Hopes and concerns of interviewing an ex- police officer

I am excited that my interviewee has had a long career in the police force (spanning more than three decades) giving the longevity of experience. I am hoping to discover how a police officer makes sense of their identity through day to day roles; experience of publicised events; and images in media and public opinion.  I hope to discover a personal experience of such a career and in doing so will base questions around these themes:

Early life, schooling and aspirations

Early career, becoming an officer and initial experiences

Roles and responsibilities

Policing 1980s Britain

Reflection and opinion of images surrounding police

Reflection and opinion regarding changes in policing over time

My interviewee is a colleague of mine and so there should be some degree of comfort in which we can both, hopefully, talk at ease. He is often telling anecdotes derived from his past career in the police force and I am excited to gain more detail and understanding into these. However, I am also concerned that knowing him personally (although not particularly well) I may find it difficult to probe for challenging/controversial or personal insights. That said, he seems more than comfortable, and dare I say enthused, to talk about his experiences. He is a humorous and opinionated man so I should at least find the experience fun and interesting.

I have a few concerns. I am anxious that I will miss suitable opportunities to probe for further detail and understanding, or to clarify unclear dialogue. Whilst I will plan for more specific, as well as ‘open’ questions, I want the conversation to naturally follow the lead of the interviewee’s responses. I am also rather nervous of constantly seeking clarification/ understanding, although I am trying to dispel this with thorough secondary reading around the police.

Whilst I am looking for a career focus rather than a life history, I am still concerned there may be more to cover than I will allow time for.

Finally, I am apprehensive that my nerves will show during the interview and this may affect my ‘authority as interviewer’. Whilst I want the interview to be a shared experience and jointly lead by question and response, I require my questions to make the principle framework of the interview. Given that the interviewee has built a career on interviewing and analysing others, I feel this will be an interesting experience for both of us!

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One Comment on “Hopes and concerns of interviewing an ex- police officer”

  1. Graham Smith says:

    This sounds like it will be a very exciting and I hope you can dedicate sufficient time to it. I hope you’ll be able to ask dome questions about his wider life experiences, even if its to get a sense of why he joined the police and of course why he left.


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