Oberweis, T. and Musheno, M. (Policing)

Oberweis, T. and Musheno, M. (Policing) - Policing...

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Policing Identities: Cop Decision Making and the Constitution of Citizens Trish Oberweis and Michael Musheno We examine police decision making by focusing on police stones and drawing together contemporary thought about identities and police subcul- ture. Our inquiry suggests that police decision making is both improvisational and patterned. Cops are moral agents who tag people with identities as they project identities of their own. They do engage in raw forms of division or stereotyping, marking some as others to be feared and themselves protec- tors of society, while exercising their coercive powers to punish “the bad.” Due, in part, to the many ways that they identify themselves, cops also con- nect with people unique individuals, including individuals whose categon- cal identities (e.g., drug dealers) put them at the margins of society. Rather than using their coercive powers to repress these individuals, cops infuse them with certain virtues (e.g., good family men) while cutting them breaks. As they complicate representations of themselves, cops also project complex no- tions of law and legality. Moral discourse seems to infuse their judgments, while they invoke law strategically a tool to enforce their moral judgments. The marginalistic integration of individuals in the state’s utility is not obtained in the modern state by the form of the ethical community which was characteristic of the Greek city. It is obtained in this new ~ Trish Oberweis is the project manager at the American Justice Institute, San Francisco. Michael Musheno is professor of justice studies and public affairs and director of the Center for Urban Inquiry at Arizona State University. The authors are grateful to M. A. Bortner, Steve Herbert, Nancy Jurik, Suzanne Leland, Steven Maynard-Moody, Peter Manning, and the anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. The research related to this article was supported by a National Science Foundation Grant, Law and Social Sciences Program, Grant number SBR-9511169. 0 1999 American Bar Foundation. 0897-654619912404-897$01 .OO 897
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898 LAW AND SOCIAL INQUIRY political rationality by a certain specific technique called then, and at this moment, the police. -Foucault, The Political Technology of Individuals Police decision making is about policing identities; it is about the con- stitution of citizens or subjects who are wedded to the administrative appa- ratus of the state. Examining stories told to us by police officers, we find that police decision making is richly normative and contingent rather than narrowly rule driven and fixed. When police come into contact with citi- zens, they render moral judgments and concoct actions as they tag people with identities and project identities of their own. Our identity framework embraces a sociology of culture that treats cul- ture as particular, fractured, and contingent (see Garfinkel 1967; Swidler 1968; Sewell 1992; or Gamson 1992).’ It builds on the works specific to police culture that depict cop decision making as “both guided and improvi-
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Oberweis, T. and Musheno, M. (Policing) - Policing...

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