Researcher in Spotlight: Elsa Saarikkomäki
The Researcher in Spotlight is a series which introduces the researchers of the Faculty of Law. In April we are presenting Postdoctoral Researcher Elsa Saarikkomäki.
Postdoctoral Researcher Elsa Saarikkomäki
Position in the Faculty of Law: Postdoctoral Researcher
Degrees: Doctor of Social Sciences, Sociology, University of Helsinki (2017), Master of Social Sciences, Sociology, University of Helsinki (2010)
Fields of interest: criminology, immigration, policing, private security, procedural justice, qualitative and quantitative methods, sociology of law, youth studies
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?
During my master’s studies in sociology I started to be more and more interested in interdisciplinary issues related to criminology and sociology of law. At the time there were not many courses available in Finland but I was lucky to get a scholarship to go to Australia where the field is larger. Between 2008 and 2019, I worked on different projects and conducted my PhD at the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy (University of Helsinki). In my PhD, I examined young people’s encounters with police and private security guards and trust in policing. In my postdoc career, I have studied interdisciplinary topics related to asylum seeker decisions, and ethnic minorities’ experiences of policing in the Nordic countries (Faculty of Law, University of Turku), and crimes against businesses (University of Helsinki).
What projects are you currently working on?
Currently my main research project focuses on private policing. The starting point for this research is the rapid rise of private security. Indeed, there has been a shift from a criminal justice system monopolised by the state and its police to new, pluralised system. These societal and legislative changes raise new questions concerning legitimacy, power, security and citizens’ everyday experiences. The project studies empirically how the role and legitimacy of private security is negotiated in legislative processes, by security guards themselves and by the targets of policing. Most recently, along with other colleagues, we have studied ethnic minority youths’ experiences of security guard interventions. At the moment, we are writing an article on a new work format where the security guards, operating in six shopping malls in Finland, are trained by youth workers to build better relationships with the young people. My work includes also teaching in sociology of law and criminology courses at the faculty. I am a member of ‘Police Stops’ EU network where we work on international, comparative issues on policing. As an Editor in chief of 'Haaste' (publication about crime prevention and criminal policy), I enjoy gaining a wide outline of current issues in the field and broadening the impact of research outside academia.
Have your interests evolved since finishing your studies?
There has been a continuum in my interest to focus on criminology and sociology of law. Recently, I have been more and more interested in topical issues related to immigration and on pluralisation of policing.
What would you be, if you were not a researcher?
I would probably be working in a public or in a third sector organisation, or teaching, relating to my fields of interest.
What inspires you?
In my work, conducting research on topics that are societally important, collecting and analysing data, “getting your hands in the data” and cooperation. Academic work is often seen as working alone in the office with your books. Current isolated times during the coronavirus pandemic have actually shown how much there normally is interaction with national and international colleagues, students, practitioners, research subjects and other audiences. Working with others to make an impact through research and teaching inspires me.