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Working Title of PhD: Emotional Labour in Policing: A Study of British Transport Police Officers at Waverley Train Station

Year commenced PhD study: 2020 

Institution/Organisation: University of Edinburgh and University of Glasgow

Funding Source (if any): University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow Jointly Funded PhD studentship

Full or part-time: Full time

 PhD Supervisors: Dr Alistair Henry, University of Edinburgh  and Dr Julie Berg, University of Glasgow

Synopsis of PhD:

The traditional role of a police officer demands a significant amount of emotional labour to carry out their required duties as they must suppress their own feelings to produce the organizationally desired/required psychological state with those with whom they interact. This is especially true for the British Transport Police officer, whose experience can be characterised by two things: emotional labour and operating within hybrid security environments. Hybrid security environments are dynamic ecosystems where both public and private entities coexist. Although the everyday activities differ, they all work in tandem toward preserving a calm and orderly environment free from crime.

This project utilises emotional labour as a lens to explore the experience of the BTP response officer at the ground level, the unique beat they work, and how it is distinguished from the traditional public police experience. The role of private security within society, the privatisation of public policing, and hybrid security environments have garnered attention from criminologists such as Shearing and Wood with the concept of nodal governance and Loader and Walker with the concept of anchored pluralism.

However, the primary focus has been on the economic or political aspect of the pluralisation of public security services. While these perspectives help explain how people work, manage, and experience these hybrid systems, they do not address the role emotions and emotional labour play within them.

This project fills that gap by exploring how emotional labour manifests within the BTP response officers operating in Edinburgh Waverley railway station (a hybrid security environment) in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the surrounding area. The BTP, a public police force (primarily funded by the private sector and whose jurisdiction is composed almost entirely of private property), is highly impacted by the private sector environment.

Findings from this project have shown that the relationship between the two is symbiotic, where the management of emotion by all parties (police officer, private staff, and the public) are critical to operational success. BTP officers experience significant emotional labour demands from the pressure to utilise alternative approaches, such as soft policing, in their everyday operations, partly driven by the requirements placed on the officers through their relationships with the private sector. In addition, phenomena typically seen within the private sector, such as ambassadorship and increased customer service demands, have spurred BTP operations to evolve towards a more proactive policing approach, where the maintenance of calmness within their jurisdiction is operationally paramount. Over 450 hours of ethnographic fieldwork (participant observation) and semi-structured interviews were conducted over a ten-month period in 2022. The project is currently in the writing up stage.



University of Edinburgh

Research Themes

Policing and Security

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