Police Paradoxes: Conflicting Interpretations in Public Value Creation

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This paper focuses on the police’s creation of public value and fulfilling of societal expectations. The police’s legitimate mission is to ensure all citizens’ safety and security in a situation where crime becomes more complex and crosses national borders such as terror, cybercrime, and economic crime. In order to do so, the police seek to strengthen the operational capacity by implementing ‘strategic analysis’ as a new governance mechanism. A strategic analysis identifies current threats and crime patterns creating a platform for recommendations of how to prevent and reduce crime.
The findings show that the implementation of a new steering technology may unintentionally evoke tensions and even paradoxes between the public values the organization initially set out to pursue. The paper argues that this is because the purpose of a steering technology is not a given, but may be interpreted in many often conflicting ways. The empirical case is the police’s implementation of strategic analysis, which is interpreted as a means to strengthen democratic control of police operations, but at the same time it may reduce citizens’ feeling of safety and security; it is interpreted as a means to create more efficiency, but at the same time it may require more data registrations; and finally it is interpreted as a means to promote preventative knowledge, but at the expense of a responsive and experience-based knowledge.
The guiding research question asks how the police’s implementation of strategic analysis, which is supposed to create and reconcile public values, instead creates latent tensions in the organization and paradoxes between the public values. The study is carried out as a qualitative case study of the Danish National Police. It is designed as document analysis including national and local policy documents, media texts, and webpages related to the police’s implementation of knowledge-based practice in general and to the ‘National Strategic Analysis 2015’ more specifically.
The theoretical framework is the concept of 'institutional logics' (Friedland and Alford, 1991; Thornton, Ocasio and Lounsbury, 2012). This concept helps to examine how a steering technology is always part of a broader institutional context. This means that the strategic analysis is embedded in different understandings (logics) of how the police should work and toward what public values such as ensuring citizens’ security and safety, building social cohesion, improving public sector efficiency, preventing crime and so on. The logics are brought into play when the organizational actors struggle to make sense of and integrate a new steering technology into their everyday practices. The institutional theory is supplemented by the theory of 'translation' (Czarniawska and Sevon, 1996; Sahlin and Wedlin, 2008) with a focus on the process by which an abstract concept – such as strategic analysis - is translated into concrete organizational practices. In this process, the actors interpret the new practice in a particular direction and highlight how it can (or cannot) fit into the local context.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventThe 21st Annual Conference of International Research Society for Public Management. IRSPM 2017 - Corvinus University, Budapest, Hungary
Duration: 19 Apr 201721 Apr 2017
Conference number: 21


ConferenceThe 21st Annual Conference of International Research Society for Public Management. IRSPM 2017
LocationCorvinus University
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