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Addressing the baseline or the frontline?: The multiform character of credible police performance

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to investigate the different and competing demands on police, and how they affect the credibility of police performance. The paper also looks at a possible way out of situations with competing claims. Design/methodology/approach ‐ This paper is based on a research project that focused on the interactions of police with their environment. In total, 40 qualitative, open-ended interviews were obtained with people who had been in contact with the police in the previous 12 months. These interviews were transcribed and analysed with the help of qualitative data analysis software. Findings ‐ This analysis led to the discovery of four types of facets within these interactions which the authors labelled: situational, symbolic, institutional and professional. These are aspects of the horizontal relationships within the police environment, but at the same time police also have a vertical relationship (a "baseline") with their superiors that is highly important. Research limitations/implications ‐ The paper explores these different and competing accountability claims on the police and looks at specific policing situations, in order to assess the influence of police performances on the credibility of the police. It is also a stepping stone for further research into the relationship between horizontal and vertical aspects of police performance. Practical implications ‐ The paper shows why police performances can easily lack credibility and is important because it analyses different facets that police need to keep in mind when interacting with civilians. Originality/value ‐ The paper looks at some of the innate tensions in contemporary police work, which causes a "credibility trap" that is almost impossible to avoid, but can have severe implications for the legitimacy of the police.
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Keywords: Accountability; Evaluations; Interviews; Legitimacy; Performance measures; Police; Public opinion; The Netherlands

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 2, 2012

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