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Policing Contingencies$

Peter K. Manning

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780226503516

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226503523.001.0001

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(p.266) Appendix B Data Sources and Limits

(p.266) Appendix B Data Sources and Limits

Policing Contingencies
University of Chicago Press


I have used several kinds of fieldwork and data in this book. These include interviews, observations, newspaper and magazine clippings, the observations and interviews of colleagues, and television viewing. I have incorporated them into the risk-uncertainty drama framework outlined in chapter 1. The ritual/drama and games themes in Goffman are illustrated in the chapter on technology, and its relations to authority, skills, supervision, and the craft of policing. The framework in chapters 1 and 4 is adopted from Pfaffenberger and Burke as well as Goffman and outlines the dynamics of the introduction of new technologies and responses thereto by the several segments within policing. I have tried in the final two chapters to summarize the findings and the inferences of this work for future research. In some sense, this book is an overview of themes and transitions in policing over thirty years, and the data are both background and foreground in this exposition.

In general, the ethnographic core of this book has been emerging for some years, and the original aim of my fieldwork, drawing on Goffman's Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959) and “The Nature of Deference and Demeanor” (1957), was to explicate the sentient basis of the police role—honor and duty—as the twinned substance of police work (see Manning, 1997b: preface). In due course, I did not focus on the public-police interactional nexus, perhaps the most consistent interest of police scholars to this day, but on the tacit bases of the work and social integration within the police subdivision I studied. From this ethnographic work, (p.267) I developed the broader critique of rational, information-driven policing in Police Work. I refined it in Narcs' Game (1980), an assessment of violent and crime-focused policing, and in Symbolic Communication (1988), a critique of information-oriented and ideological-administrative models of policing, and other abstractions free of data derived from observations, interviews, and records. The explosion of media effects and technology, or at least the rhapsodizing of technology, so powerful in the last few years, precipitated the focus of the present work.

Clippings and Viewing

The materials in chapter 3, on high politics, media, and reflection, and materials on which I reflect in chapter 4, were gathered from newspapers, other periodicals such as the New Yorker, Newsweek, and Time, and the social science literature (as cited in those chapters). I kept a clippings file from the local newspaper for three years from fall 1995 to late summer 1998 for chapter 8. I draw on my own undisciplined television viewing. I don't use the VCR to tape snippets for research and teaching, as do many of my colleagues. I code and file newspaper articles using such topics as “cybernetics,” “social control and the visual,” “the modern [computer-assisted] house,” “computing and the self,” and “policing” (with subheads on the media, selves, and technology). It has never been clear to me how Goffman organized his vast clippings file, nor have I completely understood his awesomely whimsical, often ironic, pattern of footnotes. Some of the analysis of “high politics” in Western is based on my clippings file (for 1996–98) from the local Western papers and television newscasts.

Field Work, Including Interviews and Observations

Ethnographic fieldwork in several police organizations and interviews as well as published evaluation studies provide the primary data for the several chapters on technology and trust (5–7 and 9). Systematic data on police uses of technology were gathered in a large Midwestern police force in 1979–80 (see Manning, 1988: chap. 2); in London in 1973, 1979, and 1984 (Manning, 1997b); and in a large constabulary in the English midlands in 1979, 1981, and 1984 (Manning, 1988: chap. 2). Some additional, less systematic, materials were gathered at (Texas) Law Enforcement Management Institutes in 1991 (Lubbock) and 1992 (San Antonio).

The effects of technology on policing were the explicit ethnographic focus of the midlands study (Manning, 1988). However, some of the materials (p.268) on the sailor phone were not gathered systematically, and the chapter is intended as a framework for further research on the introduction of new technologies. Given the limitations of the data, it is not possible to examine whether there is a natural history of technological responses in a given organization, or the conditions under which the “stages,” responses, or minidramas unfold. These arguments and examples, although promising, are tentative and subject to further analysis with additional data.

My fieldwork in 1999, in Manchester and Cheshire, England, and Toronto, Canada, focused on the rationalization of policing via information technologies such as crime analysis, geocoding of crime, management by objectives, and performance indicators. It provides a backdrop to the arguments developed here. While editing this book, I was studying rationality in a Canadian department, a large constabulary in the UK, and a large Southern force. I am doing similar work now in Boston.

Changes in the officer's role occasioned by the advent of community policing have been claimed, rather than shown. Most of the critiques and commentaries focus on the “big picture”—criticizing the paucity of problem solving, lack of definitions of community, the contrasts between heroic and self-serving rhetoric and actual practice—rather than the dilemmas created by redefining the role, routines, and significant others. The theme of chapter 8, on roles and routines, is struck by Reiss in The Police and the Public (1971) and echoes and sharpens Goffman's ideas about the relationships between roles and routines, and the pervasiveness of teamwork in policing.

In the fall of 1995, I conducted unstructured interviews with a sample of command and supervisory officers in Western, including the chief, three captains, a former captain, a lieutenant, and two sergeants. My interest there was in command conceptions of community policing and related problems of evaluation and supervision. These interviews ranged from an hour to two. I interviewed a set of officers on the crime mapping capacity of the department in the fall of 1999. I write now in 2002 at the end of a period of transition, as noted in the epilogue to chapter 8. My focus is upon patrol officers in Western who underwent a command-led reform labeled “community policing” or “team policing.” In many respects the case study revealed some of the institutional contradictions in organizational reform and the vulnerability of the chief in such a transition.

Focus Groups

The author and Jane White conducted four focus groups on CP, work conditions, and technology, with top command and three groups of sergeants (p.269) and inspectors in a very large Midwestern police department in May 1994. Two focus groups (two with sergeants, two with officers) were conducted by Tim Bynum, Joe Schafer, Steve Mastrofski, and me in Western in December 1995. We discussed community policing, its strengths and weaknesses, problems of training, evaluation and supervision, and the role of technology in community policing. With Albert “Jay” Meehan, I studied the natural history of the adaptation of IT in two police departments in middle-sized Michigan cities. Both departments have advanced IT and use cellular phones widely. Two focus groups on community policing were done in summer 1998 by Jay Meehan and me in a COPS-funded study of community policing in Tanqueray. (p.270)