Embracing the Uncomfortable Complexity of Police Legitimacy: The Only Way Ahead for Democratic Accountability?

By Ms Clare Torrible, Teaching Associate (University of Bristol Law School).

© Guardian
© Guardian

It can sometimes be easy to lose sight of the wood for the trees. The Policing and Crime Bill suggests a number of changes to the police complaints system and, having received its third reading in Parliament on June 13th looks set to make the statute books in due course.

However, as I have recently argued,* academic debate on police complaints can be conflicted and circular. Further, the reasoning in public debate is peppered with assertions (which seem to be presumed rather than tested) that reforms will deliver improvements in what, to my mind, is a worryingly ill-defined ‘public confidence’.

Policing is a necessarily conflicted social function. So by what measure can we assess the multiple reforms to police complaints and discipline that are about to be ushered in? In a recent article ‘Reconceptualising the Police Complaints Process as a Site of Contested Legitimacy Claims‘ I take a step back from the current academic and public debates and outline a new framework by which the true impact of these reforms might be assessed. (more…)