Doing an Ethnography of Policing: In Conversation with Sarah Brayne


How has the use of big data and algorithms changed policing and police surveillance? On this episode, we speak with Dr. Sarah Brayne, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, about her new book, Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion, and the Future of Policing (Oxford UP, 2020). She explains how an interest in mass incarceration led her to study police surveillance and eventually do ethnographic research with the LAPD. She describes how her gender and status as potential “pencil geek” affected how police officers responded to her, and how officers themselves had mixed responses to the use of big data and algorithms in policing. She then talks about her ongoing relationships with research participants and the most impactful experiences in her fieldwork with police that didn’t make her book: the sadness of repeatedly dealing with people who are having the worst days of their life.

Alex Diamond is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Texas, Austin. Sneha Annavarapu is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago.

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Sneha Annavarapu

Sneha Annavarapu is Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at Yale-NUS College.

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