The last policeman: On police concerns and the interactional problems of policing-at-a-distance.
David Sausdal (University of Copenhagen)
Paper short abstract:
Presently, an increasing amount and often obscure means of technologies are developed to police people with little human interaction involved. Bearing this in mind, this paper takes an ethnographic look at how this 'policing-at-a-distance' (Bigo 2005) affects a number of Danish police detectives.
Paper long abstract:
"Social distance is a catalyst of physical violence and prejudice." This notion can be found in much social theory. It is, for example, integral to Bauman's thoughts on 'adiaphorization' and the moral blindness of a globalised, postmodern world. In theories about policing, an increasing distance between the police and the policed is similarly criticised. Looking at the growing and obscure means of technologies developed to surveil and control people with little actual human interaction involved, Bigo has criticised the both Orwellian and dispassionate capacities of such 'policing-at-a-distance'. Bearing this "problem of distance" in mind, this paper takes an ethnographic look at how Danish detectives deal with various technologies implemented to enhance their chances of catching cross-border criminals. Beforehand the detectives would carry out investigations via an actual social embeddedness whereas they now increasingly have the opportunity of policing suspects at a distance. Remembering the tenets of aforementioned social theory, it is of little surprise that the detectives exuded a greater cynicism and crudity in relation to criminal suspects. Yet, what this paper aims to demonstrate is that it would be wrong to assume that they enjoyed this. Instead, the detectives were concerned about this global trend in policing. Essentially, this was because of how the various policing-at-a-distance technologies might have empowered them as watchers, but as workers they felt disempowered. This was what made the detectives to sarcastically, but to some extent also seriously, proclaim that they might be 'the last real policemen'.
Antagonistic sociality: an anthropology of lives opposed