Safety and safety policy
Diversity can lead to forms of instability and can have a burdensome effect on society. Tensions arising from inter-cultural encounters and the occurrence of behavior within certain groups of society that fall outside the social norm form an active area of research.
When tensions do occur, safety measures have to be taken in order to restore stability, including those within a legal framework. Some of these measures take into account intra-societal differences more successfully than others. It is of the highest importance, however, that all cultural groups in a society feel that both police and government protect their safety without engaging in discrimination. Consistently placing blame on any cultural (minority) group can only serve to further widen existing rifts. Safety policy doesn’t revolve solely around determining when and how police, government or society should step in and intervene. The nature of formal regulatory mechanisms can determine whether stabilization or escalation occurs in the first place.
For example, the placement of security portals outside a building may serve to increase security, but also lead visitors to feel stigmatized and actively distrusted. These negative perceptions can, in turn, have a destabilizing effect. Society is changing, and it is important for citizens to feel like they are participating in the process of change. At the same time, it is often the government that acts to regulate safety from above. As a result, strain between civilian and government initiatives presents itself as an interesting area of research.
‘Safety’ is a strange paradox: The definition of safety is ‘the absence of threat’, but the very act of talking about it can sometimes lead to the feeling of being threatened. Safety oriented policies and organizations call attention to those threats they exist to address. When people see more police on the street, they do not always feel safer. People’s fears are triggered instead, and they tend to fantasize about whether there might not be a reason for the extra police presence. Naturally, the world we live in today presents us with risks and dangers, and society calls attention to some of these dangers as being a safety concern. Safety oriented research must therefore not only work to identify threats and quantify risks, but also look at the way they occupy the public agenda.