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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Negotiating demands : the politics of skid row policing in Edinburgh, San Francisco and Vancouver Huey, Laura


This thesis analyzes the influence of local political and moral economies on police practices within marginalized communities. Field research of policing in the skid row districts of Edinburgh, San Francisco and Vancouver provides comparative data on policing demands, strategies, styles and practices in three distinct civic contexts. While there is a combination of exclusionary, coercive-inclusionary and inclusionary policing in all three jurisdictions, there is a different emphasis in each jurisdiction deriving from structural features of their respective civic political regimes. Operating within a regime of ordoliberalism, the police in Edinburgh primarily function as knowledge workers who network with a range of other community agencies to accomplish order and provide inclusionary services on skid row. In contrast, the police in San Francisco operate within a neo-liberal regime that mandates a coercive approach to skid row problems with exclusionary consequences for inhabitants. Vancouver blends both forms of liberalism in a more conflicted political environment, resulting in a 'middle-way' regime of peacekeeping that utilizes an unique mix of inclusionary and exclusionary programs and practises on skid row. In all three cities the police are shown to be 'demand negotiators', addressing conflicting sets of demands that reflect the structural conditions in which they operate. How police meet demands - through incident and context-specific uses of law enforcement, peacekeeping, social work and knowledge work - is shown to be a consequence of the political and moral economies in which they operate. In offering a new conceptualization of police as demand negotiators, the thesis not only advances knowledge of police organization and decision making-processes, but also refines our understanding of how processes of inclusion and exclusion occur in different liberal regimes.

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