N8 PRP academic examines variations in the relationship between police powers and citizens’ rights inside police detention

by | Mar 13, 2019 | 0 comments

Police detention is the place where suspects are taken whilst their case is investigated and a case disposal decision is reached. It is also a largely hidden, but vital, part of police work and an under-explored aspect of police studies.

This new book by N8 PRP International Strand academic Dr Layla Skinns (University of Sheffield) provides a much-needed comparative perspective on police detention.

Drawing on data collected in a multi-method study across five cities in Australia, England, Ireland and the US, the book examines variations in the relationship between police powers and citizens’ rights inside police detention in cities in those four jurisdictions (Australia, England, Ireland and the US). It explores in particular the relative influence of discretion, the law and other rule structures on police practices, as well as seeking to explain why these variations arise and what they reveal about state-citizen relations in neoliberal democracies.

This entailed 480 hours of observation, as well as 71 semi-structured interviews with police officers and detainees. Aside from filling in the gaps in the existing research, this book makes a significant contribution to debates about the links between police practices and neoliberalism. In particular, it examines the police, not just the prison, as a site of neoliberal governance.

By combining the empirical with the theoretical, the main themes of the book are likely to be of utmost importance to contemporary discussions about police work in increasingly unequal societies.


“Skinns provides a critical, thoughtful and thought provoking thematic analysis of how police power is exercised in the police station. The original comparative analysis, expertly synthesised, starkly juxtaposes the experience in each jurisdiction but essentially enables a richly nuanced understanding of the impact of neoliberalism and police culture. Indispensable for policing scholars.”

Dr Vicky Conway, School of Law & Government, Dublin City University

“This excellent book is distinguished by its combination of empirical depth, comparative breadth and theoretical ambition. Layla Skinns confirms her reputation as the pre-eminent international researcher on highly significant political tensions between police powers and citizens’ rights in police detention.”

Professor David Dixon, School of Law, University of New South Wales

“Layla Skinns’ wonderful book, based on detailed fieldwork, observations and interviews, is an important, sensitive and powerful analysis of patterns of detention in Australia, the US, Ireland and England. I found it rewarding, subtle and grounded in comparative analysis and socio-legal reasoning.”

Peter K. Manning, Elmer V.H. and Eileen M Brooks Chair in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University.