Transformative Policing

The Transformative Policing Research Group draws from interdisciplinary perspectives to address questions about police (mis)conduct and analyse contemporary trends in policing and security. We are interested in understanding everyday policing practices, the legal frameworks that frame policing, the interactions between citizens and police officers, and the ways in which police (mis)conduct can be examined, monitored, regulated, and transformed. We are specifically interested in analysing diverse empirical cases that simultaneously flesh out local specificities and underline global trajectories.

In June 2016, lawyer Willie Kimani is abducted together with his taxi driver and a client, who just filed a complaint against a police officer. A week later their tortured bodies are found in the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. Four police officers have been charged with the murder of these three men. The killings sparked outrage both in the streets and on social media under the hashtag ‘Stop extrajudicial killings’. 

In February 2017, during a police intervention in a suburb North of Paris, the 22-year-old Théo is beaten by police officers and sexually violated with a police baton. He is severely injured and ends up in the hospital. In the weeks that follow, we see car burnings, riots and protesters asking for justice and peace.

In May 2020, George Floyd, another unarmed Black male, was killed by the police in Minneapolis. A video showed four police officers detaining him, while he was handcuffed and pinned on the ground, face down and begging for his life and telling the cops: ‘I can’t breathe’. The footage went viral and resulted in (non)violent protests across the United States and spread to cities around the world.

(Photographers: Chris Henry, Olayinka Babalola, Gayatri Malhotra, Liliane Lathan & Norbu Gyachung)
(Photographers: Chris Henry, Olayinka Babalola, Gayatri Malhotra, Liliane Lathan & Norbu Gyachung)

The cases above of young men being killed by the police reflect the extremes of the habitual unrest between individuals, communities, and police officers across the globe. Although such tragic events are not a new phenomenon, recent events have heightened their public awareness and global presence. This is largely due to the prominent role that certain social movements, such as Black Lives Matter, have played in highlighting the structural racism within policing, and the demands to defund, dismantle, or abolish police departments. All of this has resulted in a growing and pressing debate about the role of police and policing in our society.

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