Sarah Brayne, Sociology

Stratified Surveillance: Policing in the Age of Big Data

Wed, 10/22/2014
438 Robertson Hall
Event Category: 
Graduate Students

Please join us on Wednesday, October 22, for a seminar with Sarah Brayne,  PhD candidate in the Joint Degree Program in Sociology and Social Policy.

LEGS seminars provide a gathering place for graduate students from across the campus to share their interests and research in law-related topics, as well as to offer practice job talks. Drawing students and faculty from many disciplines, the student presenters ignite lively discussions and receive valuable feedback.

Abstract:  "In the wake of 9/11, federal agencies provided considerable funding to state and local law enforcement agencies to collect, analyze, share and deploy a wide range of new data. Increasingly, local law enforcement agencies have recognized these data could be useful for their own quotidian surveillance. The rise of “big data”—a data environment characterized by merging previously disparate data sources and predictive analytics—raises a host of sociological questions about the implications for surveillance and inequality.

In this study, I analyze the use of big data within the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), by conducting interviews with sworn officers and civilian employees in area and specialized divisions and at the regional intelligence center. I also conduct observations in police units on ride alongs to study how officers deploy data in the field.
In analyzing this unique primary data, this project addresses two key research questions: 1) Do big data analytics merely facilitate conventional police patrol, investigative and crime analysis activities at a larger scale, or, do they transform the nature of policing in fundamental ways? 2) What are the implications of the use of big data and new information technologies for social inequality?  In addition to positing a new mechanism for stratification in the criminal justice system and broader society, the findings of this research project also contribute to current policy and regulatory debates over privacy, the financing of interagency surveillance initiatives, and data collection, sharing and analysis practices."