Policing Through Platform

Wood, Stacy E.
Computational Culture

The relationship between mobile technologies and policing in the United States is not a new one. In-car computers and scanners have been in the field for decades and the last twenty years has seen the steady rise of networked information technologies and resources co-constituting new policing practices, namely “predictive” and “smart” policing. These new trends and practices are of course, embedded within pre-existing attitudes, cultures and practices, however the affordances and infrastructural demands of more integrated platform-based systems such as Axon’s (formerly Taser) and their connected applications force critical examination of the porous boundaries between private companies and law enforcement and demand rigorous consideration of the circulation of data. In this article, I inquire into Axon’s attempts at “platform policing” by situating it within the complex record-keeping and database environments that exist within law enforcement agencies. Utilizing a material-technical framework for understanding platforms within law enforcement, this work seeks to understand the ways in which policing practice, record-keeping, interface and technological infrastructure co-constitute current imaginaries around police work. The approach I take does not seek to disentangle the material-technical from the corporeal or the social, but to emphasize the ways in which technical standardization can routinize bodies, behaviors, and identities through design choices, programming, infrastructural demands and policy.