Criminology and policing assumes a neutral ontology of spatiality – when, in fact, space is always emergent from the striation of bodies. This striation of space is symptomatic of an attempt to arrest the flows of life.
Campbell 2016(Elaine, Newcastle University, “Policing and its Spatial Imaginaries,” Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Criminology, 8: 71-89)
As an assemblage of heterogeneous security practices, policing is often mapped across a number of spatial imaginaries. In common parlance, when we talk of the `thin blue line’, `crime scenes’, `bobbies on the beat’, `accident hot-spots’, and `no-go areas’, a particular topography of policing practices is implied, albeit one which is metaphorical and representational. Yet such terms also function as heterotopias of control, danger, and exclusion, and invest `real’ places with meaning, value and significance, marking them out as spatially bounded, territorialised sites of protection, investigation, risk-management, and surveillance. At the same time, recent attention to global and transnational policing (Bowling and Sheptycki, 2012) - and other scalar abstractions such as neighbourhood, local, national, regional and international policing - imagines a vertical scale, or a `nested hierarchical ordering’ (Howitt, 2002: 305) of policing terrains which, `etched from shadows cast from above’ (Marston et al, 2005: 420) move upwards and onwards in terms of operational level, geographical scope and territorial size. Moreover, the emergence of pluralised, nodal and networked policing (Jones and Newburn, 2006; Loader. 2000), which works across territorial, sectoral and organisational boundaries, suggests a more spatially fluid and extensive policing terrain which not only has reach and scope beyond the constricting enclosures of fixed, jurisdictional spaces, but which also acknowledges that proximity and distance, the here and there of policing have been dissolved within horizontal planes of cooperation and partnership. It seems reasonable, therefore, to suggest that how we talk, write and think about policing and, importantly, how we do policing, is cast within a distinctly spatial lexicon. For all that, the spatialized and spatializing relations of policing remain, at best, under-theorised and, at worst, unexamined and left to speak for themselves. Indeed, within criminology in general, and policing studies in particular, forms of space - that is, spatialities such as territory, borders, scale and network – as much as the phenomenon of space itself are seldom topics for discussion or theoretical rumination; as Massey notes, `(it is) a debate which never surfaces; and it never surfaces because everyone assumes we already know what these terms mean’ (1994: 250). Why should all this matter? At one level, of course, to obsess about such commonly used, and culturally embedded spatial expressions could be regarded as an exercise in pedantry. If, however, `everything, but everything, is spatially distributed’ (Thrift, 2006: 140), then space is deeply social and emerges from the continuous interplay of bodies, nature and things which encounter, interact and connect with each other in more or less organised, and more or less continuous circulations (Massey, 1994). Yet, when viewed through a criminological lens, space is consistently figured as a neutral or abstract backdrop, or as an inert, empty container within which events unfold. Even when, especially when policing is analytically foregrounded as a territorialised, bordered, scaled and/or networked set of practices, forms of space are presented as conceptual givens, as always-already ordered templates upon which the `real’ analysis can be superimposed. As a result, criminology’s ontological commitments to, and political investments in different spatialities remain unquestioned and unproblematised. In the next several sections, I unpack the conventional wisdoms which pervade criminological approaches to territorial, bordered, scaled and networked space. This sets the ground for opening up a conversation with poststructuralist geography and its innovative work in thinking space relationally; in so doing, the paper engages with topological frameworks of spatial analysis and goes on to delineate an ontology of policing space centred on Schatzki’s (2002) concept of `the site’.
Criminological interest in the notion of territory has been a central concern for historians of public policing. Read through theories of state formation (Giddens, 1985; Weber, 1966), as much as through the political geographies of emergent industrial capitalism and processes of urbanisation (Ogborn, 1993; Steedman, 1984), policing territory, as the spatial demarcation of police jurisdiction and authority, is cast from the complex interplay of state administrative power, nation and sovereignty. As Ogborn notes of the establishment of provincial policing in 19th century England, `the `new’ ... police force was a single body with the monopoly of policing over a defined area... (which) involved .... constantly patrolling their territory’ (1993: 511).
