Diversity Policing–Policing Diversity: Performing Ethnicity in Police and Private-Security Work in Sweden

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

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Diversity Policing–Policing Diversity: Performing Ethnicity in Police and Private-Security Work in Sweden


  • Cecilia Hansen Löfstrand Department of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Sara Uhnoo Department of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg, Sweden


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Abstract:  This article draws upon two separate studies on policing in Sweden, both investigating “ethnic diversity” as a discourse and a practice in the performance of policing functions: one interview study with minority police officers from a county police authority and one ethnographic study of private security officers. To examine how “diversity policing” and the “policing of diversity” are performed by policing actors, their strategic reliance on an ethnically diverse workforce is examined. The official discourse in both contexts stressed “diversity policing” as a valuable resource for the effective execution of policing tasks and the legitimation of policing functions. There was, however, also another, more unofficial discourse on ethnicity that heavily influenced the policing agents’ day-to-day work. The resulting practice of “policing diversity” involved situated activities on the ground through which “foreign elements” in the population were policed using ethnicized stereotypes. Diversity in the policing workforce promoted the practice of ethnic matching, which, ironically, in turn perpetuated stereotypical thinking about Swedish “others”. A conceptual framework is developed for understanding the policing strategies involved and the disjuncture found between the widely accepted rationalities for recruiting an ethnically diverse workforce and the realities for that workforce’s effective deployment at the street level.

Keywords:  diversity policing; ethnic matching; policing; policing diversity; stereotypes

Published:   17 September 2014


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v2i3.40


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