Understanding Police Work in the Remote Northern isles of Scotland: The Extraordinary Ordinariness of Island Policing

Research output: Working paper

Abstract / Description of output

Remote islands are at the periphery of thinking about policing both in theory and in practice. Despite a rich tradition of police research, studies of rural policing are rare, and of policing in remote areas rarer still. Consequently, both the conceptual development of police scholarship and the development of operational policing and strategy have both been underpinned by a particular model of urban environment. This paper presents early findings from a major ethnographic study of policing in the remote Northern islands of Scotland, and considers what, if anything, is distinctive about policing in remote small islands.

Drawing on over 600 hours of ethnographic fieldwork of policing and island life, this paper describes the challenges and experiences of policing in small remote islands and the form of policing these produce. It argues first, the extraordinary conditions of remote island police work engender a style which emphasises under-enforcement, transparency, and in particular a striking empathy and humanity. Second, while this police style is felt by officers to be distinctive, it is in fact at the heart of all police work. Remote islands therefore present a paradox: their extraordinary conditions result in ordinary policing. And third, the perception that remote island policing is unusual suggests that what needs explanation is not island but urban policing.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2020

Publication series

NameEdinburgh School of Law Research Paper

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • policing
  • islands
  • ethnography
  • remoteness
  • rural
  • criminology


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding Police Work in the Remote Northern isles of Scotland: The Extraordinary Ordinariness of Island Policing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this