law enforcement in democratic society.
Smith, DJ and Gray, J (1985) Police and People in London: the PSI Report (No. 621), London: Policy Studies Institute
Wilson, JQ (1968): Varieties of Police Behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Indicative selection of books and articles available online:
Bayley, DH (1994): Police for the Future. New York: OUP
Bittner, E (1967): ¿The police on Skid Row: A study in peacekeeping¿. American Sociological Review, 32
Brunson, RK (2007) ¿Police don't like black people¿: African American young men's Accumulated police experiences. Criminology and Public Policy 6(1): 71¿102.
Cobbina-Dungy, JE and Jones-Brown, D (2021): ¿Too much policing: why calls are made to defund the police¿ Punishment and Society, early online.
Foster, J., T. Newburn and A. Souhami (2005) Assessing the Impact of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. London: Home Office Research Study No. 294.
Garland, J and Chakraborti, N (2007): ¿Protean times?¿: Exploring the relationships between policing, community and ¿race¿ in rural England¿. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 7 (4) 347-365
Gorringe H, Rosie M, Waddington D, Kominou M. Facilitating Ineffective Protest? The Policing of the 2009 Edinburgh NATO Protests. Policing and Society. 2012;22(2):115-132.
Haldipur, J (2019) No Place on the Corner: The Costs of Aggressive Policing. New York: NYU Press.
Hough, M (2020): Good Policing: Trust, legitimacy and authority. Bristol: University of Bristol Press.
Loftus, B (2008): ¿Dominant culture interrupted: recognition, resentment and the politics of change in an English police force¿. British Journal of Criminology 48, 756¿777
Phillips, SW (2016): 'Police discretion and boredom: what officers do when there is nothing to do'. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 45 (5) 580-601
Porgrebin, M and Poole, ED (1991): ¿Police and tragic events: the management of emotions¿. Journal of Criminal Justice 19 (1) 395-403
Macpherson, Sir W., 1999. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny CM 4262-1. London: HMSO
Myers, W and Lantz, B (2020): ¿Reporting racist hate crime victimization to the police in the United States and the United Kingdom: a cross-national comparison¿. British Journal of Criminology 60 (4) 1034-1055
Owusu-Bempah, A (2017) ¿Race and policing in historical context: Dehumanization and the policing of Black people in the 21st Century¿. Theoretical Criminology 21(1): 23¿34.
Rabe-Hemp, C (2009): ¿POLICEwomen or Police WOMEN? Doing gender and police work¿. Feminist Criminology 4 (2) 114-129
Reisig, MD, Kane, RJ (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Police and Policing. New York: Oxford University Press,
Silvestri, M. (2017) ¿Police culture and gender: Revisiting the ¿cult of masculinity¿¿. Policing, 11 (3) pp 289-300
Souhami, A (2014): ¿Institutional racism and police reform: An empirical critique¿. Policing and Society 24 (1), 1-21
Souhami, A (Forthcoming 2022): ¿Weather, light and darkness in remote island policing: expanding the horizons of the criminological imagination¿. British Journal of Criminology.
Terrill, W, Reisig, MD (2003) Neighborhood context and police use of force. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 40(3): 291¿321.
Waddington, PAJ (1999): Policing Citizens: authority and rights. London: UCL Press
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills ¿ Understand core theoretical concepts in police scholarship, including the role, function and culture of the police and their connection with legitimacy
¿ Understand contemporary controversies in modern policing and their origins
¿ Understand questions of justice and injustice as they relate to policing
¿ Understand the potential routes to police reform and appraise the difficulties in enacting these
¿ Conduct independent research and inquiry
¿ Critically analyse and evaluate information;
¿ Think critically and independently,
¿ Apply theoretical issues to real world problems
¿ Identify and evaluate potential solutions to problems
¿ Communicate and share ideas in discussions with peers and practitioners
¿ Produce clear, structured written work
¿ Develop written communication skills
¿ Be able to communicate to lay and practitioner audiences
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Anna Souhami
Course secretaryMiss Emma Hughes
Tel: (0131 6)50 2008
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