Towards Victim-oriented Police? Some Reflections on the Concept and Purpose of Policing and Their Implications for Victim-oriented Police Reform

AuthorAndrew Williams,Craig Paterson
Publication Date01 July 2018
/tmp/tmp-17F9ybLz5Ef4pg/input Article
Towards Victim-oriented
Journal of Victimology
and Victim Justice
Police? Some Reflections
1(1) 85–101
2018 National Law
on the Concept and
University Delhi
SAGE Publications
Purpose of Policing
DOI: 10.1177/2516606918764997
and Their Implications
for Victim-oriented
Police Reform
Craig Paterson1
Andrew Williams2

The global policy drift towards community policing and an enhanced philosophical
and practical orientation towards victims of crime has been slow but incrementally
successful in some jurisdictions. This article uses a comparative approach to
review the different conceptual and theoretical assumptions that underpin
thinking about policing to tentatively identify the factors that support victim-
oriented police reform. The article draws on evidence from India and Argentina
plus England and Wales to assess how different policing models have translated
victim-oriented language into practice. It is notable that while police forces
across the globe often share a common understanding of police functions, there is
less agreement when referring to how to engage with citizens and balancing
the broader panoply of policing priorities. Conceptual understandings of policing
often contain unarticulated assumptions about how policing should be done, and
this partly explains why placing citizenship and victims at the core in rhetorical
terms does not always translate into practice. The article concludes with a call for a
concerted effort to articulate a clear philosophical and conceptual understanding
of victim-oriented policing as an enabler of police reform.
1 Principal Lecturer in Criminology, The Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice, Sheffield
Hallam University, Sheffield, UK.
2 Consulting & Visiting Lecturer, The Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice, Sheffield
Hallam University, Sheffield, UK.
Corresponding author:
Craig Paterson, Principal Lecturer in Criminology, The Helena Kennedy Centre for International
Justice, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK.

Journal of Victimology and Victim Justice 1(1)
Victim-oriented, police, policing, justice
There has been an undoubted shift towards incorporating victims’ voices and
associated support mechanisms into policing strategies and tactics across international
jurisdictions. Despite this, there has been surprisingly little scholarly discussion
about what victim-oriented policing, or, more specifically ‘police’, should look
like. This absence of debate is due, first, to the misplaced assumption that the
evolution of community policing is, in its essence, victim-oriented and, second,
due to the offender-oriented analysis that dominates policing studies. As a
consequence of this, victim-oriented support tends to be bolted on to existing
community policing services as a supplement to the prevailing police mandate of
law enforcement,1 population governance,2 crime prevention3 and low-level social
control.4 The discourse of police chiefs and their political overseers thus captures
the language of ‘victims’, but the translation of this discourse into practice is uneven
and highly dependent upon the prevailing cultures of local police teams and partner
agencies. The prioritization of victim voices thus waxes and wanes with public,
political and policing moods. The purpose of this article is to review existing
conceptualizations and assumptions about policing within a context that extends
beyond individual nation-states and to determine whether existing assumptions
about policing are sufficient to drive and direct effective victim-oriented police.
This article first assesses a range of existing conceptualizations of policing
before reflecting upon the underpinning assumptions that emerge from this literature.
The analytical framework draws upon social scientific, anthropological and
philosophical literature to explore, as a priority, the meaning (or connotative
conceptualization) of policing. Herewith as a secondary issue, the article then
returns to the traditional administrative focus of policing studies upon legal structures,
criminal procedure and the actualized empirical reality of street-level policing as
experienced by police officers and citizens (the denotative conceptualization).
The article explores attempts to develop victim-oriented policing across three
jurisdictions before concluding with a final discussion about the challenges and
opportunities for victim-oriented policing. The examples of victim-oriented policing
have been selected from countries that share similarities in democratic structure,
experiences of crime and globalization and experimentation with forms of policing
that seek to enhance citizen engagement with policing and the role of victims
within the criminal justice system. The examples serve as illustrations of what
1 J.Q. Wilson & G. Kelling, Broken Windows: The Police and Neighbourhood Safety, 249 The Atlantic
Monthly, 29–38 (1982).
2 G.S. Bajpai, Locating the Crime Victim in Criminal Procedure Ideologies. SSRN (2013) available at (last visited 4 April 2018); M. Foucault,
Governmentality, in The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality 87–104 (Burchell, Gordon &
Miller eds, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1991).
3 G. Farrall, How Victim-Oriented is Policing? in Tenth International Symposium on Victimology:
Selected Symposium Proceedings (Gaudreault & Waller eds, 2001).
4 S. Cohen, Visions of Social Control (Polity Press, 1985).

