European Journal of Policing Studies

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Issue 1-2, 2024 Expand all abstracts

The Tip of the Iceberg: Exploring the Landscape of Policing in a Digitalized World

Authors Marleen Easton, Jasper De Paepe, Liz Aston e.a.
Author's information

Marleen Easton
Marleen Easton, Professor of Sociology, Department of Public Governance & Management, Ghent University; Research Fellow at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, Adjunct Professor, Centre for Justice, Queensland University of Technology; Honorary Professor, Centre for Policy Futures, University of Queensland, Australia. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0104-0533.

Jasper De Paepe
Jasper De Paepe, PhD candidate, Institute of Security and Global Affairs, Leiden University; Department of Public Governance & Management, Ghent University. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2618-7120.

Liz Aston
Elizabeth V. Aston, Professor of Criminology, Edinburgh Napier University, Director, Scottish Institute for Policing Research. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9960-6509.

Estelle Clayton
Estelle Clayton, Research Fellow and Lecturer, Edinburgh Napier University. https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7653-5878.

Access_open “Free Text Is Essentially the Enemy of What We’re Trying to Achieve”: The Framing of a National Vision for Delivering Digital Police Contact

Keywords police digital reporting, technological mediation, contact frames, procedural justice, Single Online Home
Authors Helen Wells, Will Andrews, Estelle Clayton e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Police organizations in England and Wales, as in many other contexts, are increasingly shifting crime reporting and other public-facing contact online. In this article, we explore the beliefs, motivations and objectives of those tasked with “delivering” the “vision” of digital police contact at the strategic national level. We use Goffman’s concept of frames – the set of expectations an actor brings to a situation or process – to understand how participants enacted this “channel shift” (Wells et al), the ends they were seeking to meet and how different interests came to be designed-in to the contact architecture. We suggest that the primary frame centred around notions of efficiency and demand management. Running alongside this is a secondary frame of customer service, where it is assumed that the public also wish for the efficient delivery of this technologically mediated service. This, we suggest, is likely to be only a partial reflection of what people want when contacting police; but the framing of “contact” as a separate deliverable by those delivering this agenda serves to occlude or evade this point. Technology, we argue, imprints itself on the context by appearing to offer a convenient solution to problems of public wants and police needs.

Helen Wells
Helen Wells, School of Social, Political and Global Studies, Keele University, h.m.wells@keele.ac.uk https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1149-4539.

Will Andrews
Will Andrews, School of Social, Political and Global Studies, Keele University, UK, https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4102-8061.

Estelle Clayton
Estelle Clayton, School of Applied Sciences, Edinburgh Napier University, UK https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7653-5878.

Ben Bradford
Ben Bradford, Department of Security and Crime Science, University College London, UK, https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5480-5638.

Elizabeth V. Aston
Elizabeth V. Aston, School of Applied Sciences, Edinburgh Napier University, UK, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9960-6509.

Megan O’Neill
Megan O’Neill, School of Social Sciences, University of Dundee, UK, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2204-0260.

Digitalization and Local Policing: Normative Order, Institutional Logics and Street-Level Bureaucrats’ Strategies

Keywords digitalization and local policing, normative order, institutional logics, street-level bureaucrats’ strategies
Authors Jan Terpstra
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article focuses on the question of how the local police operate in the age of digitalization. In what respects has digitalization changed the nature of local policing and policing? What processes and circumstances are relevant here? In this article a theoretical framework is presented to understand how local operational police officers use digital instruments and tools. This framework consists of elements derived from both institutional theory and the street-level bureaucracy approach. The relevance of this theoretical framework is illustrated by empirical findings from several studies on digitalization of the Dutch local police, especially a study conducted in three local teams. Four different forms of digitalization of the Dutch local police are investigated: the processing of information, the use of social media, the use of real-time intelligence and of mobile applications, and the new visibility of the police. Three theoretical concepts prove to be especially relevant for understanding how operational police officers use and adapt digital instruments and tools: their normative order, their institutional logic, and the strategies the police officers, as street-level bureaucrats, use to cope with the constraints related to digitalization.

