The Power of Racialized Discretion in Policing Migration
Discretionary practices have often been put forward to explain the racially disproportionate patterns we see in policing. The focus on discretion rather than racism neatly shifts attention away from race and instead towards discretionary practices, which are notoriously amorphous and inscrutable. The attention towards discretion (rather than race) further allows race to operate without being explicitly named and, therefore, to operate as an absent present. In this article, I discuss how race and discretion work together when ordinary police officers are tasked with migration control duties to identify foreign national offenders. Drawing on empirical research conducted in England, I propose the concept of racialised discretion and argue that it holds merit because it recognises that certain discretionary practices and decisions are animated because of race, through race and with the effect (intentional or not) of racially disproportionate outcomes. The article argues for the need for racialised discretion to be seen as distinct from other forms of discretion both in policing and the criminal justice process more widely.
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