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The Extradordinary Intricacies of Policing Vulnerability


Bartkowiak-Theron, IMF, The Extradordinary Intricacies of Policing Vulnerability, Australasian Policing, 4, (2) pp. 43-50. ISSN 1837-7009 (2012) [Non Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2012 Emergency Media


Vulnerable people have become a key focus of policy over the past few decades. As a result, police organisations have had to adapt to ongoing requests for specialised attention and protocol development to mediate the interactions between frontline officers and members of a variety of vulnerable groups. This article examines the various socio-political developments that have led to contemporary policing practices in relation to vulnerable people, untangles a series of problems in our current approach to vulnerability. Additionally, we propose an alternative operationalisation of vulnerability, which shifts the focus from si/oed cultural competency to integrated critical diversity, and in doing so, attempts to relieve some of the institutional, political and operational pressure faced by policing services. The past sixty years have been marked by significant social progress, which has led to the explicit acknowledgment of society and communities as multifaceted entities (Brogden&Nijhar, 2005). In Australia, multiculturalism has flourished-in spite of its challenges (Joppke, 2004; Levy, 2000)-and there is a growing recognition of diversity as a source of wealth. The shift to a multicultural mainstream, where over a quarter of Australians were born overseas, and 53% have one grandparent born outside of this country (ABS, 2012b), has not been smooth. The political action of various social and cultural movements in the 1960s and 1970s has fundamentally altered what it means to be Australian in the twenty-first century. This social change however is not unique to Australia; though, it presents some unique challenges in this country challenges generated out of colonialism, geography, and, more recently, globalisation. Importantly, in the last twenty years, what started as a narrowly defined notion of diversity-as ethnicity or race-has been expanded to account tor a variety of individual, social and institutional experiences (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 1994). New definitions of diversity now encompass a range of permanent or transient narratives such as age, health, wealth, abilities, language, education, sexual and gender identity, housing, etc (Herring and Henderson, 2011; Asquith & Bartkowiak-Theron, 2012). With this expanded meaning has also come the acknowledgement that more than one narrative can apply to an individual, and that these can change over a lifetime. However, these labels are not always positive and often exist as a way to point out socio-political inequalities and sometimes ingrained and persistent disadvantage. Ignoring this legacy of disadvantage whilst uncritically promoting the benefits of diversity is bound to create unrealistic expectations and stall the progress made to date (Herring & Henderson, 2011).3 The normative fragmentation of society represents, on the one hand, rather formidable progress in relation to how we 'picture' society as a multiple and dynamic entity (May, 1987). On the other hand, however, this new definition of social diversity has presented multiple challenges for government and non-government institutions alike. There are good indications that as far as the criminal justice system, and policing in particular, is concerned, policy makers and practitioners have been aware of these challenges, and have attempted, with more or less success, to positively adapt to this newly defined form of diversity;4 however, obstacles remain to be confronted. This art1cle Australasian Policing A Joumal of Professional Practice and Research explores the complex considerations at stake when police interact with disadvantaged members of society, now often referred to as 'vulnerable people'. In line with policy developments in the area of policing diversity, we present a model for understanding how police interact with vulnerable people, and set out a number of problems identified in the literature as well as in practice. We also consider how policy might be a compounding factor in the complexity of police working with vulnerable people. Our argument is that 'productive diversity' (Cope and Kalantzis, 1997) based on a 'critical diversity' approach (Herring and Henderson, 2011) represents a significant springboard for positive social and political change at the frontline and institutional levels of policing.

Item Details

Item Type:Non Refereed Article
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Criminology
Research Field:Police administration, procedures and practice
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Justice and the law
Objective Field:Law enforcement
UTAS Author:Bartkowiak-Theron, IMF (Dr Isabelle Bartkowiak-Theron)
ID Code:81095
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Government
Deposited On:2012-11-22
Last Modified:2014-08-29
Downloads:6 View Download Statistics

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