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Extra resources for Police, Power And The State: Policing Citizens
Even if reported offences are initially accepted as genuinely criminal, subsequent investigation may lead to this 33 POLICING CITIZENS: AUTHORITY AND RIGHTS judgement being retrospectively altered and the offence “no crimed”—a fate that befalls around 10 per cent of cases (Coleman & Bottomley 1976). Police discretion is not limited to failing or refusing to record offences brought to their attention by the public, but extends to deciding how to record those offences, a process that allows considerable latitude.
Weitzer wryly points out that in Zimbabwe the colonial policing system was retained virtually unaltered by the post-colonial regime (Weitzer 1990). Internal Variations on a Theme There seems, therefore, ample justification for Bayley’s remark that “National structures of policing reflect decisions about the geographical distribution of political power” (Bayley 1992:531). However, this is true not only between states, but also within them. Policing typically spreads from the centre of power to the periphery.
It is unnecessary for our purposes to delve too deeply into these debates, for what seems beyond dispute is that the police, at least in England, was a product of the massive growth of the state during the last half of the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries. Beside this singular fact these various disagreements seem to pale into insignificance. The police, and the state they served, was both oppressive and benign. Policing reflected this dual role: the “street life” of the lower classes was repressed while a blind eye was turned to other transgressions (Cohen 1979).