How police officers in England and Wales learn to construct and report 'official reality'
Owen, Clive John (1999) How police officers in England and Wales learn to construct and report 'official reality'. PhD thesis, University of Warwick.
WRAP_THESIS_Owen_1999.pdf - Submitted Version
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Official URL: http://webcat.warwick.ac.uk/record=b1366665~S1
This research examines the way police officers learn to make sense of, and report,
100 in-depth, tape recorded interviews were carried out with police officers at various
stages of service including probationers, Tutor Constables, Trainers and a group of
experienced officers. Full transcripts of the interviews were prepared and then
subjected to a close-grained, qualitative analysis in which various themes were
identified. The results were then subjected to a statistical technique known as logistic
The findings reveal, inter alia, that an officer's interpretation of incidents will change
with experience. Probationers at first treat incidents as self-contained legal 'texts'
with semiosis limited to consideration of 'points to prove'. Later they begin to take
into consideration contextual factors. More experienced officers introduce
experiential or 'intertextual' factors into their semiosic activity so that their
interpretation includes not just synchronic but diachronic elements. Various 'interpretive communities' are identified linked to structural groupings within the
policing institution and impacting on the way incidents are interpreted and reported.
Police culture[s] is shown to largely determine what elements of an incident are seen
as salient and what are ignored.
Officers develop socio-spatial cognitive frameworks during their Tutor Constable
attachments made up of detailed local knowledge and historical practices which shape
the way they approach incidents, and interact with the public.
The substantive criminal law was found to offer little guidance to patrol officers who
utilise normative and evaluative conceptual frameworks grounded in personal and
family value systems. Law is used by police officers to legitimise decisions arrived at
through a parallel process of decision-making that is grounded in police operational
Anglo-Americanl egal discoursea ssumesa n unproblematicr elationshipb etween
language and 'reality'. The present findings support a social constructionist theory of
the semiotic encounter in which the patrol officer is not a passive observer of events,
but constructs a version of 'reality' from various potential interpretations.
|Item Type:||Thesis or Dissertation (PhD)|
|Subjects:||H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare|
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Police reports|
|Official Date:||September 1999|
|Institution:||University of Warwick|
|Theses Department:||School of Law|
|Extent:||325,  p.|
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