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

John Topping, Jonny Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The intention of this article is to provide a structural and operational analysis ofpolicing 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 analysisexists as to the epistemological roots of security production outside that of the PoliceService of Northern Ireland. The empirical evidence presented seeks to establish thatbeyond more prominent analyses related to paramilitary ‘policing’, the country is infact replete with a substantial reservoir of legitimate civil society policing – thecollective mass of which contributes to policing, community safety and quality of lifeissues. While such non-state policing at the level of locale was recognised by theIndependent Commission for Policing, structured understandings have rarely permeatedgovernmental or academic discourse beyond anecdotal contentions. Thus, thepresent argument provides an empirical assessment of the complex, non-state policinglandscape beyond the formal state apparatus; examines definitions and structures ofsuch community-based policing activities; and explores issues related to co-opting thisnon-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 statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Dec 2014


  • policing
  • security
  • community
  • non-state policing
  • Northern Ireland


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