Do popular tv, computer games, literature, media etcetera influence the professionals police identities?

Interview with Mia Koss Hartmann, Assistant professor at the Department of Management, Society and Communication, Copenhagen Business School.

­Hi Mia! Could you tell us with a short description of your career and path into police research?

I graduated as a psychologist from the Copenhagen University in 2009. I had worked as a student assistant for the Institute of Organization and Leadership at the Danish Royal Defense College for several years during my studies. During that time, I was sent across the country to interview military officers, soldiers, and commanders on a variety of topics related to leadership and organizational well-being. I was quite intrigued to observe how people experienced reality very differently across ranks, functions, and units. In particular, I was fascinated by the ingenuity by which frontline soldiers invented new solutions ‘under the radar’ to actually do their job and survive, because ‘the system’ reacted slowly – or not at all- to the new conditions the soldiers faced in theatre. It seemed absurd to me, that people, who really know what they are doing, don’t have a voice or a ‘license to innovate’. After starting my first job as an organizational psychologist in a consulting firm, I was recruited into research at Copenhagen Business School to raise funding for a PhD project based on these experiences with ‘under the radar innovation’  and up until 2020 I first did a PhD funded by the Danish National Police, where I was employed too - and then a postdoc study funded by MIT Sloan Innovation Laboratories and the Carlsberg Foundation – on the topic of innovations that police officers develop themselves as well as why and how they hide their innovations from managers – and what police leaders and organizations can learn from these observations if they are open to a next generation’s leadership style and ways of organizing for innovation – for future challenges, really. These events all shaped my path into police research as well as deep friendships with the dedicated people I have met both in the police and in research.

What is your most recent project on?

From September 2020 I started a new chapter, as I am now working on a research project called ‘Operative Fictions’ at Copenhagen Business School, funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark - Sapere Aude (Latin for ‘Brave Knowledge’). The overall project is led by Associate Professor Ana Alacovska and aims at understanding how popular culture get in action in social life. Ana’s project examines how science fiction affects the imaginability of engineers in robotics. Postdoc Macon Holt leads a project on how environmental fiction affects the organizing of climate activists. And my project investigates how crime fiction gets in action in police investigation.

What motivated this piece of research and are you looking to make any contributions?

What motivated my current project was a fascination with fiction ‘the hidden curriculum’ and imaginability in police work: do popular tv, computer games, literature, media etc. that represent police work and criminals in particular ways actually influence who the police recruits, professionals identities, such as pride and what is believed to be prestigious to do, and ideals, actual police practices. I choose to focus on the area of investigation because this is what is typically represented in crime fiction.

If you would highlight a particularly important finding from your research project what would that be?

I only recently started my hunt for Danish interviewees but what I learn from the dedicated and well-respected former and present that I talk to is that they themselves or colleagues actively play a role in creating how investigation, crime and methods are depicted in Danish TV series, movies, books and TV-programs. They are really concerned with ‘getting facts right’ because they see it as very problematic that the realities of policing are sometimes presented in ways that the public – and politicians – believe is true! Another element that sticks out in my interviews which really moves me is how the investigators explain living with darkness in their lives: because they experience the dark sides of society, and because knowing this darkness provides the key elements in the puzzle when solving a case, they have to accept the change of mind and soul that comes with the job. I am not quite sure what to make of this yet, but it is both poetic and important, I think.