Who do you call? Imagining a world without (the need for) police

A/Prof Nicole Asquith1

1Western Sydney University, Penrith, Australia

Continuing the legacy of Marxist, feminist and zemiological critiques, in this paper I consider the structural and cultural artefacts of the criminal processing system that inform the frontline practices of violent, and at times, unjust systems of policing. In adopting a critical utopian vision of criminal justice agents as temporary aberrations—as a phase through which we must pass into a world where police are not required—I consider how “parsimonious policing” (Anderson & Burris, 2017) and “propinquitous policing” (Asquith 2019) may contribute to a world where the role and remit of the police are significantly truncated. Conversely, the utopian goal of a world without (the need for) police will be interrogated in terms of the ‘here and now’ (Huxley 1962), and the path between an idealistic crime-free world and the contemporary landscape where interpersonal violence is normalised, and violent state intervention is perfunctory. The aim of this paper, in this respect, is to imagine how the goals of policing can be achieved in ways that do not sustain the need for police (nor extend their remit and powers), nor abrogate our obligations to respond to the ‘hue and cry’ of our neighbour.


Nicole Asquith is the Associate Professor of Policing and Criminal Justice at Western Sydney University and Senior Researcher with the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement. Nicole has worked for and with policing services in Australia, NZ and the UK for over 20 years, primarily focussed on the intersections between vulnerability and policing. Recently she has begun work on imaging a world without police in her book, Critical Policing Studies, which will be published by Routledge in 2019.


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