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Partnerships with the police – logics and strategies of justification

Bertil Rolandsson (Department of Sociology and Work Science, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




Political reforms call for new types of public-private or community partnerships, in which public services are shaped in collaboration with networks of public, business or non-governmental organizations. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how municipal partners justify and thereby maintain partnerships with the police.


The empirical material comprises documents and 26 semi-structured interviews with civil servants, politicians, and police staff. This qualitative study investigates three Swedish municipalities engaged in partnerships with the same police authority.


Based on Boltanski and Thévenot’s order of worth, the paper describes how municipal partners manage two partly contradictory arrangements; one constituted by industrial and civic logics, and one constituted by domestic and industrial logics. Guided by these two different arrangements, they justify and thereby maintain their partnership with the police by alternating between a compromising strategy promoting adaptation to the police and a compensating strategy stating that they are independent partners with demands on the police.

Research limitations/implications

This is a qualitative study that needs further confirmation before general conclusions can be drawn. Still, it suggests that partners justify themselves by making claims on being both collaborative and independent within these partnerships.


Unlike research investigating how authorities initiate partnerships to organize integrated and cost-efficient public services, the paper highlights how partners justify their participation by alternating between two rather different but linked justifying strategies. The study applies a justificatory logic perspective that helps us understand that complex and sometimes contradictory arrangements of logics, which could threaten partner participation, also enable them to justify and thereby maintain their partnership with the police. Unlike institutional studies describing how tensions challenge organizational legitimacy this study describes how justificatory strains remain even when partners are able to justify their participation.



The research presented in this paper is written within the project, “Who Governs the Police? The Swedish Police Organization in Political and Public Context,” funded by the Swedish Research Council. The project is led by Associate Professor, Micael Björk, who has contributed with important comments on the paper. Part of the results has been discussed at the interim conference held by the Research Committee for Sociology of Professional Groups, ISA, 2012, in Ipswich, UK.


Rolandsson, B. (2015), "Partnerships with the police – logics and strategies of justification", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 2-20.



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