Paterson and Williams 87
victim-oriented police reform could look like but, first, it is necessary to briefly
review the conceptual literature on policing.
What Is Policing?
The Anglo-American model of policing that developed throughout the nineteenth
century continues to influence developments in professional policing across the
globe. Despite this, the limitations of the common law model for the development
of victim-oriented policing are rarely explored in any detail. Bajpai’s5 victimo-
logical critique of common law criminal processes addresses this issue in brief but
few Western studies have explored the challenge of doing victim-oriented policing
other than through critiques of community policing (for an overview, refer
Skogan6). Manning7 argues this is because Western policing studies have developed
in a largely a theoretical manner that rarely engages with the underlying philosophical
assumptions that direct thinking about policing. This may explain the absence of
victimological viewpoints. Most importantly, this article argues that this absence
of critical engagement with conceptualizations of policing has direct implications
for policy development and police practice. This absence of conceptual thinking
is particularly evident in policing policy transfer to post-colonial or post-conflict
contexts where the arrival of Western policing models, strategies and tactics that
encourage citizen engagement and victim assistance struggle to flourish in the
context of different policing structures, governance and culture.8 This prioritization
of police function ahead of policing conceptualization also provides challenges
for police reform in the individual societies that are the focus of this article.
These challenges are evident in the frustrated appeals for a review of the police role
and function in England and Wales,9 the persistent calls for reform of the Indian
Police10 and the establishment of the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Police in 2010.11
This article draws together the similar challenges faced by these jurisdictions
5 Supra note 2.
6 W. Skogan, Why Reforms Fail, 18 Polic. Soc. 23–34 (2008).
7 P. Manning, The Study of Policing, 8 Police Q. 23–43 (2005); P. Manning, Democratic Policing in a
Changing World (Paradigm Publishing, 2010).
8 See, for example, J. Honke & M. Muller, The Global Making of Policing: Postcolonial Perspectives
(Routledge, 2016); V. Kapoor, Access to justice as the pariah of the development rhetoric: Critical
evaluation of governance and policing through the human-rights based approach to development.
Paper presented at the 5th Annual Conference of the Asian Criminological Society (14–16 April
2013). Tata Institute for the Social Sciences, Mumbai; J. Tankebe, In Search of Moral Recognition?
Policing and Eudaemonic Legitimacy in Ghana, 38 Law Soc. Inq. 576–597 (2013); A. Williams,
Policing and Society in the 2001 Era: Model Development and the Transferability of Western Models
to Arab Islamic States. Unpublished MPhil thesis. University of Cumbria (2014).
9 Independent Police Commission, The Stevens Report: Policing for a Better Britain (The Labour
Party, 2014); H. Orde, The Future of Policing: Reform (2014) available at
content/uploads/2014/11/The-future-of-policing.pdf (last visited 4 April 2018).
10 B. Jauregui, If the Constable Could Speak: Notes on a Continuing Failure to Secure the Masses
and Reform Police in India. India in Transition (2009) available at
Jauregui (last visited 4 April 2018); A. Verma, The Indian Police: A Critical Evaluation (Regency
Publications, 2005).
11 C. Paterson & K. Clamp, Innovating Responses to Managing Risk: Exploring the Potential of a
Victim-focused Policing Strategy, 8 Polic.: J. Policy Pract., 51–58...

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