‘Apparently the chap is a bit of a rogue’
Upgrading risk in non-emergency telephone calls to the police
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.
Adelswärd, V. and Sachs, L. (2009) Risk discourse: Recontextualization of numerical values in clinical practice. Text 18 (2): 191–210.
Atkinson, P. (1995) Medical Talk and Medical Work. London: Sage.
Bednarek, M. (2016) Voices and values in the news: News media talk, news values and attribution. Discourse, Context and Media 11: 27–37. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcm.2015.11.004
Blum-Kulka, S. and Olshtain, E. (1985) Requests and apologies: A cross-cultural study of speech act realization patterns (CCSARP). Applied Linguistics 5 (3): 196–213. https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/5.3.196
Candlin, C. N. and Candlin, S. (2002) Discourse, expertise, and the management of risk in health care settings. Research on Language and Social Interaction 35 (2): 115–137. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327973RLSI3502_1
Candlin, C. N., Crichton, J. and Firkins, A. (2016) Crucial sites and research orientations: Exploring the communication of risk. In J. Crichton, C. N. Candlin and A. Firkins (eds) Communicating Risk, 1–14. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Clift, R. (2016) Conversation Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781139022767
Craven, A. and Potter, J. (2010) Directives: Entitlement and contingency in action. Discourse Studies 12 (4): 419–442. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445610370126
Cromdal, J., Landqvist, H., Persson-Thunqvist, D. and Osvaldsson, K. (2012) Finding out what’s happened: Two procedures for opening emergency calls. Discourse Studies 14 (4): 371–397. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445612439960
Cromdal, J., Osvaldsson, K. and Persson-Thunqvist, D. (2008) Context that matters: Producing ‘thick-enough descriptions’ in initial emergency reports. Journal of Pragmatics 40 (5): 927–959. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2007.09.006
Edwards, D. and Stokoe, E. (2007) Self-help in calls for help with problem neighbours. Research on Language and Social Interaction 40 (1): 9–32. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351810701331208
Firkins, A. and Candlin, C. N. (2006) Framing the child at risk. Health, Risk and Society 8 (3): 273–291. https://doi.org/10.1080/13698570600871778
Firkins, A. and Candlin, C. N. (2016) Projecting a definition of risk situation: Travel advice and the prudential traveller. In J. Crichton, C. N. Candlin and A. Firkins (eds) Communicating Risk, 323–339 Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Garcia, A. (2015) ‘Something really weird has happened’: Losing the ‘big picture’ in emergency service calls. Journal of Pragmatics 84: 102–120. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2015.05.005
Garner, M. and Johnson, E. (2006) Operational communication: A paradigm for applied research into police call-handling. Speech, Language and the Law 13 (1): 55–75. https://doi.org/10.1558/sll.2006.13.1.55
Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity.
Giddens, A. (1998) Risk society: The context of British politics. In J. Franklin (ed.) The Politics of Risk Society, 23–34. Cambridge: Polity.
Gilsinan, J. (1989) They is clowning tough: 911 and the social construction of reality. Criminology 27 (2): 329–344. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-9125.1989.tb01035.x
Hall, C., Slembrouck, S. and Sarangi, S. (2006) Language Practices in Social Work: Categorisation and Accountability in Child Welfare. London: Routledge.
