There has always been something of a recognition that the police are the most visible of all criminal justice institutions. More recently, it is accepted that policing has moved closer towards a hyper-visible occupation as police work in unprecedented techno-social circumstances. Yet, there is a pervasive strand of policing which operates quietly in the background, serving to cast a wide net of suppression. Covert investigation is a deeply embedded feature of late modern policing, working in isolation from the overt forms of policing with which the public - and criminologists - are most familiar. While covert policing is hardly new, there is evidence to suggest that the use of such investigative strategies has become both widespread and normalised. In this paper, I draw on data derived from an ethnographic field study of covert policing to provide a key insight into the inner-world of those engaged in the targeted surveillance of the public. More broadly, I am concerned to expose and examine an alternative form of police power largely uncoupled from the spectacle of mainstream policing that has been the focus of much scholarship.  

Dr Bethan Loftus is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy and Criminal Justice in the School of Social Sciences, Bangor University. She holds a PhD in Criminology (Keele University), an MA in Comparative Criminology and Criminal Justice (Bangor University, received with distinction) and a BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice (Bangor University, first class). Her research interests lie in socio-legal and comparative understandings of policing, in particular: policing cultures, covert/unercover policing and surveillance; the operation and governance of private security; border enforcement; and the policing of social divisions. Bethan also has broad interests in crime and social exclusion under conditions of late modernity. She has conducted two major ethnographic field studies, both of which involved conducting prolonged observations of police officers as they went about their ordinary duties. Bethan is the author of Police Culture in a Changing World (Oxford University Press) and articles in major journals. She is currently writing a monograph (with Professor Benjamin Goold and Dr. Shane Mac Giollabhui) on a pioneering ethnographic study of covert policing (forthcoming,Routledge). Bethan sits on the editorial board of the British Journal of Criminology and is the UK Reviews Editor for Theorectical Criminology.


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