Police work relies very much on experience. But as far as policing a pandemia is concerned there is little to no knowledge reserve that acting or managing police officers can rely on. So the pandemia we are going through now is an enormous field on which experience and thus professional knowledge has yet to be gathered.
In this research proposal we argue that there are different levels on which professional knowledge of police management as much as front line police officers will change rather dramatically in the coming months or has already changed. We propose to try and get a grip at these lessons learnt throughout Europe in order to learn on a broader scale a) what police can do better next time it has to deal with a pandemia and b) what constitutes “police” in different European countries and in how far different approaches towards policing lead to different forms of professional knowledge.
Police gets into the focus of interest on several levels: first of all: policing itself changes dramatically and the criminal topography changes as the crisis goes on. Secondly police as an organisation has to undergo changes and thirdly the state as such undergoes a metamorphosis that touches the police as a front line organisation.
1. Police is “out there on the streets”, performing measures that the state deems necessary for getting the pandemia under control. These are foremost measures against the risks coming with the freedom of movement such as controlling borders or telling people to respect the different forms of lockdown that are the law in many European states at the moment. These police activities have been extremely rare in the recent history of European policing and therefore there is little experience police can rely on while performing their duties.
Policing social crowds has always been one of the central tasks of modern polices but policing social distance is quite another thing altogether and front line officers all over Europe will have to learn from scratch how to police these particular situations. Public life will change under the impression of the Codiv19-pademia and polices will be among the first institutions to realise these changes and translate them into action.
Police officers regard themselves as those people who are “out there on the streets” creating order where otherwise there would be chaos. Their special strength lies – according to these police officers – in their ability to “sense” crime and to communicate with different strata of society. How are these abilities – and the professional self-reflection – going to be affected by the Corona-Crisis? What kind of special police “sense” will develop during the crisis and how will police “know” even without expertise how to handle situations? How long does it take to develop a know-how of performing new duties?
This paper proposes to research professional knowledge gathered by polices all over Europe during the pandemia.
2. Knowledge Management is a central pillar of modern policing. It is a describing feature of public administration in general to collect, store and govern data and to construct relevant knowledge on the basis of such data. The Codiv19-crisis will lead to further changes in the administration of data as can already be seen from the fact that in some countries cell-phone data are used to track the movements of people during lockdowns.
The most interesting aspect of knowledge management is the integration of machines into the process of collecting data, learning from them a communicating the results. During the corona-crisis machines will become more important as can already be seen. Drones are already being used as means of communication and we will most probably see more police duties being performed by robots, drones etc. There is hardly any professional knowledge so far of this kind of machine-based police work. The pandemia will put police management under stress integrating new knowledge-management items into the decision making processes.
This paper proposes to research and compare knowledge-management processes on managerial level during the pandemia. .
3. The modern State is a historically grown philosophical construction. Seen from the perspective of some of the European key-thinkers the state is an entity that is able to survive and to organize a communal life (Machiavelli). Central aspects of a modern state are sovereignty (Bodin), a monopoly of force (Hobbes), the separation of powers and lagality (Montesquieu) and prevention (Beccaria). Modern states are national democracies (Rousseau) which defend individual rights and freedoms (Hegel). And they are welfare-states (Weber) .
The crisis challanges the state to restrcit some of its features (e.g. individual freedom) and to emphasize others (e.g. its ability to maintain itself). Its language is the law and this langauge will change dramatically in the course of the pandemia.
This paper proposes to look at legal statements (laws, decrees, oders etc.) that deal with police duties to see how they can be put up in such a manner that next time a pandemia strikes the body politc is better prepared to react on the legal level.
The Aim of the Research
A crisis is by definition a time of confusion and uncertainty. But the Greek term κρίσις (krísis) hints at another aspect of a crisis which is the exact opposite of confusion: the verb krínein means “to divide” or “to separate” and thus shows us that a crisis is also a moment of strange clarity. Police on different levels will learn a big deal during this period of crisis. The aim of our research programme would be to learn what they learn.
This analysed collection of „lessons learnt“ should help polices all over Europe to be better prepared for coming pandemias in a foreseeable future. We shall – en route – learn a lot about police too
In a perfect scientific world, we would have a meticulous record of the state of affairs BEFORE, during and after the crisis. But as the state of affairs lies, we will have to rely on knowledge gathered by people who are close enough to the national, regional or local polices to be able to collect data and information on what we try to find out.
We would like to speak of “observation posts” which might be located either in the police forces themselves, in police schools or academies and/or in institutions that deal regularly with the police like criminological institutes in universities etc. The choice of method would be up to these observation points but there might also be the possibility to conduct centralised interviews online.
We propose to put up a research network of these observation posts. Its aim is to support, coordinate and analyse research all over Europe. Polices all over Europe could learn how to react next time crisis looms.
Jonas Grutzpalk & Detlef Nogala
Bielefeld / Hamburg 06.04.2020