Sabbe M, Schiffino N, Moyson S. Walking on Thin Ice: How and Why Frontline Officers Cope With Managerialism, Accountability, and Risk in Probation Services. Administration & Society. November 2020. doi:10.1177/0095399720970899
Probation officers (POs) operate in a high-risk environment. They are vulnerable to mediatic and political backlash and are confronted with managerial innovations that can conflict with their values. A thematic analysis of 29 interviews with Belgian POs reveals that classical coping mechanisms caused by time shortages, such as rationing and prioritization, are amplified by managerialism. POs also break rules which present limited meaningfulness and routinize offender control to alleviate pressure from accountabilities to both managers and the general public. The study demonstrates that managerialism and accountabilities to the managers, the public, and the politicians model coping mechanisms in high-risk environments.