Disputation: Christin Thea Wathne

Christin Thea Wathne will be defending the thesis; Like being a stranger in your own home – Police perception of meaning and motivation in light of new management systems for the degree of Ph.D.

Original title: Som å bli fremmed i eget hus - Politiets opplevelse av mening og motivasjon i lys av nye styringssystemer

The disputation will be held in Norwegian

Christin Thea Wathne

Copyright: AFI

Trial lecture - time and place

Adjudication committee

  • Professor Heidi Mork Lomell, University of Oslo (leader)
  • Professor Anne Marie Støkken, University of Agder (1. opponent)
  • Professor Helge Søndergaard Hvid, Roskilde University (2. opponent)

Chair of defence

Dean Hans Petter Graver


  • Professor Liv Finstad, University of Oslo
  • Professor Helene I. Gundhus, Politihøgskolen
  • Professor Haldor Byrkjeflot, University of Oslo


During the last 20 years life as a police employee in Norway has been characterised by a series of changes. These changes may be seen as specific to the police, but also reflect some prevalent social trends. The public sector has been, and still is, subject to reforms inspired by New Public Management (NPM). This has led to new forms of management and administration, organisational changes and new problem solving methods. Among the most prominent reform measures is goal and result management, which involves measuring results achieved in order improve management, control and learning. Police cultures and organisational identities have been challenged and put into play, and police perceptions of meaning and motivation have been affected.

The reforms’ focus on improving efficiency and documenting results coincided with a global shift in the crime picture, where organised crime was identified as the main threat. This helped give the idea of more standardised and measurable police methods a more prominent place. Since an emphasis on these approaches in practise means that the more experience-based generalist work is deprioritised, this shift can be seen as a devaluation of the traditional broad role of the police. The role of the police shifts towards crime fighter, at the expense of the role as crime preventer.

This chipping away of the police role must be seen in light of the fact that help and regulatory work towards the public is at the heart of what motivates and gives job satisfaction. The focus on efficiency and measuring in NPM-inspired reforms has negative consequences for the police’s encounters with the public because the police in part cannot perform their tasks in the way the public expects, and because the police have to reject members of the public who ask for help and assistance. Police employees feel that having to say no to people who ask for help is a greater burden than threats and violence.

Whether the police deem that the goal and result management system “hit” the “core” of police work, and the extent to which employees in the police are motivated by the system, depend on where in the organisational hierarchy they are. While HR managers and specialists are motivated the most, uniformed police are the least motivated. Because many in the first-line services feel that the goal management system ignores valuable tasks, an unfortunate practice develops where some “brush up the numbers” which are registered in the goal and result management system.

The goal management also seems to contribute to police employees becoming relatively critical of the management, and in particular the management in the Police Directorate. The discontent concerns the view that the management higher up in the hierarchy have a different view of “reality” and that it is largely concerned with meeting the demands of the management system rather than managing. The less satisfied one is with the management system, the more like one is to brush up the results, and the less satisfied one is with the management.

Politianalysen (“The Police Analysis”, NOU 2013: 9) argues that the police should have a more limited set of tasks in order to solve effectively what is defined as the core tasks of the police. This contrasts with the older central public documents on the role of the police, which emphasised the civilian tasks of the police and their support in the local community. The broad debate on what kind of police we should have, i.e. the role of the police, has been practically non-existent. This fact may serve as an example of the democratic deficit in a decision making process which is very important to society.


Published Aug. 13, 2015 1:46 PM - Last modified May 18, 2021 11:48 AM