Prolepticon: Anticipatory Citizen Surveillance of the Police

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Ajay Singh


This paper introduces the concept of Prolepticon, describing anticipatory citizen surveillance of the police. Over the past four years, the spread of camera-enabled cellphones has allowed citizens to capture moments of police misconduct that previously would have remained unseen. The impact that this ubiquity of cellphone-wielding citizens has on policing is unclear. Former FBI Director James Comey suggests that the increased scrutiny on the actions of law enforcement through citizen video is causing police to retreat from policing, a phenomenon dubbed the YouTube Effect. I propose that as citizens continue to anticipate negative police-citizen encounters and record the interactions, and as officers internalize the potential of being surveilled by citizens, police are likely to moderate their behavior and engage in more professional policing. Through a series of case examples, I introduce the concept of Prolepticon using the Foucauldian lens of the Panopticon, providing a new paradigm to understand the impact of increased citizen surveillance of the police.

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Author Biography

Ajay Singh, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Ajay Singh MA is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. His research interests are surveillance, social movements and civil unrest. He is also a research assistant at the Cline Center for Democracy.


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