Normalizing covert surveillance: The Subterranean World of Policing

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Normalizing covert surveillance: The Subterranean World of Policing. / Loftus, Bethan.

In: British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 70, No. 5, 12.2019, p. 2070-2091.

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Loftus, Bethan. / Normalizing covert surveillance: The Subterranean World of Policing. In: British Journal of Sociology. 2019 ; Vol. 70, No. 5. pp. 2070-2091.

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TY - JOUR

T1 - Normalizing covert surveillance: The Subterranean World of Policing

AU - Loftus, Bethan

N1 - Economic and Social Research Council. Grant Number: RES-062-23-2212

PY - 2019/12

Y1 - 2019/12

N2 - In this article, I draw on data derived from an ethnographic field study of covert policing in the United Kingdom to demonstrate that the deployment of covert surveillance has become normalised, both in policing thought and operational practice. In a break with earlier patterns, the methods of covert surveillance are used extensively and are no longer regarded as a tactic of last resort. Covert policing is well anchored within organisational arrangements, empowered by a series of internal rationales mobilised to justify the expansion of covert tactics over and above more traditional, overt forms. The building of intrusive and exceptional policing practices within mundane contexts, I argue, is one of the ways the police have adapted to a broader policing environment characterised by public scepticism and distrust. Policing relies on the invisibility and low profile that comes with covert work, in order to govern contemporary concerns of crime and insecurity without the conflicts which can accompany - and trouble - overt policing practices. As mainstream policing becomes an increasingly extroverted enterprise, introverted forms of policing have come to the fore.

AB - In this article, I draw on data derived from an ethnographic field study of covert policing in the United Kingdom to demonstrate that the deployment of covert surveillance has become normalised, both in policing thought and operational practice. In a break with earlier patterns, the methods of covert surveillance are used extensively and are no longer regarded as a tactic of last resort. Covert policing is well anchored within organisational arrangements, empowered by a series of internal rationales mobilised to justify the expansion of covert tactics over and above more traditional, overt forms. The building of intrusive and exceptional policing practices within mundane contexts, I argue, is one of the ways the police have adapted to a broader policing environment characterised by public scepticism and distrust. Policing relies on the invisibility and low profile that comes with covert work, in order to govern contemporary concerns of crime and insecurity without the conflicts which can accompany - and trouble - overt policing practices. As mainstream policing becomes an increasingly extroverted enterprise, introverted forms of policing have come to the fore.

KW - Covert policing

KW - Surveillance

KW - Normalisation

KW - New Visibility

KW - Security

U2 - 10.1111/1468-4446.12651

DO - 10.1111/1468-4446.12651

M3 - Article

VL - 70

SP - 2070

EP - 2091

JO - British Journal of Sociology

JF - British Journal of Sociology

SN - 0007-1315

IS - 5

ER -