‘Apparently the chap is a bit of a rogue’

Upgrading risk in non-emergency telephone calls to the police


  • Frances Rock




categorisation, police, risk, scaffolding, telephone calls, upgrading, warrant


This paper examines how risk communication features in telephone calls to one British non-emergency police number. Using a collection of naturally occurring telephone calls to a police non-emergency line the paper takes an approach grounded in qualitative discourse analysis. The work illustrates that callers discursively construct risk through categories which enable them to make sense of, and meaning around, dangers they perceive. Through this discursively constructed risk, callers warrant their calls. In doing so, they draw on categorisations of crime types and then upgrade their categorical alignments, which serves to connect the incidents they are reporting to increasingly serious crime type categories. The paper shows how this process of construction and categorisation of risk is bound into wider discursive strategies. The work has applications in call handling contexts where an understanding of ways that risk can be appropriated has diagnostic potential.

Author Biography

Frances Rock

Frances Rock is Reader in the Centre for Language and Communication Research at Cardiff University. She investigates the mediation of experiences in social worlds by analysing how people make meaning together. Her research examines language and policing, workplaces and multilingual cities. Her publications include the edited collection Legal-Lay Communication: Textual Travels in the Law (Oxford University Press, 2013). She is one of the editors of the International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law and is currently working on the project 'Translation and Translanguaging: Investigating Linguistic and Cultural Transformations in Superdiverse Wards in Four UK Cities'.


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How to Cite

Rock, F. (2018). ‘Apparently the chap is a bit of a rogue’: Upgrading risk in non-emergency telephone calls to the police. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, 13(1-3), 276-301. https://doi.org/10.1558/japl.33828