DOI: 10.1177/17416590241231232 ISSN: 1741-6590

Citizen empowerment as a police force multiplier: Reproducing social domination through a 21st century personal safety app

Justin Turner, Travis Milburn
  • Law
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Communication
  • Cultural Studies

Citizen is a digital mapping platform and personal safety app that boasts over 10 million users in the United States. Through the platform, users can report crimes, map safe routes, or rely on the app’s other functions to protect themselves from dangerous situations. Sold on a promise of empowerment, Citizen markets itself as a 21st century technology capable of repairing the ills of our social world. In this article we analyze how Citizen taps into the desire for control and safety and urges its users to actively protect their own communities. As such, we suggest that while surveillant in nature, Citizen revolves around the force inherent to police power, transforming its users via police power by first integrating them into their social platform. Ultimately, Citizen reminds us that police power is not limited to ideological or violent exchanges, but can be a compelling solution to community problems. Rather than a progressive fix to the issues between policing and communities, however, we find that Citizen offers an expansion of police power at the individual scale, reproducing social domination both at the level of capital and the state.

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