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Sarah Brayne, Sociology, University of Texas at Austin

  • When: May 18, 2022, 12–1:30 pm
  • Where: Zoom: To register, contact Sophie Kofman at skofman@abfn.org

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Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion, and the Future of Policing

Computational procedures increasingly inform how we work, communicate, and make decisions. In this talk, I draw on interviews and ethnographic observations conducted within the Los Angeles Police Department to analyze how the police leverage big data and new surveillance technologies to allocate resources, classify risk, and conduct investigations. I argue big data does not eliminate discretion, but rather displaces discretionary power to earlier, less visible parts of the policing process, which has implications for organizational practice, law, and social inequality.  

Sarah Brayne is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin. In her research, Brayne uses qualitative and quantitative methods to examine the social consequences of data-intensive surveillance practices. Her book, Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion, and the Future of Policing (Oxford University Press), draws on ethnographic research with a large, urban police department to understand how law enforcement uses predictive analytics and new surveillance technologies. In previous research, she analyzed the relationship between criminal justice contact and involvement in medical, financial, labor market, and educational institutions. Brayne's research has appeared in the American Sociological Review, Social Problems, Law and Social Inquiry, and the Annual Review of Law and Social Science and has received awards from the American Sociological Association, the Law and Society Association, and the American Society of Criminology.

Prior to joining the faculty at UT-Austin, Brayne was a Postdoctoral Researcher at Microsoft Research. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Policy from Princeton University. 

Brayne has volunteer-taught college-credit sociology classes in prisons since 2012. In 2017, she founded the Texas Prison Education Initiative.

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