Policing Under Fire

Ethnic Conflict and Police-Community Relations in Northern Ireland

By Ronald Weitzer

Subjects: Criminology
Series: SUNY series in New Directions in Crime and Justice Studies
Paperback : 9780791422489, 350 pages, December 1994
Hardcover : 9780791422472, 350 pages, December 1994

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Table of contents

Map of Northern Ireland

1. Policing Ethnically Divided Societies

Part 1: From Protestant to British Rule

2. Protestant Policing: 1922-1968

3. Reforming the RUC

Part 2: Core Problems in Police-Community Relations

4. Police Legitimacy and Professionalism

5. Dual Policing: Fighting Crime and Insurgency

6. Police Accountability

Part 3: Improving Police-Community Relations

7. Community Policing in the Shadows

8. Conclusion

Appendix: Community Interviewees

This is a study of the conditions present in an ethnically divided society that affect police-community relations.


This book examines police-community relations in an ethnically divided society, focusing on the attitudes and experiences of the Catholic minority and the Protestant majority, and the lower-class and middle-class sections of those populations. These groups attach great importance to, but are often polarized over, issues of police accountability, the handling of complaints against the police, the legitimacy and professionalism of the police force (the Royal Ulster Constabulary), use of deadly force, and the various forms of counterinsurgency policing which is preeminent in Northern Ireland.

The study specifies the conditions under which an ethnic group's relations with the police are likely to deteriorate or improve. Comparisons to other societies make this more than a case study of Northern Ireland. It is a major contribution to the literature on policing and ethnic conflict.

Ronald Weitzer is Associate Professor of Sociology at George Washington University.


"The author is working in an important area: the relationships among politics, the state, and policing, especially when explicit state interests and politics are involved. He comments very accurately on the shabby and ill-conceived ideology of community policing, and he brings data to bear in an illuminating fashion on the meaning of 'community' and the practices of 'community policing.'" — Peter K. Manning, Michigan State University