Policing Contingencies

Policing Contingencies

Peter K. Manning

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226503516

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Despite constant calls for reform, policing in the United States and Britain has changed little over the past thirty years. This book draws on decades of fieldwork to investigate how law enforcement works on the ground and in the symbolic realm, and why most efforts to reform the way police work have failed so far. The author begins by developing a model of policing as drama—a way of communicating various messages to the public in an effort to enforce moral boundaries. Unexpected outcomes, or contingencies, continually rewrite the plot of this drama, requiring officers to adjust accordingly. New information technologies, media scrutiny and representations, and community policing also play important roles, and the author studies these influences in detail. He concludes that their impacts have been quite limited, because the basic structure of policing—officer assessments based on encounters during routine patrols—has remained unchanged. For policing to really change, the author argues, its focus will need to shift to prevention.