Shadow policing: the boundaries of community-based ‘policing’ in Northern Ireland

John Topping, Jonny Byrne

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16 Citations (Scopus)
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The intention of this article is to provide a structural and operational analysis of policing beyond the police in Northern Ireland. While the polity enjoys low levels of ‘officially’ recorded crime as part of its post-conflict status, little empirical analysis exists as to the epistemological roots of security production outside that of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The empirical evidence presented seeks to establish that beyond more prominent analyses related to paramilitary ‘policing’, the country is in fact replete with a substantial reservoir of legitimate civil society policing – the collective mass of which contributes to policing, community safety and quality of life issues. While such non-state policing at the level of locale was recognised by the Independent Commission for Policing, structured understandings have rarely permeated governmental or academic discourse beyond anecdotal contentions. Thus, the present argument provides an empirical assessment of the complex, non-state policing landscape beyond the formal state apparatus; examines definitions and structures of such community-based policing activities; and explores issues related to co-opting this non-state security ‘otherness’ into more formal relations with the state.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)522-543
Number of pages22
JournalPolicing and Society
Issue number5
Early online date16 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • shadow policing
  • non-state policing
  • security governance
  • police reform
  • plural policing


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