Policing Bias Crime

Gail Mason1
1University Of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 2University of London, London, UK

Bias crime has struggled to gain a concrete foothold in routine policing in Australia. The New South Wales Police Force was the first to establish a dedicated bias crime initiative in 2007. Its fate has waxed and waned dramatically in the intervening decade. This paper presents the results of the first empirical study of bias crime policing in New South Wales to analyse the reasons for this instability. Bias crime policing presents challenges of diversity, corporate culture and community mistrust. Legitimacy must be achieved amongst both institutional and public audiences. Drawing upon a series of semi-structured interviews with NSW Police Force personnel the article advances four analytical dimensions that help us understand the priorities, achievements and hurdles faced by the NSW Police Force in responding to bias crime: how the problem is defined and identified; how bias crime is framed; reporting and recording practices; and the internal and external orientation of the bias crime initiative. This analysis reveals a tension between corporate culture and community expectations that has impeded the evolution of bias crime as a legitimate portfolio that adds value to law enforcement on a daily basis. The paper seeks to identify a tangible pathway for working towards the integration of bias crime into the current business model of policing in New South Wales.

Gail Mason is Professor of Criminology at the University of Sydney Law School. Gail’s research centres on crime, social justice and regulation, particularly hate crime and sexual assault law. She was Director of the Sydney Institute of Criminology from 2008-2012.


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