The idea of territory as a delimited, bounded, spatially coherent, exclusive and calculable space is a formulation which is repeated across disparate bodies of scholarship. We certainly learn from administrative criminology and policing handbooks, how to map the organisational structures and operational practices of public policing across territorialised (and scaled) spatial framings – from local beats, to basic command units, area commands, force areas, through to spaces of national jurisdiction(s) (HMIC, 2005; Loveday, 2006). Equally, seminal ethnographies of urban policework, though they may discard formalised terms, nonetheless talk of territory as `the ground’ – `(this) belongs to the police..... (t)hey possess it; it is their territory and members of the force from adjoining stations have no right of entry into or patrol of the ground’ (Holdaway, 1983: 36). More contemporary work, such as Zedner’s (2009) exploration of the changing landscapes of security, notes that even with the proliferation of private policing actors and the spatial fragmentation of jurisdiction, governance still involves the regulation of delineated space leading to a territorial `patchwork’ of security `quilts’, `bubbles’ and `corridors’. While Palmer and Warren suggest the contemporary proliferation of `governing territory through zonal controls’ (2013: 430), Miraftab (2012: 284) identifies patterns of `zonification’, based on old-style colonial practices of `location creation’, in strategies of urban regeneration in Cape Town. At the same time, Paasche and colleagues note that non-state policing agents operating within these same City Improvement Districts, have reterritorialized urban spaces by creating `invisible boundaries’ (2014: 1565) which displace not only `undesirables’ from certain (improved) areas, but also the need for public policing within them. Hayward talks of `container spaces’ and draws attention to the increasingly prevalent public policing usage of `kettling’ as a means of `corralling.... protestors into a demarcated, confined space .... designed to keep people inside a perimeter’ (2012: 453-454, original emphasis). On these analyses, territory comprises the spatial conditions of possibility for control over, access into, movement within, and exit from a particular space. This ontological position is certainly reflected in emerging criminological research of borders and border regimes (Aas, 2011; Loftus, 2015; Pickering and Ham, 2013). Borders encircle an imagined and territorialised community; as Loftus reminds us, `borders are characterised by their communicative function, signifying state control over territory and mobility’ (2015: 115); or as Zureik and Salter put it, `the image of a controlled border allows for the construction of a national space as smooth space, safe space, domestic space’ (2013: 4). Symbolically and materially positioned at territory’s `edge’, the border is both the localised site of intensified surveillance and control, and the frontier at which rights of entry and the identification (and exclusion) of risk and danger are determined. On this reading, it would be fair to suggest that territory has been taken as an assumed spatial category which provides the material backdrop for a multifaceted and critical politics of control (and resistance), surveillance, exclusion, partition and segregation. In other words, territory comes as a ready-made ontology, and as the taken-for-granted spatial framing for politicised debates concerning injustices, rights abuses and differential treatment at the borders (Pratt, 2005; Weber and Bowling, 2004). It forms the cartographic stage for processes and practices of `social sorting’ which deploy a myriad of surveillance technologies (ID cards, biometrics, CCTV, body- checks, scanners) to sift, monitor, profile and discriminate who and what has right of entry and exit (Lyon, 2002). Territory mobilises `geographies of citizenship’ for some, and consigns marginalised, dispossessed and `undesirable’ groups to `geographies of nowhere’(England, 2008: 2880). It partitions access to public space, and withholds what Lefebvre (1995) describes as `rights to the city’. In short, territory constitutes a key spatial technology for particularly divisive, pernicious, and demarcated modes of policing. Yet, despite the wide-ranging political implications of territory, what we might mean by the term, how we trace its genealogy, conceptual formation, discursive construction, and its usage in different times and contexts, has been given little attention within the criminological literature.