Imbens-Bailey, A. and McCabe, A. (2000) The discourse of distress: A narrative analysis of emergency calls to 911. Language and Communication 20 (3): 275–296. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0271-5309(99)00025-7
Jones, R. (2016) Suicide candy: Tracing the discourse itineraries of food risk. In J. Crichton, C. N. Candlin and A. Firkins (eds) Communicating Risk, 340–359. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Jones, R. and Candlin, C. N. (2003) Constructing risk across timescales and trajectories: Gay men’s stories of sexual encounters. Health, Risk and Society 5 (2): 199–213. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369857031000123966
Kallen, J. (2005) Silence and mitigation in Irish English discourse. In A. Barron and K. Schneider (eds) The Pragmatics of Irish English, 47–72. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110898934.47
Kevoe-Feldman, H. (2016) ‘Why are you concerned?’ A consideration of turn distance and the organization of the interrogative series in ‘wellness check’ calls to a university police department. Discourse Processes 53 (7): 556–580. https://doi.org/10.1080/0163853X.2015.1080402
Larsen, T. (2013) Dispatching emergency assistance: Callers’ claims of entitlement and call takers’ decisions. Research on Language and Social Interaction 46 (3): 205–230. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351813.2013.810401
Linell, P., Adelswärd, V., Sachs, L., Bredmar, M. and Lindstedt, U. (2002) Expert talk in medical contexts: Explicit and implicit orientation to risk. Research on Language and Social Interaction 35 (2): 195–218. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327973RLSI3502_4
Mercer, N. (1995) The Guided Construction of Knowledge: Talk Amongst Teachers and Learners. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Myers, G. (2003) Risk and face: A review of the six studies. Health, Risk and Society 5 (2): 215–220. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369857031000123984
Palmer, M. (2016) How Police Forces are learning to THRIVE. Bath, UK: Capita.
Pettersson, M. and Rouchy, P. (2002) ‘We don’t need the ambulance then’ – Technological handling of the unexpected. Paper presented at the 15th World Congress of Sociology, RC 23 Technology in Action, Brisbane, Australia, 7–13 July. Available online: http://bth.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:838103/FULLTEXT01.pdf
Plough, A. and Krimsky, S. (1987) The emergence of risk communication studies: Social and political context. Science, Technology and Human Values 12 (3): 4–10.
Pomerantz, A. (1984) Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In M. Atkinson and J. Heritage (eds) Structures of Social Action: Studies in Conversation Analysis, 57–101. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Richardson, K. (2003) Health risks on the internet: Establishing credibility on line. Health, Risk and Society 5 (2): 171–184. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369857031000123948
Rønneberg, K. and Svennevig, J. (2010) Declining to help: Rejections in service requests to the police. Discourse and Communication 4 (3): 279–305. https://doi.org/10.1177/1750481310373217
Sarangi, S., Bennert, K., Howell, L. and Clarke, A. (2003) ‘Relatively speaking’: Relativisation of genetic risk in counselling for predictive testing. Health, Risk and Society 5 (2): 155–170.
Sarangi, S. and Candlin, C. N. (2003) Categorization and explanation of risk: A discourse analytical perspective. Health, Risk and Society 5 (2): 115–124. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369857031000123902
Sarangi, S. and Candlin, C. N. (2011) Professional and organisational practice: A discourse/communication perspective. In C. N. Candlin and S. Sarangi (eds) Handbook of Communication in Organisations and Professions, 3–58. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369857031000123939
Scamell, M. and Alaszewski, A. (2016) Choice, risk, and moral judgment: Using discourse analysis to identify the moral component of midwives’ discourses. In J. Crichton, C. N. Candlin and A. Firkins (eds) Communicating Risk, 67–82. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Shrader-Frechette, K. (1993) Burying Uncertainty: Risk and the Case against Geological Disposal of Nuclear Waste. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Stanley, T. (2016) Working with risk in child welfare settings. In J. Crichton, C. N. Candlin and A. Firkins (eds) Communicating Risk, 138–152. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137478788_9
Tracy, K. and Anderson, D. (1999) Relational positioning strategies in police calls: A dilemma. Discourse Studies 1 (2): 201–225. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445699001002004
Wiltshire Police (2016) Wiltshire Police Force Policy and Procedure: Grading and Deployment. Available online: https://www.wiltshire.police.uk/media/355/Grading-and-Deployment-Policy-and-Procedure/pdf/Grading_and_Deployment_Policy_and_Procedure.pdf
Whalen, M. and Zimmerman, D. (1987) Sequential and institutional contexts in calls for help. Social Psychology Quarterly 50 (2): 172–185. https://doi.org/10.2307/2786750
Zimmerman, D. (1992) The interactional organization of calls for emergency assistance. In P. Drew and J. Heritage (eds) Talk at Work: Interaction in Institutional Settings, 418–469. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Equinox Publishing Ltd.