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Applying complexity theoryWhole systems approaches to criminal justice and social work$
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Aaron Pycroft and Clemens Bartollas

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781447311409

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447311409.001.0001

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The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: a case study in policing and complexity

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: a case study in policing and complexity

(p.141) Seven The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: a case study in policing and complexity
Applying complexity theory

John G.D. Grieve

Policy Press

Chapter Seven addresses the issue of the Metropolitan Police as a complex adaptive system and develops the theme of path dependence identified in Chapter Six. The chapter does this by examining the inquiry and responses to that inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence. By using a complex systems analysis (realist), the chapter addresses the important issue of ‘order for free’ as a key component of complex systems and the ways in which features and behaviours such as racism can become ‘locked in’ despite efforts to change these features. The chapter finds that the original investigation into the murder was overly reductionist and that the response to the Inquiry relied on reductionist approaches to critical incident analysis. The author contends that complexity thinking about learning and adaptation of policies and practices could have improved the progress made in the 15 years since the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, and in particular, the finding of institutional racism.

Keywords:   complex adaptive system, Metropolitan Police, racism, reductionist, complexity, critical incident analysis, Stephen Lawrence murder

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