In this article, we show how routine policing is conscripted into the project of maintaining and reproducing spatial racism in urban settings through an intersecting set of macro-level processes and micro-interactional practices. Our analysis of ethnographic interviews conducted with over 40 police officers during 20 ride-alongs in the Western United States identifies person- and place-specific heuristic classifications that police officers rely on to manage routine encounters. We find that officers use membership categorization devices to sort people and places in the city into distinct categories (e.g., nice places, normal people, the projects, and people in the projects), which, in turn, prefigure different orientations to action at the start of and throughout their encounters with the public. Our findings provide an empirical basis for thinking of professional police knowledge as encoding systemic racism in routine policing, rather than being a break from it.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© American Sociological Association 2022.
- race and racism
- urban ethnography
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Urban Studies