“sorry to keep asking you to repeat yourself but-”: Negotiating the institutional, professional and relational dimensions of police-victim interaction during domestic abuse call-outs
Cardiff University, United Kingdom
This paper examines the interplay of institutional, professional and personal discourses (Sarangi and Roberts 1999) in interactions between police officers and reported domestic abuse victims during ‘first response’ call-outs in England and Wales. Officer training underscores the importance of building rapport with victims to put them at ease and increase the likelihood of cooperation (College of Policing 2016). Yet domestic abuse research in this context (e.g. Lagdon et al. 2015) identifies the tension between officers’ interpersonal and institutional responsibilities as a key source of interactional difficulty.
Perhaps due to complexities around access, there have been no previous empirical linguistic studies in this setting. Drawing from my ongoing research project, this paper will present data extracted from police body-worn video footage of naturally-occurring police-victim interactions. Analysis will be supported with ethnographic data involving participants with first-hand experience of such encounters. I will take a qualitative, discourse-analytical approach to illustrate how both officers and victims shift between and blend institutional, professional and relational modes of talk. Potential applications and implications for practice will also be discussed.
College of Policing (2016) Domestic Abuse: First Response [webpage]. Available at: https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/major-investigation-and-public-protection/domestic-abuse/first-response/.
Lagdon, S., Armour, C. and Stringer, M. (2015) Every Voice Counts: Policing Response to Intimate Partner Violence in Northern Ireland. Jordanstown: Ulster University.
Sarangi, S. and Roberts, C. (1999) ‘The dynamics of interactional and institutional orders in work-related settings’. In S. Sarangi and C. Roberts (eds), Talk, Work and Institutional Order: Discourse in Medical, Mediation and Management Settings. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1–57.
Conversation and confrontation: An exploratory register description of arrest interactions
Northern Arizona University, United States of America
This dissertation pilot study investigated language used by law enforcement officials and citizens in arrest confrontations by comparing frequencies of 35 linguistic features between arrests and face-to-face conversation, citizens and officials during arrests, and violent versus nonviolent interactions.
Arrest interactions were gathered through general and jurisdiction-specific searches. Of 54 relevant videos, 20 with the longest interaction were transcribed and tagged for linguistic features. Feature counts from 30 texts in the Longman Grammar (Biber et al., 1999) facilitated comparison to conversation. Other features – expletives, overlapping – were compared within arrest texts.
Frequency counts reveal more activity verbs and pronouns but fewer complement clauses, contractions, modals, and questions in arrests than conversation, indicating a focus on the immediate environment and less stance-marking. Conjunction-initial clauses, useful in reformulations (Haworth, 2017), are used more in arrests and by citizens with more pronounced difference in non-violent interactions. Citizens use more first-person pronouns, expletives, and overlapping (clearer in violent texts) than officials, expressing solidarity and strong emotion; officials use more discourse particles, attention-getters, and other pronouns in maintaining attention on and control over behavior. Officials use predictive modals to explain post-arrest procedures.
Frequencies of linguistic features between arrests-conversation, citizens-officials, and violent-nonviolent interactions are interpreted to support functional descriptions of interactions.
On the ground, this analysis could contribute to officials recognizing (non-)violent interactions as they develop, instruction for L2 English users, interpretation of problematic interactions by agencies, courts, or the media, and – extended to the scope of a dissertation – baseline frequencies supporting further quantitative examination.
‘You can kick me as many times as you wish but I’m not a drug dealer’: suspect’s resistance to explicit police coercive language and physical aggression used in a cannabis sativa trafficking case in Mozambique
Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique
In Mozambique’s legal system, cannabis sativa is an illicit drug, which is one of the most consumed, particularly by poor and vulnerable young and adult people due to its easy availability and its affordable price (SERNIC, 2018). When police officers handle cases involving these people, who are occasionally illiterate and therefore non-speakers of the official language, they are likely to adopt coercive methods as a strategy to persuade suspects to cooperate and confess the crime.
Based on a case involving a young man, who refused police coercive strategies with recurring repair work, and on quantitative data produced by the Mozambique’s Criminal Investigation Department, the study attempts to answer the following research questions: what formally established interviewing methods do police officers adopt when questioning suspects? Do police officers adopt the same interviewing methods when questioning uncooperative suspects such as of cannabis sativa trafficking and suspects of other crimes? How is the official language policy issue addressed when interviewing the former?
The findings of the study demonstrate that police officers in Mozambique are not driven by any particular guidelines or techniques when questioning suspects. As a result, they are more likely to adopt both coercive language as well as physical aggression in order to reach the ‘truth’. Finally, the study findings call for a more scientifically structured interviewing model in Mozambique’s policing.
Newbury, P. and Johnson, A. (2006) Suspects’ resistance to constraining and coercive
questioning strategies in the police interview. The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law 13(2), 213-240.
Trust is in the ear of the beholder: The sociolinguistic effects of survey mode on perceived attitudes towards Police
University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Citizens’ trust in the Police is vital for community partnerships to reduce offending (O’Reilly & New Zealand Police (NZP), 2014). In response to the newly introduced paper-based NZP survey tool, our Random Forest analysis on 372 mock-survey respondents has revealed that recent experience with the NZP was by far the most significant factor in predicting levels of trust. However, in the three distinct groups (no police experience, satisfied experience, and dissatisfied experience), trust was predicted by different sets of sociolinguistic and demographic variables.
Besides prior experience, the mode of survey data gathering (text vs audio) was also found predictive of trust. In the audio survey condition dissatisfied respondents showed less trust the higher they scored on the Māori Integration Index (Szakay, 2012) contained within the appended demographic questionnaire. Conversely, no sociological features improved on low trust for dissatisfied respondents in a text-only condition. This indicates that results of phone vs. online surveys may not be comparable, and showcases the susceptibility of public opinions to the very voice asking questions in phone interviews. Indeed, when the respondents were asked how likely they would be to report a crime in the supermarket, the perception of the interviewer’s ethnicity was significant for those with NZP contact and dissatisfied experience.
This study provides a first foray into strategically unpicking the complexity of opinion interviews where the voice of the interviewer influences and intertwines with the attitude of the hearer. It presents a foundation for further investigation of the sociolinguistic factors indexed within voice.