A matter of facts: Flows of knowledge through digitalized police practices

Digitalization plays a major role in current plans and strategies within the Norwegian Police Service (NPS). In the current operational strategy, digitalization is drawn out as a key process both for fighting and preventing crime and increasing efficiency of police work in general. Digital tools are presented as the solution to a host of challenges, yet what is missing from these reports are reflections on how digitalization might affect practice on a more general level. In what ways does the new, digitalized police practices affect the production of knowledge within the Norwegian Police Service, and in their contact with the public?

Jenny Maria Lundgaard, Johanne Yttri-Dahl, Guro Flinterud, Brita Bjørkelo. Foto: Jon Strype

The Norwegian police enjoys high levels of trust, and although a healthy, public criticism exist, their words and actions are commonly ascribed authority. As such, police knowledge is a force that shapes society. Because of this, it is crucial to have knowledge about the effect digitalization has on knowledge production.

Digitalization has measurable effects, but also less qualitative effects; it changes how people work and how information is interpreted and used. Pieces of information are entered into a network of databases, disseminated on social media sites, and information is increasingly recorded on digital devices. We claim that these digitalizing processes affect the status of information, working as processes that ascribe authority: when something is materialized trough technologies, uncertainty and complexity is reduced.

This project will demonstrate the processes through which digitalization of the NPS have effects on what is ultimately considered facts about actions, crime and danger, affecting belief and conduct both within the police service and among the public. The project uses mixed methods, such as (digital) ethnography, qualitative interviews, and police register/database research.