Tackling tradition: reform and modernisation of the British police

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Relative to both the rest of the criminal justice sector and to the British public sector as a whole, the police service has managed to maintain many of its traditional features and to survive the most radical dimensions of public-sector reforms inflicted on other areas of the public sector. This paper examines the track record of attempts to develop reform agendas within British policing and, in turn, the extent to which the policing sector has been "reform resistant' over time. It argues that, in so far as the policing sector has managed to remain unfettered by much of the public-sector reform agenda which has impacted on other areas, this rests largely of the construction of "law-and-order politics'. The police occupy a pivotal position within the politics of law and order as the (perceived) "front line' in the fight against crime. The more a government or party chooses to employ the rhetoric and "law and order' the more they are drawn into a relationship of compromise with the policing sector and, in turn, the less they will be prepared to enforce an agenda for radical reform on a reluctant police service. This has created a climate within which the police have managed to maintain a position of reform resistance over time. It concludes that the capacity of the police to resist reform has been seriously weakened in recent times precisely because the politics of law and order are less critical to contemporary political discourse; the ability of the police to hold on to traditional practices and frameworks is being diminished as a result.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-184
JournalContemporary Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003


Dive into the research topics of 'Tackling tradition: reform and modernisation of the British police'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this