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Reimagining Policing Post Austerity

The impact on public services of the global financial crisis and resultant government cuts has been severe, and criminal justice agencies have not been immune. The 2010 Spending Review, for example, called for a 20% cut in police budgets. Professor Andrew Millie (in partnership with Professor Karen Bullock of the University of Surrey) organised a seminar funded by the British Academy entitled “Policing in a time of contraction and constraint: Re-imagining the role and function of contemporary policing”. The seminar in September 2011 was at the British Academy in London and attracted leading policing scholars as well as representatives from the police, the Home Office and the National Policing Improvement Agency.

According to Professor Millie, the number of police officers had grown over recent decades, despite record falls in recorded crime. But not only did their numbers increase, so too their responsibilities reflecting wider criminalisation of social policy. For instance, police officers found themselves involved in probation work, disaster management, event security and permanently based within schools. Andrew conceptualised policing as being on a continuum between wide policing (with too many responsibilities) and narrow policing (with not enough). Speaking whilst Home Secretary, Theresa May (2011) claimed the police should simply be “tough, no-nonsense crime-fighters”. For Professor Millie this was too narrow a definition as the police have other important social service and order maintenance functions. However, over fifty years ago the policing scholar Michael Banton (1964) observed that, “A cardinal principle for the understanding of police organization and activity is that the police are only one among many agencies of social control”. Put simply, the police do not need to be doing everything as other agencies, community groups and volunteers are able – and may be better suited – to take on some of the responsibilities the police have acquired through expansion. Despite the negative influence of cuts on police morale, according to Professor Millie the current austerity measures are also as an opportunity to reappraise what the police are for.

Professor Millie’s work in this area led to an invitation to present his findings at the Home Office. Andrew was also invited to contribute to Lord Stevens’ Independent Police Commission on the future of policing in England and Wales. The inquiry reported on 25 November 2013. Andrew’s work is published in an accompanying volume on “The Future of Policing” edited by Professor Jennifer Brown (2014) and in a special issue of the journal Criminology & Criminal Justice, which Andrew guest edited with Professor Karen Bullock (2013).

In 2014 Professor Millie was invited by the Australian Institute of Police Management (AIPM) to speak on the purpose of the police (a presentation given via Skype). The audience comprised Deputy Commissioners from both State and Federal police services. Professor Millie authored a paper for the AIPM (2014) on the case for a narrower focus to policing. Also in 2014, Professor Millie was invited to give a plenary on the same topic at the International Conference on Law Enforcement and Public Health (LEPH2014) in Amsterdam. Responses to his position were given by the then Director of Europol, Rob Wainwright, and by Professor Maurice Punch.

Within the context of austerity, one way to fill gaps left by cuts to police budgets has been to promote greater use of volunteers within the police. Funded by Lancashire Constabulary Andrew has conducted research on police volunteering. This has resulted in an edited collection on the Special Constabulary (2018, co-edited with Professor Karen Bullock) and a special issue of the journal Policing and Society on non-warranted volunteering (2019, co-edited with Dr Helen Wells of Keele University).

If you would like to learn more about this topic please contact Professor Andrew Millie.


  • Millie, A. (2019) ‘Citizens in policing: The lived reality of being a Police Support Volunteer’, Policing and Society.
  • Millie, A. and Wells, H. (2019) ‘Contemporary policing and non-warranted volunteering’. Policing and Society.
  • Millie, A. (2018) ‘The beliefs and values of police volunteers’, in K. Bullock and A. Millie (eds.) The Special Constabulary: Historical Context, International Comparisons and Contemporary Themes, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Bullock, K. and Millie, A. (eds.) (2018) The Special Constabulary: Historical Context, International Comparisons and Contemporary Themes, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Millie, A. (2016) Research on volunteering within the police, College of Policing What Works Crime Reduction Website.
  • Millie, A. (2016) Volunteering within the Police: Experiences of Special Constables and Police Support Volunteers, Ormskirk: Edge Hill University.
  • Millie, A. (2014) ‘What are the police for? Re-thinking policing post-austerity’, in J.M. Brown (ed.) The Future of Policing, London: Routledge.
  • Millie, A. (2014) ‘The case for a narrower focus to policing’, in: The Great Debate: How Wide or Narrow Should the Police’s Remit Be? Public Safety Leadership Research Focus, 2(4) 1-4. Australian Institute for Police Management.
  • Millie, A. (2013) ‘The policing task and the expansion (and contraction) of British policing’, Criminology and Criminal Justice, 13(2) 143-160.
  • Millie, A. and Bullock, K. (2013) ‘Policing in a time of contraction and constraint: Re-imagining the role and function of contemporary policing’, Criminology and Criminal Justice (Special Issue Editorial), 13(2) 133-142.
  • Millie, A. and Bullock, K. (2012) ‘Re-imagining policing post-austerity’, British Academy Review, Issue 19, 16-18.