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22 Apr 2014

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Lecture Three Police and the Public
Mobilizing the Police
Citizens mobilize the police as a power resource to assist in handling their own troubles
and conflicts
Mobilizing the police as the first step in using the law is usually done less for a sense of
civic duty than from an expectation of personal gain
Writing in 1968, Black claimed that the middle orders do not typically initiate direct
contact with the police except when they are the victims of property crime
Today, most homeowners simply call the police to file a report for insurance purposes
without the expectation that officers will actually attend:
oThe ‘lower orders’ frequently use the police for this purpose and also mobilize
them to handle interpersonal conflicts because other forms of social control have
failed, are unavailable, or are absent
Police-citizen encounters
Situating people
oIn order to minimize uncertainty when encountering a new individual, the police
sharpen their powers of observation
oThis is done with the intention of categorizing people into groups, thereby
making their behaviour not only more understandable but more predictable as
oPatrol officers typically have little information besides the appearance of
individuals and the situation
oThey need to make judgments about people based on cues (wearing a Rolex vs.
homeless looking)
oMany officers look for and employ status ‘cues’ to determine what action they
should take
oPolice activity is as much directed to who a person is as to what he does
oRespect is an important normative concept for the police
oOfficers believe that they are owed deference because of their symbolic status:
“the officer generally has greater social value and influence than the citizen
oSykes and Clark attempt to show that it is because lower-status people have less
ability to express deference that they more often end up being officially
oThey also show that the police are reciprocally more disrespectful to young, male
suspects in order-maintenance situations and least likely to be disrespectful in
service calls involving women, senior citizens, and the middle class
oHoward Becker: rule enforcers and respect
Dealing with public expectations
oPolicing as part of a status set mothers, fathers, daughters, neighbours, and
police officers
oThe public responds to the officer, not as a civilian, but in his capacity as a police
oThe police officer expects that his audience will be critical
oIf the officer steps out of his expected role for a moment, he does so at risk. His
life, or health or reputation might be placed in serious jeopardy
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