Interactional Troubles in Police-Citizen Interactions: Blindness as an Underlying Mechanism in Catagory Work about Danger

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Positioned at the boundary between the state and citizens, street-level workers face an enduring dilemma: inadequate resources force them to decide who gets help from government and whose needs are ignored. Coping with these conditions of work, street-level workers engage in the assessment of citizen’s worthiness to receive their effort and service, dismissing those citizens that they deem unworthy. These practices may however generate blindness towards citizens’ situations and experiences, ultimately producing disparities in service provision. From a psychodynamic perspective, blindness is the result of the unconscious management of painful, often unconsciously felt emotions, which may arise if workers experience anxiety threats associated with conflict for example between the duty of protection and prevention of crime and harsh realities and institutional objectives. Focusing on how emotions influence street-level exchanges in situations of conflict, we analyse a call for emergency assistance to study the interaction patterns of coping mechanisms between police operator and citizen caller. Our analysis of the call integrates conversation analysis with systems psychodynamic to explore the actors’ unconscious level of emotion management and how this is linked to conflictual interaction in street-level exchanges. This integration of frameworks allows us to make practices of blindness in police-citizen encounters visible and present a novel perspective on what makes citizen demands and wishes unworthy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event37th EGOS Colloquium 2021: Organizing for an Inclusive Society: Meanings, Motivations, and Mechanisms - Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 8 Jul 202110 Jul 2021
Conference number: 37


Conference37th EGOS Colloquium 2021
LocationVrije Universiteit
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