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Who "Owns" the Streets?: Ritual Performances of Respect and Authority in Interactions Between Young Men and Police Officers

NCJ Number
Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention Volume: 9 Issue: 2 Dated: 2008 Pages: 97-118
Abby Peterson
Date Published
22 pages
This article examines the power relations which underlie the performances and negotiations of respect and authority in interactions between young men and police officers in Stockholm, Sweden.
Observations indicate that officers from the local police office attempted to avoid unnecessarily engaging youths in confrontations and thereby evaded contests of face. Their assignment was to make their presence felt in the area they were patrolling and to bring the youth to an understanding that they were sharing the territory with them. However, the officers from the ‘street peace group’ had a different agenda and sought out confrontations with youths. Their assignment in the field was to bring respect among the youth for the authority of the police, that is, to force a submission to their authority, most readily accomplished through contests of face (where police had the upper hand and demonstrate they had control of the streets). While respect is a key aspect in the codes of conduct of both parties in their interactions, the power to demand and command this respect is unequally divided between them. This paper examines the micro-dramas of respect and authority played out in interactions between police officers and young men in the streets of socially and economically marginalized areas of Stockholm, Sweden. References