Fifty three shades of grey refers to the radical transformation of policing and security in society from a traditional public – and foremost ‘blue’ – police system into a hybrid(semi)public and private policing system which is losing its dominant – and visible – blue character. Using the criminological concepts ‘police as an institute’ and ‘policing as a process’ the ongoing blurring of boundaries between different public and private organisations is discussed in the context of the proliferation of different forms of multi-agency cooperation. Whereas in the traditional discourse of the public police system a strong tradition of analysing the democratic nature of policing exists, in the public and scientific perception of the new, variegated police constellation such notions are still lacking, which contributes to the relative lack of political control, the defective democratic accountability and fragile human rights in the grey areas. The public discourse on the police remains too narrowly focused on the public police system. ‘Normal science’ of policing needs to break away from ‘police as an institute’ to incorporate new research questions and new concepts regarding ‘policing as a process’.
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