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A federation of clutter: the bourgeoning language of vulnerability in Australian policing policies


Howes, LM and Bartkowiak-Theron, I and Asquith, NL, A federation of clutter: the bourgeoning language of vulnerability in Australian policing policies, Policing Encounters with Vulnerability, Palgrave Macmillan, N Asquith, I Bartkowiak-Theron and KA Roberts (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 89-118. ISBN 978-3-319-51227-3 (2017) [Research Book Chapter]

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The policing of vulnerable people has long been a topic of operational uncertainty and political sensitivity. On the one hand, governments have accepted that police officers require special mechanisms to cater for disadvantaged social groups and should interact with members of these groups in such a way that vulnerability attributes are acknowledged (Bartkowiak-Théron and Asquith 2012). On the other hand, agencies disagree on a variety of technical issues relating to the policing of vulnerable people, such as collaborative logistics, leadership, ownership and resource sharing. The policing of vulnerability has been under close scrutiny for over 30 years, with an increasing array of government and non-government services contributing their own areas of expertise to assist in solving these ‘wicked’ issues (Fleming and Wood 2006: 2). Yet, the burgeoning lists of who constitutes a vulnerable person, and the haphazard and localised development of strategies, have left little room for policy and practice transfer across vulnerability attributes, let alone jurisdictions. In this chapter, we reverse the policy transfer lens from the UK and US to consider the valuable policy and practice innovations developed in one Australian jurisdiction that may resolve some of the operational barriers to policing vulnerability in other jurisdictions.

The interagency collaboration of government departments such as police, housing, education and health is now de rigueur and epitomised in the language of ‘whole of government’ protocols. However, such collaboration is not without its problems (Bartkowiak-Théron 2011). Some of the much-debated issues include policy and practice silos (Boxelaar et al. 2006), core business (Millie 2014) and specialised training (Bartkowiak-Théron and Lieutier 2014). In addition, a critical issue that continues to shape policing responses to vulnerability is the vernacular used to determine whether someone is vulnerable, and how such a person is identified. Not all agencies talk about the same people in the same way; nor do they necessarily talk about the same people at all. In this chapter, we explore what has become terminological clutter. We analyse not only divergence and disagreement in terms and expressions but also how this semantic clutter can contribute to operational ambiguity and uncertainty in policy development.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:vulnerable people, police, policy, practice guidelines
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:Criminal justice
UTAS Author:Howes, LM (Dr Loene Howes)
UTAS Author:Bartkowiak-Theron, I (Dr Isabelle Bartkowiak-Theron)
UTAS Author:Asquith, NL (Professor Nicole Asquith)
ID Code:111814
Year Published:2017
Deposited By:Office of the School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2016-10-09
Last Modified:2020-08-25

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