This paper analyzes micro-political strategies that police officers use during police stops, mostly based on their professional or personal life experience. Police stops take place in an asymmetric power relationship. Actions of police officers during a stop are backed by strong legal powers, and citizens typically do not negotiate how the stop should be carried out.
The paper is based on ethnographic observation, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with German patrol officers.
The authors demonstrate that micro-political strategies relying on the officers’ personal experience, rather than on strategies developed by the police agency based on empirical evidence, are highly problematic. Depending upon the acting officer, micro-political strategies can vary considerably according to the individual officer’s experience and attitudes. This leads to a risk of discrimination in police stops and of potential infringements on the citizens’ fundamental rights.
See the paper’s methodology section on the limitations of the empirical approach.
The paper suggests improvements for the practice of police stops.
The article provides new empirical insights in the practice of police stops in Germany and situates the findings in a broader international debate on police stops and shortcomings of the legal rules that govern the police stops.