Hiding in plain sight: Directed surveillance as a bodily practice
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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In this article, we empirically explore directed surveillance as bodily practice—material bodies observing other material bodies. Such low-tech police surveillance practice (Haggerty 2012) relies on a police officer’s body as a tool and medium for information gathering. The theoretical framework used in this article is inspired by Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception and the body (Merleau-Ponty  2005). The empirical starting point for our analysis is in-depth interviews with police officers conducting directed surveillance of mobile organised crime groups, supplemented by some observations. Findings illustrate how police officers conducting directed surveillance have internalised advanced perceptual and bodily skills that enable them to keep an optimal distance from the subject of their surveillance, suppress bodily responses, stay in character to protect their cover story, and appear relaxed when they are, in fact, vigilant. With this article we aim to contribute to increased knowledge and more precise discussions concerning the tacit and corporeal aspects of directed surveillance.