Social Media and Professional Discretion in the Swedish Police

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Hörsaal 4C G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Bertil ROLANDSSON, Gothenburg University, Department for Sociology and Work Science, Sweden
Control and accountability, as well as the impact of new modes of public management, are well-established themes in research about professional discretion. In these studies, however, digital technology often emerges as a passive component. Research do not fully recognize the impact of the different ways such technology is able to enhance communication, and distribute responsibilities or decision-making. This paper looks closer at the technological potentials of social media and how it fosters justificatory challenges for the Swedish police in relation to professional discretion. The analysis conceptualizes discretion as the practice of good judgment in professional work, but it also link discretion with the concept of affordances, reflecting technological potentials shaped by broader societal conditions. By introducing affordances the study is able to analyze the relation between technological capacities and how officers assess opportunities to shape their own work in relation to a set of societal values. The empirical material comprises semi-structured interviews with 30 respondents from the police. Observations of how police use social media platforms have also been done. The analysis identifies two technological affordances linked with police discretion; strategic association and mass-association. Strategic association concerns the technological capacity to connect with networks and actors of strategic importance. Mass-association concerns the technological capacity to generate a broader spread of information. Investigative and patrolling officers link these affordances with different concerns for how to legitimate their discretionary power.