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Understanding street-level bureaucracy$
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Peter Hupe, Peter Hupe, Michael Hill, and Aurèlien Buffat

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781447313267

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447313267.001.0001

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Law enforcement and policy alienation

Law enforcement and policy alienation

Coping by labour inspectors and federal police officers

(p.99) Six Law enforcement and policy alienation
Understanding street-level bureaucracy

Kim Loyens

Policy Press

Street-level bureaucrats in law enforcement agencies often experience policy alienation, referring to the frustration that results from having to apply procedures that do not lead to solving crime or to addressing victims’ and broader societal needs. This chapter focuses on how police officers and labour inspectors in Belgium try to cope with policy meaninglessness (a subtype of policy alienation) in the investigation of human exploitation and illegal employment. The results of this ethnographic study show that these street-level bureaucrats sometimes use a rather fatalistic coping style that reinforces policy meaninglessness. However, they also sometimes aim at reducing the alienation experience by using other ways of coping, such as bonding with the victim, doing their job from a sense of duty and opportunistically getting their share. This chapter proposes systems theory as a valuable tool – both for researchers and practitioners – to understand how and why street-level bureaucrats use these coping behaviours.

Keywords:   policy alienation, coping, ethnographic research, systems theory, illegal employment

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