Policed Ethnography: Ethical and Practical Considerations Arising from Observations of Public Order Policing in Crowd Situations

Geoff Pearson, Charmian Werren

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

With perhaps only one notable exception, covert research of the police has not been achievable for academic researchers. However, researchers of the policed can find themselves in a position where they are observing officers who may not be the primary target of the research, who may not be aware they are under academic scrutiny, and have not provided any form of informed consent. The nature of police work is defined by interactions between officers and agents of other organisations, and those who are the targets of police attention; suspects, victims, and other members of the public. It has never been sufficient in the academic field of policing to focus exclusively on the officers themselves and researching the policed is an important but often overlooked feature. In contrast to many ‘low visibility’ aspects of police work, public order policing is highly visible to outsiders and attracts significant scrutiny of all actors. We argue that by choosing to focus primarily on the policed rather than the police, interactions between police and members of the public become observable even where researchers have not negotiated direct access to the police themselves. This chapter draws upon the experiences of the authors in their research among crowds of political protesters and ‘risk’ football supporters, to draw out some of the ethical and practical problems and benefits associated with researching those who are regularly and sometimes controversially policed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Handbook of Police Ethnography
EditorsJenny Fleming, Sarah Charman
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter14
Pages216-230
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781003083795
ISBN (Print)9780367539399
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2023

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