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Moral entrepreneurship revisited: police officers monitoring cannabis retailers in Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)

Published
Publication date2015
Host publicationContributions from European Symbolic Interactionists: Reflections on Methods
EditorsThaddeus Muller
Place of PublicationBingley
PublisherEmerald
Pages139-157
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781784418533
ISBN (Print)9781784418540
Original languageEnglish

Publication series

NameStudies in Symbolic Interaction
PublisherEmerald
Volume44
ISSN (Print)0163-2396

Abstract

In this paper on police officers who monitor coffee shops in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, I relate their work to Becker’s moral entrepreneur (1963). Becker describes two categories of moral entrepreneurs: rule creators, such as the crusading reformer, and rule enforcers, for example the police. According to Becker, the rule enforcer is less naïve and more pragmatic than the rule creator. The main question of this paper is: in what respect can the work of the police officers be described as moral entrepreneurship? To answer this question I conducted in-depth interviews with six police officers on the meaning they attach to their duties of monitoring coffee shops. The research shows that police officers take a pragmatic approach, which also contains layers of morality that influence their rule enforcing. For instance, the way they define the character and intentions of the coffee shop managers is decisive in how they act towards them. Another difference is observed in relation to the two interests of the rule enforcer described by Becker. The police officers interviewed did not have to justify their existence and they did not have to gain respect by coercion. This is explained by (a) the routine character of the monitoring, which has created a predictable situation and a modus operandi known to all parties and (b) the criminalization of cannabis in recent years. The effect of this process is that the position of police officers in relation to cannabis sellers is not questioned.