Recent Book: Human Rights and the Police

Published date01 October 1985
Date01 October 1985
Subject MatterRecent Book
ROBERT REINER: The Politics of the Police.
Wheatsheaf Books, Sussex. £15.95 hardback, £6.95 paperback.
The title of this book does not really describe the scope of what is,in effect, an
omnibus of three works in one. Professor Reiner first provides a comparative
history of the British police, in which the traditional historians such as Thomas
Critchley and Charles Reith are contrasted with the "revisionists" who place the
history of the police in the context of their perception of a class and power
struggle. This is followed by an attempt to combine the best from these two very
different approaches to police history.
The second part of this book contains a wide and detailed survey of sociological
studies of the police. The overwhelming impression one gains from this is how
wasteful sociology is; surely so much research should have produced at least
something of some positive value to society. Nonetheless, the succinct way in which
has presented his material, complete with a 24 page bibliography, makes
this a very good guide to the world of the professional police watcher.
The final chapters of the book are in a quite different vein. They deal with post-
Scarman Britain and cover such topical issues as the miners' strike and the Police
and Criminal Evidence Act. The writing here is much warmer and less academic. It
is not "The Politics of the Police" which emerge here so much as the political
beliefs of the
who decries "a 'law and order' government which
pursued social and economic policies which have generated rapidly increasing
inequality, long-term unemployment and political polarization".
In total, this is a very worthwhile and stimulating piece of work by Professor
Reiner, even if one sometimes senses an air of condescension. It is hard to
sympathize with the poor sociologist who faces the "hazard" when taking mental
sinking under the bar as the consumption of pints mounts", when he can
be so sniffy about the Police Federation's mis-spelling of "manifestos" and a police
constable who confuses "socialists" with "sociologists". Surely one or two
sociologists have made the same mistake. Yet he can produce prose such as this;
"The implicit explanatory scheme is of the mutually conditioning interaction of
innovative ideas and social circumstances, a sort of idealist dialect". So that's what
T. S. Critchley was writing about! By the end of the book, provided the reader has
been patient, it does become clear that Dr. Reiner, unlike many social scientists,
really cares about the world he studies so intently. One can forgive much in
someone who reaches this conclusion about the British police service. "To rebuild
an ancient edifice brick by brick requires time and patience. But it is more likely to
succeed than either calling it names or charging at it head-first". M.E.D.
ALDERSON, Council of Europe, Strasbourg:
Rights and the Police.
HM Stationery Office (UK) and
Sales Agents for Publications of the Council of Europe
The economic wrangles which seem to be an interminable feature of the European
Economic Commission tend to obscure the work of the Council of Europe to
which 21 states belong and whereby, Britain, along with all the other principal
European nations, agreed to adhere to. the principles contained in the European
Convention on
Rights. The European Commission on Human Rights
examines complaints of violations of human rights where domestic law remedies
have been exhausted. Such complaints can be heard before the Court of Human
Rights whose decisions are binding on any government concerned. The results can
be that agovernment may have to change laws or practices and pay compensation
to the injured party.
Since the police are at the forefront of preserving the rights of citizens yet
themselves must not violate human rights, it is appropriate that the Council of
Europe should have sponsored apublication aimed at those responsible for police
policies and, particularly, those involved in police training. The writing was
undertaken by
Alderson, former Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall and
October /985

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