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  • 2020youansamouthphd

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'Surfing the edge of chaos': An ethnography of police joint working

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Published
Publication date2020
Number of pages362
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Thesis sponsors
  • ESRC
Award date8/01/2020
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Police joint working is a messy area of enquiry, which has thus far been somewhat compartmentalised in previous research. This thesis reflects the complexities of police joint working amidst an era of austerity. It advances complex adaptive systems (CAS) as a theoretical construct, through which to study and comprehend the process of joint working. The principal aim is to provide a deeper and richer understanding of joint working, by drawing primarily on observations and experiences of warranted police officers and civilian police staff. The more specific objectives are to identify the utility of police joint working as a solution to social problems; investigate how joint work is accomplished using an ethnographic approach; contribute to understanding how joint working challenges might be approach differently. Through the application of CAS, a holistic and contextualised account of joint working is provided. In this respect, the thesis differs from previous atheoretical studies and literature employing a ‘communities of practice’ (CoP) approach. Whilst acknowledging the relevance of shared cultural factors, this thesis seeks to shift attention to wider – personal and structural – contextual influences that give rise to the ‘punctuated’ progress in working together, generally overlooked in existing joint working theory. Ethnographic methods were applied as a key to unlock the intricacies and diversity of joint working experiences – both front- and back-stage – as the researcher was immersed in a large police force in England for 18-months. Fieldwork insights exposed the fragmented, unpredictable and interconnected ways in which joint working changes over time. Thus, networked policing was revealed as messy, evolving and seemingly out of control. The implications section stresses the importance of developing a formalised supervision model as a source of stability through, which employees can find ways to navigate change ‘churn’ and ‘surf the chaos’.