Research Output

‘Soft’ Policing in Rural Scotland

  ‘Soft’ policing focuses on the non-coercive elements of policing, typically community engagement, situated knowledge and negotiated order maintenance. Although soft policing as a philosophy has been critiqued, recent work by McCarthy (2014. “Soft” Policing: The Collaborative Control of Anti-Social Behaviour. New York: Palgrave Macmillan). has argued that it is a useful concept for examining the ways that the police can work in partnership. It is therefore timely to examine the ways that soft policing can be applied in a rural policing context. This paper informs these debates by arguing that in some rural communities soft policing is the primary mechanism for tackling anti-social behaviour (ASB). Due in part to the challenges associated with policing large rural beats, police officers in some rural environments have clearer opportunities to engage with the community, use their situated community knowledge, and negotiate order. Thus through critical examination of the response of the police to ASB in rural Scotland, the paper argues that the soft policing agenda is useful for explaining some of the nuanced and complex ways that the police in rural Scotland tackle ASB. The paper begins by exploring the recent resurgence in soft policing literature, before the concept of soft policing in the context of rural Scotland is discussed. The paper concludes by exploring what the implications of these findings are for wider policing policy.

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  • Date:

    05 August 2016

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  • Publisher

    Oxford University Press

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  • Library of Congress:

    HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    363 Other social problems & services


Wooff, A. (2017). ‘Soft’ Policing in Rural Scotland. Policing, 11(2), 123-131.



Policing; soft policing; police power; social control; coercion;

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