1st Edition

Ethnography and the Evocative World of Policing

Edited By Matthew Bacon, Bethan Loftus, Mike Rowe Copyright 2024

    This book demonstrates the unique contribution police ethnographies make to our understanding of policing cultures and practices in a variety of international settings. It features contemporary examples of police ethnographies that demonstrate the continuing value of ethnographic work to our understanding of policing.

    The first section of the book focuses on the police and Anglo-American policing. The second section is international in scope and seeks to enrich our understandings of policing ‘beyond’ the police. Chapters explore police interactions during a stop and search and at a carnival. They peer behind the scenes at the control room and at the use of intelligence. We listen in to the experiences of new recruits and the stories told in canteens. They also take us into the world of private security agencies, to Kenya and to Vietnam. The book explores the position of ethnographers asking: whether we do too much with rather than on the police; and whether our work reveals more about us as academics than them as officers. Together, they are revealing of a changing policing landscape.

    Ethnography and the Evocative World of Policing demonstrates the unique value of ethnographic work in the fields of policing studies and criminology. It will be a key resource for scholars and researchers of policing, criminology, sociology, law, and research methods.The chapters in this book were originally published in two special issues of Policing and Society.

    Jenny Fleming

    Police ethnography: An introduction to the craft
    Matthew Bacon, Bethan Loftus and Mike Rowe

    Part 1 – Exploring the craft of policing

    1. Officer strategies for managing interactions during police stops
    Paul Quinton

    2. Police interaction and Notting Hill Carnival
    Ashley Kilgallon

    3. Cops in crisis?: ethnographic insights on a new era of politicization, activism, accountability, and change in transatlantic policing
    Ross Deuchar, Vaughn J. Crichlow and Seth Wyatt Fallik

    4. Precautionary policing and dispositives of risk in a police force control room in domestic abuse incidents: an ethnography of call handlers, dispatchers and response officers
    Alex Black and Karen Lumsden

    5. Making sense of policing identities: the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’ in policing accounts of victimisation
    Sarah Charman

    6. Ethnography and narrative
    Merlijn van Hulst

    Part 2 – Developing a wider perspective

    7. ‘Playing the man, not the ball’: targeting organised criminals, intelligence and the problems with pulling levers
    Mike Rowe and Thomas Friis Søgaard

    8. ‘Arms for mobility’: policing partnerships and material exchanges in Nairobi, Kenya
    Tessa Diphoorn

    9. Customer is king: promoting port policing, supporting hypercommercialism
    Yarin Eski

    10. Researching the policed: critical ethnography and the study of protest policing
    Will Jackson

    11. A Southern policing perspective and appreciative inquiry: an ethnography of policing in Vietnam
    Melissa Jardine

    12. Constructing tales of the field: uncovering the culture of fieldwork in police ethnography
    Anna Souhami


    Matthew Bacon is Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Sheffield, UK. His research broadly focuses on policing and drug policy. He is the author of Taking Care of Business (2016), an ethnography of police detectives, drug law enforcement, and proactive investigation.

    Bethan Loftus is Reader in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Bangor University, UK. Her research interests lie in the areas of policing and security. Bethan is the author of Police Culture in a Changing World (2009) and articles in major Sociology and Criminology journals.   

    Mike Rowe is Lecturer in Public Sector Management at the University of Liverpool, UK. He is the author of Disassembling Police Culture (2023).