Focussed deterrence and ‘hard chargers’: impressions of an ethnographer ‘on the beat’

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Youth gang violence has become an increasing concern for politicians, police and the general public. In some parts of the USA, the emphasis on zero tolerance policing has gradually been replaced with inter-agency intervention and deterrence, and these problem-oriented strategies have also begun to influence practice in Britain (Kennedy, 2011; Engel et al., 2011). This paper focuses on two cities that have been contexts for the implementation of the same focused deterrence strategy in recent years: Cincinnati, Ohio and Glasgow, Scotland. The paper will provide an insight into ethnographic research focused on exploring the causes and consequences of gang violence, as well as the extent to and ways in which new proactive policing and deterrence strategies have addressed the issues in both cities. Evidence of the positive impact of new forms of policing gleaned from interviews will be compared and contrasted with the author’s own first-hand experiences of operational policing gained through participant observation while shadowing gang task force patrols. In outlining his confessional and impressionist tales (Van Maanen, 1988), the author will also outline the way in which he was able to assume the role of ‘marginal native’ during proactive police patrols, fluctuating between the roles of ‘accepted incompetent’ and ‘friendly helper’. In so doing, he will open up discussion about the moral dilemmas associated with ethnography and the compromises that ethnographers sometimes need to make with idealized ethical standards (Fine, 1993). He will also highlight the benefits that can emerge when academics explore, examine and participate in police practice and give meaningful accounts of that practice to key stakeholders within the police force on both sides of the Atlantic.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventNorth West Policing Research Symposium - Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 20 Feb 201320 Feb 2013


ConferenceNorth West Policing Research Symposium
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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