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Civil Disputes and Crime Recording Refusals, Disinterest And Power In Police Witcraft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Nick Lynn, Susan J. Lea

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-380
Number of pages20
JournalThe British Journal of Criminology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012

King's Authors


This paper explores the rhetorical skills or witcraft of police officers as they adjudicate on disputes and crimes reported to them. The first author accompanied officers 'on the beat' to record these interactions with members of the public. A discourse analysis of the data revealed officers regularly use a discursive strategy that we term the that's civil device. Exploiting an epistemological imbalance that exists in police/public interactions, the device not only allows officers to externalize their judgments as matters of law; it also assists them to manage the conversationally and operationally difficult task of refusing. Moreover, it allows officers to resist claims of disinterestedness or neglect of duty as they limit or disbar their involvement in potentially insoluble disputes.

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