Over the course of 15 months, at the time of the 2005 riots, Didier Fassin carried out an ethnographic study in one of the largest precincts in the Paris region, sharing the life of a police station and cruising with the patrols, in particular the dreaded anti-crime squads. Far from the imaginary worlds created by television series and action movies, he uncovers the ordinary aspects of law enforcement, characterized by inactivity and boredom, by eventless days and nights where minor infractions give rise to spectacular displays of force and where officers express doubts about the significance and value of their own jobs. Describing the invisible manifestations of violence and unrecognized forms of discrimination against minority youngsters, undocumented immigrants and Roma people, he analyses the conditions that make them possible and tolerable, including entrenched policies of segregation and stigmatization, economic marginalization and racial discrimination. Chapter 3 – Interactions: How stops and frisks serve purposes other than those they are supposed to serve, and prove more effective in perpetuating a social order than in maintaining public order. That the way police officers speak about the individuals with whom they deal throws light on their way of operating in the outer cities. That the theater of police intervention sometimes plays comedies in which not all spectators laugh at the same moment.
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