race, racism, policing, moral panics

Document Type

Main Theme / Tema Central


Policing and moral panics exist in a mutually reinforcing, reciprocal relationship, the harmful outcomes of which are disproportionately directed towards poor communities of colour. This paper will draw on two examples of moral panics: those surrounding Islamic terrorism and Black crime, in order to illustrate the harm that this reinforcing relationship can cause. This harm manifests itself in increasingly restrictive antiterrorism laws, Prevent initiatives, racial profiling, and internal surveillance within the Muslim community; as well as the policies of Joint Enterprise, Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs), and the strengthening of the school-to-prison pipeline, which disproportionally target Black youth. With reference to Hall et al’s notion of a ‘law and order society’, this paper will argue that these moral panics, rather than being wholly distinct, rather, bleed into one another. Whilst they target their own ’folk devils’ and manifest independently through policies that target specific ethnic or religious groups, they cumulatively serve to justify increasingly repressive policing practices. It is the control of perceived racial, cultural, or religious ‘others’, or deviants, that these moral panics serve to justify. This network of interconnected moral panics is self-perpetuating; policing acts as a catalyst for these panics and, at the same time, is presented as the solution to them.



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