Policing, Democratic Participation, and the Reproduction of Asymmetric Citizenship

Can democratic participation reduce inequalities in citizenship produced by policing? We argue that citizen participation in policing produces a paradox, which we call asymmetric citizenship. For some citizens, expanding participation in policing expands citizenship by enhancing state responsiveness to demands. Yet citizen participation in policing often produces demands to repress marginalized groups, thereby contracting their citizenship rights. We theorize that formal spaces for citizen participation in policing produce asymmetric citizenship through three mechanisms: (1) defining some groups as “virtuous citizens” and labeling marginalized groups as “security threats,” (2) gatekeeping to amplify the voice of “virtuous citizens” while silencing marginalized groups, and (3) articulating demands for police repression of marginalized groups to protect the rights of “virtuous citizens.” We illustrate the framework through a qualitative analysis of São Paulo’s Community Security Councils. Our analysis elucidates mechanisms through which democratic participation can reproduce, rather than ameliorate, inequality in policing.

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License CC BY
DOI https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055422000636
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 120 - Theory