“Policing” in pandemic times of the 21st century: An analysis on Switzerland

Time period: January 2021 – December 2021

Description: Classic policing was characterized by the State’s mandate to ensure law and order and, if necessary, to enforce it with force. This State monopoly on the use of force encompassed the legitimate authority to give orders and on the part of those receiving orders to obey. However, this form of police work is increasingly giving way to a pluralization and differentiation of tasks (fields) and to outsourcing to the private security sector. Such a pluralization of the security industry has an impact not only on the daily work of the police, but also on confidence building. Trust as part of social capital arises in interactions, in an exchange of performance and consideration. Trust is important because it is the foundation of positive interaction. Successful cooperation between security actors and society therefore requires mutual trust.
In times, when the establishment and maintenance of security is receiving strong support, social control and surveillance are increasingly tolerated. Nevertheless, there are critical voices in society who question authorities. Policing is criticized on the basis of systemic inequalities. The pandemic adds new challenges. It is important to monitor newly introduced duties such as wearing a mask or preventing larger groups from forming in
public spaces and, if necessary, to point out any contraventions to sanitary rules. In addition, the longer the restrictive measures prescribed by the Federal Council last, the more social resistance increases, e.g. in the form of public protests by Corona skeptics or in the form of young people who riot. While such outbreaks are criticized and stigmatized as deviant by society, it is the task of the police to find appropriate ways of dealing with such incidents and at the same time to enforce the legal requirements.
This project sheds light on the complexity of such interactions. It examines how the police perceived their work in times of the pandemic in terms of challenges and opportunities. For this purpose, guided interviews are conducted with heads of police authorities in the German-speaking and the French-speaking parts of Switzerland.

Research Team and contact: Silvia Staubli (silvia.staubli@unisg.ch) and Daniel Fink (daniel.fink@unil.ch)