Jan Terpstra
Jan Terpstra is emeritus Professor of Criminology, Faculty of Law, Radboud University, Nijmegen.

The Online Police Gaze: Police Discretion in the Digital Age

Keywords discretion, digital policing, digital transformation, online policing, decisoon-making
Authors Kira Vrist Rønn
AbstractAuthor's information

    Historically, discretion has been a key part of police work. In the digital age, police practices are changing, and it is therefore vital to examine how discretionary decision-making occurs in the digital realm – the so-called online police gaze. This study is based on semi-structured, qualitative interviews with and field observations of “digital police patrols” in Norway. The structure of the article is based on the four types of discretionary decision-making presented by Kleinig: scope, interpretive, priority and tactical. The study shows that the threshold for police attention is lower in the digital realm and that digital police officers emphasize the feasibility of constructive slowness when responding to digital encounters. Further, the study shows a risk of bringing along “old anomalies” and “stereotypes” in the online realm and points to challenges related to an asymmetrical dependence on private technology companies. Finally, the article concludes with a discussion of three common dichotomies from the policing literature, which might be collapsing when the police are operating online: distance versus proximity, dialogue versus crime control, and image work versus operational policing. Since digital policing is associated with a heightened degree of visibility of police – especially when engaging publicly on social media platforms – the article concludes by adding “image decisions” as an additional and overarching type of police discretion in the digital realm.

Kira Vrist Rønn
Kira Vrist Rønn, Associate Professor at Department of Political Science and Public Management, University of Southern Denmark.

“It’s complicated…” Social Media and Polish Law Enforcement Agencies’ Relationship

Keywords law enforcement practice, police, public prosecutors, criminal investigation, social media
Authors Paweł Waszkiewicz
AbstractAuthor's information

    Social media has become an integral part of our social fabric; it is also utilized by law enforcement as both a crime scene under investigation and a tool for investigating offline crimes, often providing valuable evidence. However, there are gaps in our understanding of global social media use, as research has focused primarily on English-speaking countries. This article presents a survey on how Polish police officers and prosecutors use social media in their daily practices. The survey utilized the computer-assisted personal interviews (CAPI) technique to explore the reality of Polish law enforcement. Respondents, consisting of police officers and prosecutors (n = 67 + 116), answered questions about their official and private use of social media. The study aimed to test hypotheses related to age and the official and private use of social media. The results of the survey contradict some expectations. Police officers and prosecutors use social media more frequently than their civilian counterparts. They are often reactive to the actions of criminals, which fits the arms race theory. However, some law enforcement officials have proactive strategies, and their knowledge and skills are exceptional.

Paweł Waszkiewicz
Paweł Waszkiewicz, Ph.D. J.D., University Professor, Department of Criminalistics, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warsaw. ORCID 0000-0001-9608-1586. This work is the result of the research project "Social Media in Law Enforcement Practice" (No. 2018/31/B/HS5/01876), funded by the National Science Center under the OPUS program.

Online Crime Reporting: A New Threat to Police Legitimacy?

Keywords law enforcement, crime reporting, crime victims, property crime, procedural justice
Authors Kris R. Henning, Kimberly Kahn, Kathryn Wuschke e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Police are more likely to be perceived as legitimate when officers are procedurally just during interactions with the public (i.e. impartial, transparent, fair and respectful). Efforts to reinforce these skills have largely focused on contacts initiated by officers. Less attention has been paid to interactions with crime victims. Moreover, in recent years many police departments have sought to increase efficiency by directing victims to report online, rather than communicating directly with an officer. Very little is known about how victims experience online reporting systems. This study surveyed 1,198 property crime victims who used a large US police department’s online reporting portal. The primary objective was to evaluate the online reporting system using a procedural justice lens. One out of eight respondents said the agency’s online system was difficult to use, and just 16.7% were satisfied with the agency’s handling of their online report. Bivariate and multivariate analyses are used to identify factors associated with satisfaction, and qualitative data are used to document the specific problems victims encountered while using the online portal. Recommendations for improving online reporting are provided, including a discussion of enhancing procedural justice in technology-mediated police communications.

