a red sign saying 'border control' against a dark sky

Study on how international collaboration between police organisations can be improved

Collaboration between police organisations in different countries can be made difficult as police officers tend to be suspicious of colleagues with whom they have not worked before, means Goran Basic, associate professor at Linnaeus University. The conducted study has also identified how a perceived, shared, external enemy can strengthen the in-group bonds.

The purpose of this ethnographic study was twofold. Partly to analyse the collaboration between intelligence and operative personnel from different border authorities in Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Partly to illustrate and discuss how police identities and trust between different organisations and different countries is established, through officers sharing a construction of a specific counterpart, referred to by the researchers as “the other”.

“Transnational collaboration between police organisations is made difficult as police officers tend to be suspicious of outsiders and colleagues with whom they have not worked before. In this study, we explored how trust among a specific group of intelligence, operative, and border officers was built by contrasting themselves not only against criminals, but also against a shared enemy that could be found amongst them, or exert influence on their colleagues”, Basic explains.

Strengthened the bonds

Goran Basic, associate professor at Linnaeus University, has conducted the study together with Sophia Yakhlef, senior lecturer at Kristianstad University. Empirical material for the study was collected during the period when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014–2015, through a European project named Turnstone, and, therefore, “the other” became Russia or Russian spies.

The researchers mean that morality is created and recreated in the meeting with people who are associated with being “the enemy”, which is present in both physical and invisible form.

“’The other’ strengthened the in-group bonds among police and border officers. The collaboration sequences we have studied show that professional identities are created and recreated by contrasting oneself against these categories”, Basic continues.

Important to understand

The researchers presented their results at the eighth edition of the Nordic Police Research Conference. Their hope is that the analytical concepts dealt with in the study – like norm-dissolving, group mentality, and construction of an enemy – will be used in police education in Sweden. And that this, as a result, subsequently will become part of the practical operations within, for instance, the police and coast guard.

“It is important for practical operations to understand what phenomena characterise operations as these must be handled by the practitioners”, Basic concludes.

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