Instrumental performance - the symbolical value of police actions

Lars Holmberg

Holmberg distinguishes between actions that are made to arrive at a result and actions that are symbolically important (Holmberg, 1999, p. 206).

We are talking about instrumental performance, ie the importance of the police doing a job and not whether this job leads to a result or not.

Performance is aimed at the population's expectations to the police
fingeravtrykk.png An example is that you have had a break at your home. You call the police and they do not have much to go on, but they come. They advise you to switch locks, repair the route, take fingerprints, brushes for DNA, interrogate. Perhaps the matter is being dropped, but it is not the most important thing in this context. One should not substantiate the symbolic act of the police being present.

Victim is central to performance
Holmberg points out that the victim may not be in this game as the police perform. It's a game between police and robber. If the police catch the burglar, the police do not need the victim. The victim is redundant (Holmberg, 1999, p. 208). This is a drama, but the victim is necessary. Victim has such a central role in the game.

Some cases must be solved
When the police crimes against criminals, this is a view that the state takes care of its citizens (Holmberg, 1999, p 226). In order for police to be trusted, the police need to resolve some issues and create some headlines.


Holmberg, L. (1999). Politiets skøn i retssociologisk belysning (Doktorgradsavhandling, Københavns universitet). København: Københavns universitet.


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