Welcome to my blog

I thought this would be a great way to tell everyone about the many interesting things that I do in my professional life as a researcher, writer and educator. At the moment, my interest is mainly focused on policing and more specifically on police custody i.e. where people are taken on arrest whilst a decision is reached about charge. Watch this space for updates on my whirlwind academic life.

About Me

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Layla Skinns is a Senior Lecturer in criminology in the Centre for Criminological Research at the School of Law, University of Sheffield. Before joining the Centre for Criminological Research, Layla worked at the University of Cambridge, where she was the Adrian Socio-Legal Research Fellow at Darwin College and a Teaching Associate on the MSt. in Applied Criminology for senior police, prison and probation staff. Whilst working as a Research Fellow at Darwin College, she co-organised the prestigious Darwin College Lecture Series on the theme of risk. Her qualifications are: MA (Hons) Sociology and Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 2000; MPhil Criminological Research, University of Cambridge, 2001 and PhD Criminology, University of Cambridge, 2005

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

One small step closer ...

In my last post, I mentioned about how it feels like a life-time's work to try to get to grips with policing in other jurisdictions. Well, over the last few days I have been taking a few more mini steps towards this whole life-time of work, or at least I hope so. I have been rather avidly reading about the history of policing in France, England, Ireland, America and Australia. Whilst there is much that they share, there are many differences (sometimes subtle and sometimes not) which are difficult to explain.

For instance, why is that the police in the U.S. routinely carry firearms, whilst the police in England do not? [By the way, the police officers that I researched in America found this fact astounding]. On the one hand, one might point to the American constitution and argue that the right to bear arms has long been a fundamental part of American society. However, I was rather persuaded by Jean-Paul Brodeur's rather more nuanced answer to this question in his brilliant new book 'The policing web'. He argues that, in England, the ruling class had to be cautious in their recourse to coercion, as the 'ruled' population in the nineteenth century was relatively large compared to that of the rulers. This necessitated a kind of "quiet coercion" in which the police sought to rule by consent and without carrying firearms. By contrast, in America, those regarded as being in need of the most social control were the latest wave of immigrants and these groups were far from being in a majority in American society. Hence, Brodeur says, "there was no need to placate them, and force was used without much restraint; the police could be confidently violent, knowing that they always had the majority on their side" (2010: 72).

I am hoping that what is going to be great about my new module on police and policing in a global context is that it forces you to look outside the practicalities of policing and consider the wider social and historical context in which they take place. As this small example shows, police practices of the present are well and truly embedded in societies of the past.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

My forthcoming talk in Sheffield

Speaker:  Dr Layla Skinns, Lecturer in Criminology, Centre for
Criminological Research, University of Sheffield
Title:  Plural Policing and the Police Custody Process in England and Wales
Place:  The Moot Court, School of Law, Winter Street, Sheffield S3 7ND

Time:  5.15pm


For the last decade, the police custody process has been a neglected  area of scholarly research in England and Wales. Yet, the context of police custody has changed. Civilianization is giving way to privatization, meaning that there are a growing number of non-warranted civilians employed either by the police or private security companies to perform key tasks in the police custody process. In this talk, I draw on my recent mixed-method research in two police custody areas, one predominantly publicly-run and one predominantly privately-run. In particular, I examine the meaning of plural policing in these two sites, considering things like roles and responsibilities of police and police staff, the use of force, suspect perceptions of police staff compared to the police, as well as accountability mechanisms. One of the key conclusions is that police and civilian police staff use their authority differently, with police staff adopting a more procedurally just style of policing, whilst the police rely on more coercive strategies.

And if this is not enough to tempt to you to come along there will be mince pies and wine afterwards.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Faculty Fellowship Award

Wow. I found out yesterday that I've been given a Faculty Fellowship Award from the University of Sheffield. This will cut down my teaching hours next semester and give me more time to work on my research and on forthcoming projects. This is very exciting news indeed. I am delighted! From what I gather the competition was fairly stiff.

In spite of the award, I am pleased to say that I shall still be running my new optional undergraduate module on police and policing in a global context. I'm just reading David Nelken's new book on 'Comparative Criminal Justice', for the first of these lectures. I have found it to resonate a great deal with my own experience of doing comparative research. Such research is hugely challenging and these challenges cannot be under-estimated. To fully understand policing in the other common-law jurisdictions that I looked at (namely, Australia, America and Ireland) one needs to fully grasp the wider cultural and socio-political context in which is takes place. This is probably a whole life-times work or at least it seems that way.