The Eyes of Law Enforcement in the New Panopticon: Police-Community Racial Asymmetry and the Use of Surveillance Technology

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Josh A. Hendrix Travis A. Taniguchi Kevin J. Strom Kelle A. Barrick Nicole J. Johnson


This study examines the relationship between police-community racial asymmetry and the use of surveillance technology by local law enforcement. The data come from a nationally representative survey of law enforcement agencies, with supplementary information provided by the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics Survey, the Census, and the Uniform Crime Reports. Results indicate that police departments that underrepresent African Americans in the community are more likely to use or plan to implement surveillance technology, controlling for a range of agency-and contextual-level factors. One potential explanation for these findings is that surveillance technology operates as a form of social control that is differentially applied to racial minorities to manage what is perceived to be a greater proclivity toward criminal behavior. The implications of these findings are discussed.

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