Everyday deficiencies of police surveillance: a quotidian approach to surveillance studies

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It has become theoretical orthodoxy to point to and problematise a rise in surveillance. This article contributes to this debate. However, contrary to the still predominant means of analysis, focusing on the macro level of stated policy, the article turns towards the practical, everyday level as it ethnographically examines the daily surveillance work of a number of Danish detectives. In applying this quotidian approach, the article follows a few but growing number of studies interested in the day-to-day practices and perceptions of given surveillance actors. What is demonstrated is that whilst the Danish detectives openly acknowledged the need for further surveillance, they simultaneously often refrained from actually carrying out the surveillance practices needed. The article describes why that is. In doing so, it serves as a reminder that the everyday reality of surveillance work may not necessarily be as ubiquitous as much scholarship on the matter may lead us to believe. Furthermore, it is demonstrated how these given Danish surveillance actors did not only not follow surveillance policies, they sometimes even actively opposed them. Contrary to the dominant idea that surveillance actors such as the police automatically appreciate new Orwellian opportunities, the Danish detectives frequently did not see these as being beneficial and actually found them troubling what they truly appreciated about their work. To them, an increase in police surveillance often meant a decrease in job satisfaction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolicing and Society
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)462-478
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - Policing, globalisation, cross-border crime, surveillance, technology, everyday life & ethnography

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