LL4BC      Half Unit
Policing and Police Powers

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Robert Reiner NA7.23


This course is available on the MSc in Criminal Justice Policy, MSc in Public Management and Governance, MSc in Regulation, Master of Laws and Master of Laws (extended part-time study). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course will be relevant to the following specialisms: Criminology and Criminal Justice, Public law, Legal Theory.

This course is capped at 30 students. Students must apply through Graduate Course Choice on LSE for You.

Course content

The police are a central part of the criminal justice system and of the State's formal machinery for maintaining order and enforcing law. It is difficult to underestimate their importance in the process of criminal law enforcement and social policy more generally. Nonetheless the police are only one aspect of the more general institutions and processes of policing. There is a burgeoning research, policy-oriented and theoretical literature analysing the nature and functions of policing. Policing and police powers are central focal points for debate in the politics of criminal justice, as well as one of the fastest-growing areas in academic research and publishing within criminology. This course will review the extensive research literature. It is a recommended but not compulsory pre-requisite for course LL4BD which examines contemporary issues and policy developments in policing. 1. The nature and functions of 'policing'. What is the role of the police in the State and legal system? The pluralisation of policing, and the relationship between the police and other aspects of policing. 2. The historical development of policing. Theoretical debates about the explanation and interpretation of changes in policing in modern times. 3. Police work and the impact of police organisations. Particular stress will be laid on issues of police discretion, culture, discrimination, and the measurement and enhancement of 'effectiveness'. 4. The characteristics and dynamics of police organisations. Particular attention will be paid to questions of management, personnel issues, and 'canteen culture' ie informal organisation 5. Specialist aspects of policing organisations, notably criminal investigation, and the control of public order, will be examined. 6. The relationship between State and 'private' forms of policing. 7. The legal powers of the police. Police powers and the controls over their exercise will be analysed, with particular reference to The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and its impact. 8. Police accountability and control. Who guards the guardians? The complaints system and the debates about police governance will be discussed. 9. The role of police organisation in the formulation of law and criminal justice policy. The politics of police representative associations, and their role as pressure groups for legal and policy change. 10. Policing and the Mass Media. The representation of the police and policing in the mass media will be analysed, and its implications assessed.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

There will be a Reading Week in week 6.There will be one revision session in the Summer Term.

Formative coursework

One 2,000 word essay.

Indicative reading

General surveys of the field include: T Newburn (Ed), Handbook of Policing, 2nd. Ed. (Willan 2008); R Reiner, The Politics of the Police (Oxford University Press 4th edn, 2010). Useful collections of research and policy papers include: T Newburn (Ed), Policing: Key Readings Willan 2004; R Reiner (Ed), Policing Vols I and II Dartmouth 1996; J.Peay and T.Newburn eds.: Policing: Politics, Culture and Control Hart Publishing 2012; J.Brown (Ed) The Future of Policing Routledge 2014. Detailed Reading lists for each topic will be provided.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2015/16: 15

Average class size 2015/16: 14

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills