Declining to help : rejections in service requests to the police
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionRønneberg, Kari & Svennevig, Jan (2010). Declining to help: rejections in service request to the police. Discourse & Communication. 4(3), 279-305
A major part of police work consists in providing services and information to the general public. A stated goal of such police work is to be service-minded and contribute to a positive encounter. This article analyses service requests in calls to the duty desk of a large police station and focuses on how officers deal with requests that have to be rejected. It reveals a general pattern in which officers produce the rejection in a dispreferred format and include displays of empathy, accounts for the rejection and suggestions for alternative solutions. However, in certain types of requests the rejections are not infrequently produced in a direct and unmitigated fashion, without accounts or explanations. This is especially notable in requests that touch upon institutional constraints, such as professional secrecy. And in certain cases the rejections are even delivered in an aggravated form, involving an explicit or implicit challenge to the legitimacy of the request. These rejections cast the caller in an oppositional role, infringing the professional constraints of the police. However, the constraints in question may not be accessible to the callers. The officers will consequently be experienced as hostile and will subvert their own objectives of showing service-mindedness.
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