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Making situated police practice visible: a study examining professional activity for the maintenance of social control with video data from the field

Rieken, Johannes (2013) Making situated police practice visible: a study examining professional activity for the maintenance of social control with video data from the field. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This PhD studies the professional practice of policing from a situated perspective. It explores with social psychological theories and methods how officers attend to incidents, showing that discretion exists within the ambiguity of a concrete situation that an officer interprets then and there. With Body-Worn Video(BWV), a head-mounted camera introduced into UK policing in 2007, officers record as part of their practice. Within the framework of Subjective Evidence-Based Ethnography (SEBE) (Lahlou, 2011) self-confrontation interviews of officers with their recordings allow insights into situated decision-making processes. I also became a Special Constable to train as an officer and organised a working group of police on the use of video, to gain insight into institutional factors. Hence,video use in policing is both an object of study and enabler of methodological innovation for this work. The empirical material is analysed to explore the interplay of institutions with concrete situations as displayed in officer recorded footage, focusing in particular on affordances (Gibson, 1986), connotations of action (Uexküll, 1956), sequential dimension (Knoblauch et al., 2006, Sacks et al., 1974) and social encounters (Goffman, 1961). The PhD develops 3 papers. Paper 1 focuses on discretion: crucial to the policing of an incident is whether it is pursued formally or informally. This categorisation occurs in a process where officers anticipate formal outcomes. They therefore often have discretion to construct an incident as warranting a formal response or not. So officers frame the situation as well as respond to it. Paper 2 expands on the formal/informal distinction to consider the trade-offs they have to make under cross constraints. Being able to simultaneously maintain an appearance of control Manning, 1977), adherence to due process, and attend to situational demands is only possible because officers have discretion in the process of co-constructing an incident in the ‘correct’ formats. Paper 3 discusses the relevance of seeing and visibility for policing. It also explores the impact of camera-mediated visibility on officer practice, therefore, addressing the implications of increasing visibility on policing and the biases resulting from using BWV as data for research. As the emphasis on appearance grows, officers lose the discretion that comes as part of interpreting a situation, forcing them to be more mechanistic in how they police incidents.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Johannes Christian Rieken
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Methodology
Supervisor: Lahlou, Saadi

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