Technology in Policing, Policing in a Technological Society. Special Issue Brief

Matthias Wienroth*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Watson and Huey, in a 2020 article in this Journal, point out that there is still little empirical research offering a practice-focused perspective. This Special Issue responds to that call by offering a variety of empirically and theoretically informed studies centred on technology use in the policing of crime, borders and society more widely (e.g. surveillance). Contributions are inspired by Adam Crawford's insightful notion of policing ‘as a product of new technologies’ and Andrew Barry's reflective analysis of technical practices and devices as integral elements of organising and governing a ‘technological society’. These inspirations reflect the interplay of policing requirements and practices, and the development, deployment and governance of technologies. A vital element of understanding and managing policing is the study of how technologies are imagined, adopted and overseen, to contribute to the understanding and anticipation of changing policing practices and needs. Two key elements are addressed in this Special Issue: (a) technological knowledge production, and the shaping of such knowledge in policing practices and institutional cultures, informing discourses on intelligence-led policing and evidence-based policing; and (b) the role of technology in creating legitimacy for policing. Eight contributions provide analyses of ‘technology in policing as it happens’ in practice-relevant case studies and reflections on developments. They address a broad spread of technologies, including drones, artificial intelligence firearms, forensic applications and social media. In attending to these examples, the authors shed light on vital aspects of policing that have so far been underexplored, using a mix of approaches from the social studies of science and technology, and from sociology/criminology. To ensure accessibility to a variety of reader groups, each article includes a section highlighting lessons learnt for understanding the policing in a technological society. This Special Issue is the first in the International Journal of Police Science & Management to bring a comprehensive discussion of technology to the Journal's audience. At the same time, it opens up the Journal's interests in policing to wider audiences, including those in science, technology and innovation studies, as well as criminology, by innovatively merging the interests of the three in the subject of its contributions. Contributing authors analyse and evaluate the opportunities and challenges of technology in policing with those for policing in a technological society. In doing so, the complexity of the relationship of technology and policing is made accessible, evidencing that, as Timmermans and Berg wrote, technology is always ‘technology-in-practice’. Context is vital, technology is not necessarily used as intended, and its application cannot be considered neutral but must be understood as in interplay with diverse other knowledge practices (investigatory, prosecutorial, judicial, institutional, societal, etc.). This Special Issue is a starting point and call to continue work on supporting deliberation, widening the scope of perspectives to be involved, and seeking communication and collaboration across institutional and disciplinary boundaries: tearing down forts (silos) and building fords (crossings).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-225
Number of pages3
JournalInternational Journal of Police Science and Management
Issue number3
Early online date25 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

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