UBC Theses and Dissertations
Identity on trial : occupational misfit and responses to felt public distrust Alonso, Natalya Mariel
Like many occupations, police officers are facing rising public distrust of their occupation, a trend that has recently significantly worsened due to allegations of misconduct and widespread protests against police practices. Past research suggests occupational members respond uniformly and defensively to these types of external threats. However, in practice, we also see examples of occupational members acknowledging the validity of public distrust and the need for change. The current research explains these divergent responses, revealing why some members are more responsive to external threats from the public. Drawing on qualitative field data including interviews, observation, and archival documents, the findings demonstrate that police officers respond differently to felt public distrust depending on the type of relational frame they apply to understand their relationship as an officer to the public: the autonomous frame or the cooperative frame. The autonomous frame was associated with the occupation’s past, while the cooperative frame represented a new way of relating to the public. Officers’ relational frames were informed by the extent to which some officers experienced “occupational misfit.” Occupational (mis)fit describes a feeling of (mis)alignment based on the felt overlap between the individual’s own social identities (e.g., male, heterosexual, white, etc.) and the social identities figuratively associated with the occupation. Officers’ relational frames in turn served as a lens guiding their cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses to rising felt public distrust with implications for the ongoing relationship between the occupation and the public. This study contributes to the literature on occupational identity, diversity, and fit.
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