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“I am doing my part, you are doing your part”: the sworn-civilian divide in police dispatching

Carlena Orosco (School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics, California State University Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA)
Janne E. Gaub (Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, UNC Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 16 November 2022

Issue publication date: 17 February 2023




While police culture typically refers to the culture among sworn police personnel, there are internal cultural differences between subgroups. This has been documented among sworn personnel, such as the difference between street cops and management cops (Reuss-Ianni, 1983). The divide between professional and sworn staff in a law enforcement context has also been discussed at length (Maguire, 1997; Reiss, 1992), specifically the “us versus them” mentality that stems from feelings of isolation among professional and sworn staff. The relationship between dispatchers and officers is vital to public and officer safety; it is imperative that cultural barriers preventing effective collaboration between two of the most critical components of policing are identified, and recommendations to bridge the gap are provided.


The authors use semi-structured interview data from a sample of peer-nominated top dispatch de-escalators (TDDs) considered highly skilled at de-escalation with callers and officers. Reflexive coding techniques were used to identify key themes in an area largely unexamined by research.


The authors find that the police culture creates friction between sworn officers and dispatchers in a number of contexts. This diminishes organizational commitment and increases burnout and frustration.

Practical implications

There are several policy recommendations for both communications centers and sworn staff to foster understanding and increase collaboration, all of which may result in improved outcomes for community members, dispatchers and officers.


The authors use qualitative methods to explore the implications of the sworn-civilian divide for police practice, such as more effective de-escalation and incident resolution, as well as the conceptualization of police culture writ large.



Orosco, C. and Gaub, J.E. (2023), "“I am doing my part, you are doing your part”: the sworn-civilian divide in police dispatching", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 46 No. 1, pp. 164-178.



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