Kris R. Henning
Kris Henning, Professor, Department of Criminology, Criminal Justice, Portland State University, Portland, OR, USA. khenning@pdx.edu.

Kimberly Kahn
Kimberley Kahn, Professor, Department of Psychology, Portland State University, Portland, OR, USA.

Kathryn Wuschke
Kathryn Wuschke, Associate Professor, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Portland State University, Portland, OR, USA.

Christian Peterson
Christian Peterson, Police Data Research Manager, Portland Police Bureau, Portland, OR, USA.

Stephen Yakots
Stephen Yakots, Sergeant, Portland Police Bureau, Portland, OR, USA

Access_open Machineries of Knowledge Construction: Exploring the Epistemic Agency of Digital Systems in Policing

Keywords Epistemic agency, actor-network theory, control rooms, Twitter, police systems
Authors Guro Flinterud and Jenny Maria Lundgaard
AbstractAuthor's information

    Understanding the contours and dynamics of police knowledge production necessitates consideration of not only the roles of organizations and humans but also the various technologies that are employed by the police. This article explores two digital technological systems used by police control rooms in Norway, namely their internal system for call handling, control and command, and Twitter, the social media platform. The control room is understood to be an epistemic culture, and we elucidate the systems as machineries of knowledge construction. Using the novel framework for interviewing digital objects from Adams and Thompson’s, Researching a posthuman world, this article scrutinizes how digital systems shape and define what becomes knowledge, uncovering and exploring how such systems have epistemic agency. The origins of the systems – one police-developed, the other not – have laid the basis for the systems’ affordances and the epistemic cultures they work within. While one works as a mostly friction-free system based on, and enhancing, internal police logics, the other is disruptive, laying a foundation for others to criticize and challenge the actions and logics of the police.

Guro Flinterud
Guro Flinterud is a senior researcher at the Norwegian Police University College.

Jenny Maria Lundgaard
Jenny Maria Lundgaard is an Associate Professor at the Norwegian Police University College. The authors have contributed equally to this article.

Spatial Relations and Police Legitimacy in a Digitally Mediated World

Keywords legitimacy, space, community policing, technology
Authors Melissa Bull, Jasper De Paepe, Tyler Cawthray e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Cawthray and Bull in their study titled, “The Spatial Dimension of Police Legitimacy: An Exploration of Two Pacific Island States”, map the significance of spatial relationships – defined in terms of physical or geographical distance and social distance – in their analysis of police legitimacy in rural and remote contexts. They demonstrate the importance of connecting spatial relationships with police legitimacy by analysing empirical data from two Pacific island case studies. Their conclusion suggest that the relationship should be tested across a broader range of cases that include Global North, urban and virtual settings. This article takes up this challenge by focusing on the spatial relations of police legitimacy in urban settings embedded in a digitally mediated world. Our secondary analysis of ethnographic observational and interview data collected in neighbourhood policing settings in Belgium demonstrates how the proximity or distance between police officers in their interactions with both officers and citizens, whether constituted in neighbourhood settings or digital domains, can be linked to conceptualizations of police legitimacy. We argue that contextually defined elements of spatiality (physical, social or virtual) should be considered in assessments of how perceptions of police legitimacy shape interactions between police officers and citizens.

Melissa Bull
Melissa Bull, Professor, Queensland University of Technology, Australia.

Jasper De Paepe
Jasper De Paepe, Leiden University, Netherlands, and Ghent University, Belgium.

Tyler Cawthray
Tyler Cawthray, Assistant Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Bond University, Australia.

Marleen Easton
Marleen Easton, Professor, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Belgium.

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