Dr Kerry Clamp, Assistant Professor in Criminology in the University of Nottingham, explains the value of Restorative policing for communities.
“The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the
visible evidence of police action in dealing with it”
(Peel 1829, emphasis original)
Restorative justice has traditionally been discussed as a process through which the victim, offender and community (most often, the supporters of the victim and offender) are brought together to collectively resolve the harm that has been caused by crime. First emerging in procedural form in New Zealand youth conferencing, the impressive results (90% of cases were diverted and only 10% of cases proceeded before the courts) quickly garnered international interest.
A pilot in Wagga Wagga, Australia drew on that New Zealand model with a few tweaks. While the original model relied on the use of practitioners based in the Department of Social Welfare, the Wagga Wagga Model used police officers to facilitate conferences (hence the phrase ‘restorative policing’). Furthermore, while the criminal justice practitioner ‘owned’ the process in New Zealand, the Wagga Wagga Model formed a partnership between the police and the community to tackle offending behaviour.
An evaluation of the police-led approach revealed a number of extraordinary findings (see Moore 1994):
- The numbers of cases being processed by the courts reduced by 50 per cent without any net-widening (i.e. the amount of cases reported to the police began to decrease – they were not dragging less serious offences into the conferencing process that would otherwise have not been dealt with by police officers under traditional cautioning processes);
- The reduction in prosecution occurred without increasing the recidivism rate (in fact, there was a 40 percent reduction in repeat offending overall);
- Ninety-three percent of offenders fulfilled the agreements that they had helped create during the conference; and
- There were high levels of satisfaction amongst all participants [i.e. the police, victims and offenders].
What accounted for the success of the Model?
- Police officers perceived the criminal justice process was the problem and that they needed to alter their approach in order to disrupt offending behaviour that was blighting the community;
- Police officers redefined crime as a breakdown of relationships [rather than an offence against the state] and conferencing or restorative dialogue, with its focus on harm and relationships, became an impetus for changing the experiences and lives of all
- A quality control process was introduced – a sergeant’s review committee – which met once a week to review all juvenile matters, to decide which cases would be eligible for caution and to invite officers to observe the process.
- The introduction of Model took a slow and considered approach rather than on a wide-scale.
- The community were involved as partners of the Model by setting priorities and delivering
Why does this matter?
Restorative policing chimes with the Policing Mission and Values 2025. While many documents have discussed the importance of community-police partnerships, a priority for the reduction of crime and recidivism there is often an absence of consideration about how exactly to achieve these aims. Community policing and problem-oriented policing have also had minimal impact, partly because it focuses on consultation of the law abiding rather than those who are committing crime (see Roche 2003; Weitekamp et al. 2003).
While restorative policing has much in common with community policing and problem-oriented policing (i.e. preventing troublesome behaviour from escalating, prioritising problem-solving and conflict resolution approaches, embracing a future-oriented preventative model and the premise that other networks are needed to secure social control), restorative policing provides a new framework for how crime can be tackled. It does so by prioritising the participation of those who create harm and the harmed. Restorative policing should, therefore be viewed as a progressive problem solving approach to improve the way the police and community address crime and conflict collectively.
While restorative policing has been featured (think cautions and conferences delivered by Thames Valley in the 90s) and continues to feature throughout most forces across the UK in the form of community resolutions, it has not been implemented in a manner that is reminiscent of the original Model. Unsurprisingly then, it has not had the same outcomes that that Model yielded.
Instead of viewing restorative justice as a tool for achieving the functions of policing (i.e. upholding and enforcing the law, promoting and preserving public order, protecting the public and preventing crimes), restorative policing should be perceived as an entirely different framework through which officers can develop an effective partnership with the community. Through such an approach, restorative policing can ultimately result in a way to transform the way we view crime, our responses to it and to reduce social distance. Three outcomes are possible when restorative policing is done well:
- It produces a process that participants perceive as legitimate because they have a tangible role in the process and a stake in the outcome;
- It prevents participants from engaging in techniques of neutralisation (this not only includes the offender but also those sanctioning them), whereby they are able to deny responsibility where the impact of their actions is an unknown or vague abstraction; and
- It prevents defiance because those who sanction individuals do so in a respectful and empowering manner.
I would like to see pilots established to test the original model of restorative policing here in the UK.
Imagine, just for a moment, what society could be like if restorative policing worked as intended.
Assistant Professor Kerry Clamp and Professor Jonathan Doak of Nottingham Trent University are running an event called Building a New Paradigm: Enhancing Restorative Policing at Manchester Mercure Hotel, 3-4 July 2018.
For further info, email Kerri.firstname.lastname@example.org or click here: Agency_Accountability-ERP_A
We hope to see training for East Midlands policing professionals in the near future.
Moore, D. (1994) ‘Evaluating Family Group Conferences’, in in D. Biles and S. McKillop (Ed.)
Criminal Justice Planning and Coordination, Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.
Roche, D. (2003) Accountability in Restorative Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Weitekamp, E., Kerner, H. and Meier, U. (2003) ‘Community and Problem-oriented Policing
in the Context of Restorative Justice’, in E. Weitekamp and H. Kerner (eds) Restorative Justice in Context: International Practice and Directions, Collumpton: Willan.