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This paper presents an analysis of command and control (C2) processes during emergency responses within UK Police operations. Access was given to conduct interviews and observations with police officers and support staff within West Midlands Police (WMP) C2 facilities and to collect communications data from emergency incidents. The paper applies a process-tracing analysis to the incidents in order to explore how information is captured, transformed and communicated via the various stages of the activity and the different agents involved. In particular, the paper shows how the manner in which information is collected and transformed can have a bearing on decision-making and responses that the system deems appropriate. The work is presented using the distributed cognition framework, and shows how a semi-formal ergonomics methodology can be used to capture data that is pertinent to the looser approaches of sociologically inspired theory. Specifically, the study shows how analysis of C2 activity in terms of 'resources-for-action' provides micro-analysis of decision points which can become 'automatic' (i.e., made without the opportunity for reflection) during routine incidents. It is particularly important to note that we are assuming that it is the 'system' as a whole that gathers information and performs a response (as opposed to specific individuals); this is a central theme of the distributed cognition approach and is explored further in this paper.
Date of Conference: 16-17 Nov. 2005