Researching Police Interactions with Civilians

Margrét Valdimarsdóttir is the scientist of the month
Researching Police Interactions with Civilians

Margrét Valdimarsdóttir is an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Akureyri. Her research focuses primarily on police interactions with civilians.

Retributive Actions Lead to Increased Criminal Behavior

In her doctoral research Margrét examines the factors that influence the police's decision to detain people. The study included a sample of about 20 thousand young people in the US. She examined racial-profiling by law enforcement in the context of neighborhoods. The chances that black youth were stopped by the police were, for example, much higher in areas where most residents were affluent and white. They arouse more suspicion among the police in these areas more than in poor neighborhoods, where the police might believe they belong more. Margrét's research also revealed that retributive measures taken by law enforcement and school officials lead to increased criminal behavior instead of having a decreasing effect, which is their intention. This is probably because the deterrent effect of punishment is much less than people expect. Being labeled someone who has been, for example, arrested or expelled from school promotes continued criminal behavior.

Confidence in and Public Opinion of Police

"For example, I'm quite interested in what impacts the confidence people have in police and if that level of confidence affects whether victims report violations to the police," says Margrét. She is currently collaborating on research with the Social Science Research Institute at the University of Iceland to complete a Nordic study on public opinion in Iceland, Norway and Sweden on measures taken by police in response to terrorist threats. Margrét is also preparing for an Icelandic study which will focus on adolescents with a foreign background and their interactions with police.

Who is Margrét?

Margrét was born and raised in the Breiðholt neighborhood of Reykjavík. She received her BA and MA degrees in sociology from the University of Iceland and a diploma in criminology from the same university. She moved to New York in 2011 where she worked towards her doctoral degree at the City University of New York (CUNY). In New York, Margrét taught international criminology and statistics at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for four years. John Jay is the old police academy for New York and has since become the department of criminology for CUNY. "Teaching at John Jay is one of the most interesting and enjoyable but also the most difficult things I've done in my career. The student body was much more diverse than I've gotten to know as a temporary lecturer at the University of Iceland and later at the University of Akureyri," says Margrét. After Margrét returned from New York she began working with the Social Science Research Institute at the University of Iceland and teaching as a temporary lecturer for the university before enrolling in the Police Science program at the University of Akureyri in August of 2019.