Laura Keesman

Police officers have a heightened risk of exposure to aggressive and violent behaviour. In order for the police to do their job they need to be ‘in control’. How do police officers manage to gain control collectively, and how do they work together in tense or threatening interactions?

I am interested in how police officers cope with antagonistic situations. For instance how do they ensure ‘control’ in a situation, what happens when they fail to do so, in other words: when violence escalates. How do police officers work together as a team, and more specifically: how do they use their body when doing so, and what types of (non) verbal communication do they use? How do police officers intervene in early stages of tense interactions, and how do they successfully de-escalate? On the other hand, when do they fail to do so? Finally, how do police officers cope with anxiety, tension or other negative emotions, and what are the meanings they give to violence? This research is about police officers' experiences, explicitly from their point of view.

In order to understand the intricate dynamics of tense situations police officers are dealing with, I will be observing different police teams during their daily shifts. I will be interviewing the members of the observed teams and try to come to an understanding of their experiences by reconstructing how they experienced antagonistic situations. Finally, I will watch video's with police officers collectively to discuss details of their actions, communication, and cooperation. By combining an ethnographic method with interviews I seek to comprehend the emotional processes and situational group dynamics of violent situations, and specifically how police officers deal with these in violent interactions.


flag yellow lowThis project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 683133


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