The Decision Made: On the Inspection Encounter

  • Peter L. Hupe


Inspecting is a verb. It presupposes action, while as a public task it entails a range of activities. In the inspectors’ interaction with citizen-clients as inspectees the essence of those activities is decision making. When shortcomings are observed, broadly speaking a threefold repertoire is available for taking action: disciplining the client, merely documenting and reporting what has been observed or being responsive and showing compassion. Inspectors need to make such decisions in the situation at hand in a way that can be justified in multiple directions: to their political-administrative superiors, to their peers, but also to the inspectees concerned. In this chapter the relationship between decision making and circumstances will be explored, as well as the considerations on the side of the inspector. What decision is made and why?


Law enforcement Inspection Street-level bureaucracy Decision making 



Michael Hill, Steven Maynard-Moody, Steven Van de Walle and Bernardo Zacka are acknowledged for their comments on an earlier version of this chapter.


  1. Baviskar, S., & Winter, S. C. (2017). Street-level bureaucrats as individual policymakers: The relationship between attitudes and coping behavior toward vulnerable children and youth. International Public Management Journal, 20(2), 316–353.Google Scholar
  2. Bergman, T., Müller, W. C., & Strøm, K. (2000). Introduction: Parliamentary democracy and the chain of delegation. European Journal of Political Research, 73(3), 255–260.Google Scholar
  3. Brodkin, E. Z. (1997). Inside the welfare contract. Social Service Review, 71(1), 1–33.Google Scholar
  4. Brodkin, E. Z. (2011). Policy work: Street level organizations under new managerialism. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 21(2), 253–277.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, N. (2016). How culture affects street-level bureaucrats’ bending the rules in the context of informal payments for health care: The Israeli case. American Review of Public Administration, 48(2), 175–187.Google Scholar
  6. Dubois, V. (2010). The bureaucrat and the poor. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  7. Dworkin, R. M. (1977). Taking rights seriously. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Evans, T., & Hupe. P. L. (Eds.). (2019). The Palgrave Macmillan handbook on discretion: The quest for controlled freedom. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  9. Garrow, E., & Grusky, O. (2013). Institutional logic and street-level discretion: The case of hiv test counseling. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 23(1), 103–131.Google Scholar
  10. Gofen, A. (2014). Mind the gap: Dimensions and influence of street-level divergence. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 24(2), 473–493.Google Scholar
  11. Hanf, K. I. (1993). Enforcing environment laws: The social regulation of co-production. In M. J. Hill (Ed.), New agenda in the study of the policy process (pp. 88–89). Hemel Hampstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
  12. Harrits, G., & Møller, M. (2014). Prevention at the front line: How home nurses, pedagogues, and teachers transform public worry into decisions on special efforts. Public Management Review, 16(4), 447–480.Google Scholar
  13. Hasenfeld, Y. (Ed.). (2010). Human services as complex organizations. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Hill, M. J., & Hupe, P. L. (2014). Implementing public policy: An introduction to the study of operational governance (3rd, Rev. ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Hood, C. C. (1991). A public management for all seasons? Public Administration, 69(1), 3–19.Google Scholar
  16. Hupe, P. L. (1993). The politics of implementation: Individual, organizational and political co-production in social services delivery. In M. J. Hill (Ed.), New agenda in the study of the policy process (pp. 130–151). Hemel Hampstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
  17. Hupe, P. L. (2013a). Dimensions of discretion: Specifying the object of street-level bureaucracy research. Der Moderne Staat. Zeitschrift für Public Policy, Recht und Management, 6(2), 425–440.Google Scholar
  18. Hupe, P. L. (2013b). Determinants of discretion: Explanatory approaches in street-level bureaucracy research. Paper (Unpublished) written during a Visiting Fellowship 2012–2013 at All Souls College, Oxford.Google Scholar
  19. Hupe, P. L. (2014). What happens on the ground: Persistent issues in implementation research. Public Policy and Administration, 29(2), 164–182.Google Scholar
