Exploring the policing of minoritised people and communities

Researchers: Dr Patrick Williams, Dr Remi Joseph-Salisbury, Dr Scarlet Harris, Dr Lisa White 

With the introduction of the Coronavirus Act (2020) – an attempt to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 transmission in the current crisis – we have witnessed an escalation of police powers. Related to this, there has been a marked and racially disproportionate increase in use of force by the police and wider law enforcement agencies, including stop and search practice, the administering of financial penalties, Taser usage and physical restraint tactics.

These developments paradoxically coincide with the emergence of national and global Black Lives Matter protests: a direct response to racist policing practices and the harms experienced and endured by minoritized people and communities. Historically, fatal interactions with the police have been accompanied by official narratives that move to individualise the causes of violent police interactions and serve to absolve the police of responsibility.

In response, this study explores the first-hand accounts of the policed alongside family and media narratives to facilitate an urgent reappraisal of police violence. In collaboration with national campaigns and community groups/organisations, the project aims to surface the highly personalised and traumatising experience of being policed paying particular attention to the factors that precipitate and drive up police encounters and use of force for minority ethnic people.

Our methods unashamedly foreground the narratives of the policed – utilising in-depth interviews and conversations with participants. Further, we will assess the predominance and relevance of the public health discourses as a strategy to legitimise increased surveillance and the over-policing of minoritised groups and communities during the coronavirus pandemic.