Speaker: Amelia Hill (Sociology, UCLA)
Topic: “Victim Categorization in 911: Vulnerability as an interactional resource for obtaining police services”
“Victim Categorization in 911: Vulnerability as an interactional resource for obtaining police services”
Department of Sociology, UCLA
Victim categorizations are not a routine part of police-relevant 911 calls. If a witness reports a robbery, for example, call-takers do not ask them to report the shopkeeper’s race, gender, or other descriptors. From an institutional standpoint, such categorizations (of gender, race, age, etc.) are used to identify suspects and are not necessary for victims. But for callers, describing or displaying the kind of people affected by the complainable activity can help demonstrate entitlement to service. Thus, many callers volunteer information about themselves and/or other people they treat as victims. In this study, I use conversation analytic research methods to examine how 911 callers use victim categorization as an interactional resource to secure police assistance. I argue that just as callers can categorize suspects to demonstrate policeworthiness, they can also categorize victims in ways that display them as especially vulnerable or worthy of assistance. In doing so, they both reflect and reproduce commonsense understandings of those categories—i.e., that participants within these categories are (and should be) understood as vulnerable and deserving of protection.