Everyday decision-making

The policeman must, from a single human hair, be able to describe the crime, the weapon and the criminal and tell you where the criminal is hiding. But ... If he catches the criminal, he’s lucky; if he doesn’t, he’s a dunce. If he gets promoted, he has political pull; if he doesn’t, he’s a dullard. The policeman must chase bum leads to a dead end, stake out 10 nights to tag one witness who saw it happen but refuses to remember. He runs files and writes reports until his eyes ache to build a case against some felon who’ll get dealed out by a shameless shamus or an ‘honourable’ who isn’t. The policeman must be a minister, a social worker, a diplomat, a tough guy, and a gentleman. And of course he’ll have to be a genius ... For he’ll have to feed a family on a policeman’s salary.1

In Becker’s (1968) analysis,‘policemen’are just a part of the costs of apprehending criminals. They are resources that can be directed by society towards a problem in order to increase the probability that a criminal will be detected and apprehended. In abstraction as well as in reality, there is significant element of truth to this. But there is no everyday decision-making here. There is no tiredness from long shifts, no competition among investigative teams, no conflict, no danger and no endless stakeouts in cold cars or standing in shopfront doorways sheltering from the wind and trying to warm the hands with a cup of coffee.2 Most importantly, there are no investigative decisions. Police resources are allocated at some cost and this has some effect on increasing the chance that the criminal will be apprehended and, thereby, reducing to some degree the incentive to commit a crime. For example, police would be posted at a stakeout location and tasked, without the complication of boredom or other such factors, to observe known criminals or suspected or known criminal targets such as commercial locations with a history of attempted break-ins.

Or they would be given the job of stopping and frisking individuals, called a Terry stop,3 around a particular neighbourhood (see Gelman, Fagan & Kiss 2007).

Stakeouts and Terry stops, however, involve decision-making under risk and uncertainty. Ferguson (2012, p.287) explains:

In non-warrant situations, prediction is also a critical element of analysis. Police officers regularly take action in anticipation of criminal activity. Stakeouts, ongoing surveillance, and undercover investigations focus not only on past crimes, but also future crimes. On the street, a Terry stop based on reasonable suspicion that ‘criminal activity may be afoot’ is at base a prediction that the facts and circumstances warrant the reasonable prediction that a crime is occurring or will occur. Again, the controlling legal standard speaks in terms of predictive considerations. In others words, to justify a stop, the police have to predict that a person is actively committing a crime. That prediction comes from the available information, which in turn involves a judgement about the information’s quality, source, and reliability among other factors.

According to the Fourth Amendment in the United States, police must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has, is or will be committed by the suspect before the person can be stopped and that the suspect is armed before he or she can be frisked.4 Police must use their judgement under conditions of risk and uncertainty in estimating the likelihoods along with the other variables that need to be considered in these types of operations. None of these everyday decisions is given much prominence in the economic analysis of crime, at least not in its classical form following Becker (1968).

In the economic analysis of terrorism and counter-terrorism, the situation is the same. There are decision-making scenarios, of course, but these are not everyday scenarios. Predominantly, the scenarios that are studied are the exceptional or high- profile situations that attract attention but which do not constitute the relentless everyday of counter-terrorism law enforcement. As a case in point, consider the survey of the economics of counter-terrorism prepared by Schneider, Briick and Meierrieks (2015). The word‘strategy’appears in the article 11 times while the word ‘decision’ appears once, and that is with reference to strategic decision. The word ‘rational’ appears 25 times. This is primarily because the contexts are exceptional and with exceptionality comes the structure and logic that either characterises these more sophisticated events, which are the end product of relatively sophisticated planning, or has come to characterise them by extensive study and modelling. Hostage situations, embassy attacks, mass casualty suicide bombings and so forth.

Everyday policing involves decision but not a lot of strategic interaction with criminals, at least not in the formal sense that the word ‘strategic’ is used in economics and political science. In counter-terrorism, hostage takings and hijackings, in particular, are exceptional events that can be modelled as games of strategy. Being archetypal terrorist events, these have been subjected to the most analysis. And one of the most obvious analytical tools to apply is game theory. Concerning the everyday, the matter is somewhat different. A game theorist can deal with ‘strategic’ interaction between police and criminals (e.g. Tsebelis 1990) but this still rarely touches the everyday of police work or counter-terrorism. This strategic interaction involves strategic reasoning (see Ghosh, Meijering & Verbrugge 2014).This is different from simply taking the actions of the opposing party' into consideration. Rather, it involves thinking about what the other side is thinking about and considering such things as,‘if they do that, then I’ll do that, but they’ll anticipate that, so I’ll do this’. It involves making a plan of action, a strategy. When both sides do this to some degree, there is a game of strategy'.

Strategic interaction, though, is not the only way in which people interact. In fact, it is probably the least common way. People do consider each other’s actions and the actions of one person affect the actions of other people but this is simply the essence of human action in a society. The decision-makers do not think about what the other decision-makers are thinking about and so on in a chain of reasoning. If someone wants a coffee but sees that it is 8.30 am and the coffee shop is likely to be crowded, he/she will either decide it is worth waiting until later to go to the coffee shop, worth waiting in line at the coffee shop or not worth going at all. The decisions of others influence his/her decision, but it is not a strategic interaction. A game theorist could complicate the situation but it is not necessary to do so.5 More problematically, when the only interaction between decision-makers that we perceive is strategic in the game theory' sense, we are left with treating individuals as isolated from each other on the one hand or as strategically interacting on the other. Such an approach completely overlooks the ordinary behaviour that characterises everyday life where people’s actions affect others but not as the result of strategy' on anyone’s part.

In this chapter, we want to explore the everyday of terrorist and law enforcement decision-maker‘interactions’. That is, a situation where the decisions of each party might affect the other but where there is no strategic interaction (thinking about thinking) and certainly no common knowledge of the other party’s rationality because there might not be any (see Sugden 2001, p. 113). Law enforcement agencies put in place some counter-terrorism initiative or other, obviously thinking that it will have some positive effect. Terrorists react (or not) by changing some aspect of their behaviour (or not).This action and reaction, however, is not a ‘you move, he moves, you move’ situation or a ‘simultaneous’ move situation. It is real, authentic action played out on a social stage where the actors are real and they think and feel. Law enforcement agencies do not know that their initiative will have a positive effect.They think that it will.They feel that it will.They hope that it will. They fear that it won’t. They overestimate its chances of success, or underestimate it. They gauge it against a reference point.The terrorist group responds with similar thinking, feeling, hoping and fearing. Law enforcement agencies’ decisions affect the terrorists groups’ decisions and vice versa but it is not a game of strategy'. It is simply human action and reaction guided by a decision-making process subject to biases and emotions.

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