Emotional Labour in Policing

Karen Lumsden, Alex Black*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Policing is a complex and varied profession that requires officers to express a whole range of emotions depending on the context. They are expected to be both ‘nicer than nice’ and ‘tougher than tough’. The emotional labour required to perform the policing role can contribute to feelings of personal accomplishment and job satisfaction but also feelings of exhaustion and depersonalisation. This is further exacerbated by the recent economic and political context which has led to a change in the organisational requirements of officers and staff. Shifting organisational expectations can create value dissonance which increases the emotional labour necessary to align officer’s personal values to that of the organisation. This chapter will demonstrate the boundary work officers and staff engage in to manage these shifting expectations and the coping strategies employed to alleviate stress. After reviewing the extant research on emotional labour in the police, this chapter will draw upon the authors’ ethnographic study of a police force control room in England. This case study will demonstrate the everyday emotional labour engaged in by police officers and staff and how this is understood within the wider structural and societal contexts of austerity cuts, organisational change and concerns regarding staff morale.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmotional Labour in Criminal Justice and Criminology
EditorsJake Phillips, Chalen Westaby, Andrew Fowler, Jaime Waters
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Electronic)9780429055669
ISBN (Print)9780367506995
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2020

Publication series

NameRoutledge Frontiers of Criminal Justice


  • criminal justice
  • criminology
  • policing
  • emotional labour


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