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The Politics of the Police

The Politics of the Police (5th edn)

Benjamin Bowling, Robert Reiner, and James W E Sheptycki
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date: 04 June 2023

p. 1236. A fair cop? Policing and social justicelocked

p. 1236. A fair cop? Policing and social justicelocked

  • Benjamin Bowling, Benjamin BowlingProfessor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Kings College London
  • Robert ReinerRobert ReinerEmeritus Professor of Criminology, The London School of Economics and Political Science
  •  and James SheptyckiJames SheptyckiProfessor of Criminology, York University, Toronto, Canada


This chapter examines fairness in policing with reference to issues of race and gender. It first defines the terms of debate—justice, fairness, discrimination—then considers individual, cultural, institutional, and structural theories and applies these to various aspects of policing. It considers the histories of police discrimination in relation to the policing of poverty, chattel slavery, racial segregation, colonialism, religious conflict, and ethnic minority communities, to understand their contemporary legacy. The chapter then examines spheres of police activity where allegations of unfairness and discrimination are particularly salient, including the response to women crime victims of rape and domestic violence, the use of ‘racial profiling’ in stop and search powers, and the use of deadly force. It examines the experiences of people from ethnic minorities, women, gay men, and lesbians within police forces. Through an exploration of the historical and contemporary literature, the chapter draws conclusions on whether or not the police act fairly in democratic societies.

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