  20. Hupe, P. L. (Ed.). (2019a). The Edward Elgar research handbook on street-level bureaucracy: The ground floor of government in context. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  21. Hupe, P. L. (2019b). Explaining public task performance. In P. L. Hupe (Ed.), The Edward Elgar research handbook on street-level bureaucracy: The ground floor of government in context (Chapter 17). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  22. Hupe, P. L., & Buffat, A. (2014). A public service gap: Capturing contexts in a comparative approach of street-level bureaucracy. Public Management Review, 16(4), 548–569.Google Scholar
  23. Hupe, P. L., & Hill, M. J. (2007). Street-level bureaucracy and public accountability. Public Administration, 85(2), 279–299.Google Scholar
  24. Hupe, P. L., & Hill, M. J. (2019). Positioning street-level bureaucracy research. In P. L. Hupe (Ed.), The Edward Elgar research handbook on street-level bureaucracy: The ground floor of government in context (Chapter 2). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  25. Hupe, P. L., & van der Krogt, T. (2013). Professionals dealing with pressures. In M. Noordegraaf & A. Steijn (Eds.), Professionals under pressure: The reconfiguration of professional work in changing public services (pp. 55–72). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hupe, P. L., Hill, M. J., & Buffat, A. (Eds.). (2015a). Understanding street-level bureaucracy. Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  27. Hupe, P. L., Hill, M. J., & Buffat, A. (2015b). Introduction: Defining and understanding street-level bureaucracy. In P. L. Hupe, M. J. Hill, & A. Buffat (Eds.), Understanding street-level bureaucracy (pp. 3–24). Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  28. Hupe, P. L., Hill, M. J., & Buffat, A. (2015c). Conclusion: The present and future study of street-level bureaucracy. In P. L. Hupe, M. J. Hill, & A. Buffat (Eds.), Understanding street-level bureaucracy (pp. 323–347). Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  29. Jewell, C. J. (2007). Agents of the welfare state. New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  30. Jewell, C. J., & Glaser, B. E. (2006). Towards a general analytic framework: Organizational settings, policy goals and street-level behavior. Administration & Society, 38(3), 335–364.Google Scholar
  31. Keiser, L. R., & Soss, J. (1998). With good cause: Bureaucratic discretion and the politics of child support enforcement. American Journal of Political Science, 42(4), 1133–1156.Google Scholar
  32. Kelly, M. (1994). Theories of justice and street-level discretion. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 4(2), 119–140.Google Scholar
  33. Lipsky, M. (1980/2010). Street-level bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the individual in public services (30th anniversary expanded ed.). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  34. Loyens, K. (2015). Law enforcement and policy alienation: Coping by labour inspectors and federal police officers. In P. L. Hupe, M. J. Hill, & A. Buffat (Eds.), Understanding street-level bureaucracy (pp. 99–114). Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  35. Loyens, K., & Maesschalk, J. (2010). Toward a theoretical framework for ethical decision making of street-level bureaucracy: Existing models reconsidered. Administration & Society, 42(1), 66–100.Google Scholar
  36. Lynn, L. E., Jr. (2008). The 2008 John Gaus lecture: New frontiers of public administration: The practice of theory and the theory of practice. PS: Political Science and Politics, XLI, 3–9.Google Scholar
  37. May, P. J., & Winter, S. C. (2012). Regulatory enforcement styles. In C. Parker & V. L. Nielsen (Eds.), Explaining compliance: Business responses to regulation (pp. 222–244). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  38. Maynard-Moody, S., & Musheno, M. (2000). State agent or citizen agent: Two narratives of discretion. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 10(2), 329–358.Google Scholar
  39. Maynard-Moody, S., & Musheno, M. (2003). Cops, teachers, counselors. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  40. Maynard-Moody, S., & Portillo, S. (2010). Street-level bureaucracy theory. In R. F. Durant & G. C. Edwards III (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of American bureaucracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Møller, M. (2016). She isn’t someone I associate with pension—A vignette study of professional reasoning. Profession and Professionalism, 6, 1–20.Google Scholar
  42. Nielsen, V. L. (2015). Law enforcement behaviour of regulatory inspectors. In P. L. Hupe, M. J. Hill, & A. Buffat (Eds.), Understanding street-level bureaucracy (pp. 115–131). Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  43. Ostrom, E. (2007). Institutional rational choice: An assessment of the institutional analysis and development framework. In P. A. Sabatier (Ed.), Theories of the policy process (2nd ed., pp. 21–64). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  44. Raaphorst, N. (2017). Uncertainty in bureaucracy: Toward a sociological understanding of frontline decision making (Doctoral dissertation). Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  45. Raaphorst, N. (2018). How to prove, how to interpret and what to do? Uncertainty experiences of street-level tax officials. Public Management Review, 20(4), 485–502.Google Scholar
