Egon Bittner and the Language Practices of the Police
- 1. Oakland University
Bittner’s posthumously published 1965 fieldwork, Larimer Tours (Bittner 2013 ), is discussed exploring how criminology has neglected Bittner’s ethnomethodological stance and overlooked his interest in language and conversational practices. Technological records (e.g.,dash-cams, body-worn cameras) afford opportunities to extend Bittner’s seminal work with an ethnomethodological focus on police “competencies-in-action” through the study of recorded police-citizen interaction. Using data from dash-cam traffic stops and field research, this paper elaborates two competencies of the police discussed in Larimer-the use of area knowledge and procedures of interrogation. A focus on how area knowledge is utilized in an investigatory sequence of traffic stops demonstrates its interactional complexity and how “area knowledge” employed by police and citizens is made interactionally relevant and consequential to the traffic stop. Implications for criminology and the study of police-citizen interaction are discussed.