Disputation: Jenny Maria Lundgaard
Master in Criminology Jenny Maria Lundgaard will be defending the thesis Critical Knowledge. The Becoming of Meaning and Decision-making in the Police Control Room for the degree of Ph.D.
Original title: Kritisk kunnskap: Meningsdannelse og beslutningsprosesser ved politiets operasjonssentral
The disputation will be held in Norwegian
Jenny Maria Lundgaard
- Professor emeritus Liv Finstad (leader)
- Adjunkt Kira Vrist Rønn (1. opponent)
- Professor Aksel Tjora, NTNU (2. opponent)
Chair of defence
Head of Department May-Len Skilbrei
- Professor Heidi Mork Lomell
- Professor Helene O. I. Gundhus
When an operator at the police control room answers an emergency call, the content of the call may vary from the non-significant to the serious and critical. The control room receives, interprets, and assesses all calls, decides whether police response is required, and coordinates and leads that response. This thesis is an enquiry into what shapes and determines the control room practices – how do one create structure in the dealings with what is by nature both unpredictable and uncertain?
Fieldwork and proximity to practices
The criminological thesis is based on ethnographic fieldwork at various police control rooms, mostly in Norway, but also in Scotland. Through presence in the day-to-day activities of these control rooms, the study has provided detailed insights and proximity to these control room practices, both physically and time-wise. Analysing this data maps the variation of the elements, which shape the control room practices.
A jigsaw Puzzle
The thesis uses theoretical perspectives from actor-network theory, and also critical security studies, police science, and criminology. The control room is here regarded as the result of an interconnection of humans and technologies in complex and contradictory processes. It receives input of nearly indefinite variations, from various callers, registries, departments, and patrols. Trough technologies, categorisation, and police scrutiny, mess, ambiguity and uncertainty is transformed, and becomes manageable entities; police tasks. These processes may be compared to a jigsaw puzzle where the number of pieces and the size of the puzzle remains unknown, but still demands a decision to be made.
Any call answered needs a decision: Should it be transformed into further police work or not? Many calls are disregarded and given no priority, and the thesis explores the considerations leading up to these conclusions. One of the main findings is that it is not the events in themselves that determine the response, but the call taker’s perception of the call. Thus, the control room holds the position of a gatekeeper, creating and recreating the boundaries of what becomes operative police work.
The control room as a subject and object of Power
The control room is both an object and a subject of power and government. Within the police organisation, it holds a position above that of the patrols, where its responsibility is to lead and coordinate their work. The patrols and the control room may be said mainly to have the same goals, but their different positions and responsibilities may result in dilemmas and challenges. Control and management may come both from within the police, as well as from political government. As an object of control and management, the work of the control room is also shaped by official guidelines, such as demands concerning response time.
In the thesis, the critiques of the police’s handling of the terrorist attacks on the 22nd of July 2011 is highlighted as a significant reason for later changes in the police, control rooms included. These two changes consist of a turn towards an increased focus on preparedness and also a heightened level of professionalization of the control rooms. The focus on preparedness is visible in the everyday practices of the control rooms, which in turn leads to several dilemmas explored in the thesis. At the same time, the control rooms have become more professionalised, and their work more specialized. The thesis explores how one tries to create structures to ensure the handling of all the variations and complexities the control room faces continuously, not just in the present, but also the imagined futures, futures that can turn out never to take Place.