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Procedural conflict and conflict resolution: a cross-national study of police officers from New Zealand and South Australia



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This research takes a cross-national approach to explore how police officers attempt conflict resolution in their day-to-day activities. Using comparisons of the behaviour of routinely armed officers from South Australia and routinely unarmed officers from New Zealand, this thesis chronicles a research journey which culminates with a new theoretical framework to explain police-citizen encounters.

The research took a grounded theory approach and employed a mixed methods design. Quantitative data revealed that officers from South Australia used verbal and physical control behaviours more frequently and for a higher proportion of time during encounters than during the encounters observed in New Zealand. There were no clear explanations for the differences, although there were variations in law and the profile of event-types between the research sites. The qualitative enquiry found that officers from both jurisdictions followed a similar diagnostic and treatment procedure during police-citizen encounters. Moreover, officers in both jurisdictions experienced conflict from procedural frustrations or goal blockages arising from interaction with citizens.

Findings provided the context for the construction of a substantive ‘procedural conflict’ theory. This theory (1) illustrates how procedural conflict can cause a strain for officers, (2) posits that officers take corrective actions to overcome the conflict using control behaviour, and (3) explains that while officers may use force to regulate police-citizen encounters, other behaviour for resolving conflict during encounters is more common. Accordingly, procedural conflict theory provides a new framework for the explanation of the police use of force. Further theoretical propositions about police-citizen interaction are set out in the final chapter and further research to test the validity of the theory is proposed.





Tankebe, Justice


policing, police, firearms, routinely armed police, routinely unarmed police, conflict resolution, conflict, South Australia, New Zealand, New Zealand Police, South Australian Police


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
This research has been supported by the generous funding of studentships and research grants from the following sources: Studentships: - Dawes Trust Bursary - Tennant Studentship - Wakefield Scholarship Grants: - Institute of Criminology - New Zealand Police Study Grant - Scandinavian Studies Fund (University of Cambridge) - Smuts Memorial Fund (University of Cambridge) - Tennant Fund (University of Cambridge) - University of Cambridge Field Work Fund