The Discreet Charm of Prediction: Understandings of Digital Policing
Academic and citizens’ conference focusing on the implications of digitalized law enforcement and the use of predictive policing.
Over the past 20 years, police organizations and practices across the globe have adopted data-driven tools to predict and prevent crime (Ferguson, 2017; Brayne, 2021). In this conference, we will focus on the digital transformations within the police that have both inspired and engendered new sociotechnical imaginaries that either promise efficiency and security (Schafer, 2007) or stress the potential risks for mass surveillance and algorithmic bias (Egbert, 2019; Harcourt, 2007).
The discreet charm of prediction, in terms of increased efficiency, reduced fiscal burdens, improved accuracy of decision-making, streamlined data management, and lower crime rates, has thus been met with skepticism, significant critique, and even warnings of dystopia. The global rise of predictive policing methods is an example of the charm so far, yet its more recent fall is meanwhile indicative of the skepticism with which it has been met.
The overall goal of this conference is to better understand what law enforcement and predictive policing have become today, with the ongoing digital transformation and platformization of key functions of the police organization.
New concepts and the future of policing
A whole host of new concepts have arisen and needs discussion, such as smart policing (Coldren, Huntoon, & Medaris, 2013), intelligence-led policing (Ratcliffe, 2016), foresight or precision policing (Bratton & Anderson, 2018) – all of them to varying degrees seeking to reconceptualize the use of data analytics in the wake of societal critique of predictive policing elements. At the same time, there is a renewed interdisciplinary interest in improving the accuracy of said prediction by training data and introducing algorithms in experimental ways. To follow the future of policing, we need to understand where the trajectory of these concepts, imaginaries, and practices is now heading.
- During the conference, we will take stock of new digitalization strategies within the police and research that conceptually and empirically approach and problematize the diverse social consequences of the digitalization of policing.
- We invite multidisciplinary contributions that critically examine the move from analogue to digital policing systems, highlighting how the procurement and implementation of data-driven processes and big data impact legal, institutional, organizational, and public understandings, implementations, and executions of law enforcement.
Technopolitics within and beyond police authorities
Focusing on (predictive) software and big data also raises questions about the integration, use, and storage of data by the police
. In other words, the conference also aspires to problematize the continuing platformization of police work (Egbert, 2019), i.e., software that structures, processes, and visualizes available data to facilitate criminological knowledge production. Said platforms spur controversies and raise not only societal, ethical, and legal challenges but also perform sociotechnical ontologies, such as shifts in policing practices as well as state-citizen relationships. In that manner, digital police platforms or similar software become gatekeepers to networked ecosystems (Plantin et al., 2019) involved in law enforcement and police practices raising issues of access to data, privacy, and transparency. This involvement occurs in novel ways that exceed previous models of public-private partnerships and thus creates new challenges for social justice, democracy, accountability, data ownership, agency, and, of course, law enforcement.
We are interested in
. Rather than understanding the police as a homogeneous institution, we aim to capture multiplicity and techno-politics within and beyond police authorities. Digital tools that bear potential for organizational changes and new managerial strategies (Gundhus et al., 2021) are under critical scrutiny. We propose to focus on the police not just as a law enforcement agency but as a giant administrative techno-political apparatus that has become increasingly digitalized. The conference also aims to critically investigate how power relations are reproduced, materialized, or disrupted by the affordances of predictive software within the police
. This requires examining the underlying assumptions and values built into predictive police software and their impact on marginalized communities and individuals by drawing interpretive tools from interdisciplinary approaches that combine insights from the social sciences, humanities, data science, and critical theory.
The conference asks:
- To what degree and in what ways does digital software replace or shape police discretionary power?
- What challenges does the deployment of digital policing tools pose concerning their democratic governance and legal regulation?
- How does the digitalization and automation of police work change the state-civilian relationship?
- How do bias, power, security, and safety co-exist with algorithmic governance structures and predictive tools?
Combining well-known conference formats like paper presentations and roundtable debates with workshops and citizen involvement, the conference will articulate in the broadest possible sense what digitalization does to law enforcement - and vice versa. Dates
: January 29-30, 2024
: IT University of Copenhagen, Rued Langaards Vej 7, 2300 Copenhagen, Denmark
Type of conference
: in person
Learn more about keynote speakers, suggested list of topics, submission proces, etc. on the official event page
The conference is hosted by The Critical Understanding of Predictive Policing project (CUPP)