Relational Positioning Strategies in Police Calls: A Dilemma Journal Article uri icon



  • When citizens call the police to report a problem with (or caused by) another, they need to not only characterize the problematic action/event, but they must position themselves in relation to the complained-about person. This conversational work of positioning self, and describing the other's actions, is delicate business when the complained-about person is connected to the caller. Different constructions of the other and the problem affect whether callers get the help they are seeking. At the same time, alternate constructions offer different pictures of the other's blameworthiness and self's contribution to the problem. In this study we analyze citizen calls to the police in which callers have a dilemma: they have a problem with another that they want remedied but the problem occurs in a situation where involving the police is regarded as unreasonable. Past research on calls to the police, and studies about how people position their own and others' actions in sensitive situations are described. Then the materials (the police calls) and interpretive method are explained. The heart of the article is a description of four relational positioning strategies. Strategies include: (a) generic reference terms; (b) `friend' to imply a non-sexual relationship; (c) ex-prefaces; and (d) agent-less problems. The conclusion considers where else the dilemma will be found and highlights distinctive features of the rhetorical discursive perspective developed in the article.

publication date

  • May 1, 1999

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • August 4, 2014 12:32 PM

Full Author List


author count

  • 2

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1461-4456

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1461-7080

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 201

end page

  • 225


  • 1


  • 2