  46. Raaphorst, N., & Groeneveld, S. (2018). Double standards in frontline decision making: A theoretical and empirical exploration. Administration & Society, 50(8), 1175–1201.Google Scholar
  47. Raaphorst, N., & Loyens, K. (2018). From poker games to kitchen tables: How social dynamics affect frontline decision making. Administration & Society. Scholar
  48. Rice, D. (2013). Street-level bureaucrats and the welfare state: Toward a micro-institutionalist theory of policy implementation. Administration & Society, 45, 1038–1062. Scholar
  49. Schama, S. (1997). The embarrassment of riches: An interpretation of Dutch culture in the golden age. New York: Vintage Books/Random House Inc.Google Scholar
  50. Schneider, A. L., & Ingram, H. (1993). Social construction of target populations: Implications for politics and policy. American Political Science Review, 87(2), 334–347.Google Scholar
  51. Schuppan, T. (2015). Service workers on the electronic leash? Street-level bureaucrats in emerging information and communication technology work contexts. In P. L. Hupe, M. J. Hill, & A. Buffat (Eds.), Understanding street-level bureaucracy (pp. 243–260). Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  52. Scott, P. G. (1997). Assessing determinants of bureaucratic discretion: An experiment in street-level decision-making. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 10(4), 729–756.Google Scholar
  53. Sevä, M., & Jagers, S. C. (2013). Inspecting environmental management from within: The role of street-level bureaucrats in environmental policy implementation. Journal of Environmental Management, 128, 1060–1070.Google Scholar
  54. Sosin, M. R. (2010). Discretion in human service organizations: Traditional and institutional perspectives. In Y. Hasenfeld (Ed.), Human services as complex organizations (2nd ed., pp. 381–403). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  55. Soss, J., Fording, R., & Schram, S. (2011). Disciplining the poor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  56. Stone, D. A. (2012). Policy paradox: The art of political decision making (Rev. ed.). New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  57. Thomann, E., & Sager, F. (2017). Hybridity in action: Accountability dilemmas of public and for-profit food safety inspectors in Switzerland. In P. Verbruggen & T. Havinga (Eds.), Hybridization of food governance: Trends, types and results (pp. 100–120). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  58. Thomann, E., Hupe, P., & Sager, F. (2018). Serving many masters: Public accountability in private policy implementation. Governance, 31(2), 299–319.Google Scholar
  59. Tummers, L. L. G. (2012). Policy alienation of public professionals: The construct and its measurement. Public Administration Review, 72(4), 516–525.Google Scholar
  60. Tummers, L. L. G. (2016). The relationship between coping and job performance. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 27(1), 150–162.Google Scholar
  61. Tummers, L. L. G., Bekkers, V. J. J. M., Vink, E., & Musheno, M. (2015). Coping during public service delivery: A conceptualization and systematic review of the literature. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 25(4), 1099–1126.Google Scholar
  62. Van Parys, L. (2016). On the street-level implementation of ambiguous activation policy: How caseworkers reconcile responsibility and autonomy and affect their clients’ motivation (Doctoral dissertation). Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium.Google Scholar
  63. Weatherly, R. (1980). Implementing social programs: The view from the front-line. Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  64. Winter, S. C. (2012). Implementation. In B. G. Peters & J. Pierre (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of public administration (pp. 255–263). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  65. Winter, S. C., & May, P. J. (2015). Street-level bureaucrats and regulatory deterrence. In P. L. Hupe, M. J. Hill, & A. Buffat (Eds.), Understanding street-level bureaucracy (pp. 133–152). Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  66. Zacka, B. (2017). When the state meets the street: Public service and moral agency. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Zang, X., & Musheno, M. (2017). Exploring frontline work in China. Public Administration, 95(3), 842–855.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter L. Hupe
    • 1
  1. 1.Visiting Professor, Public Governance InstituteKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

Personalised recommendations