This chapter analyzes how the provisional authority of police is shaped by the ongoing transfer of each and every officer to various districts and divisions over the course of one’s career. What appears to be a banal and rationalized practice, officially conducted to promote “the public good” and prevent corruption, is in fact evidence of the systematic politicization and personalization of the police bureaucracy. In practice, individual and en masse transfers are often configured by political calculation and speculation regarding how an officer’s caste, religion, professional reputation, or social connections with particular networks might render him more or less valuable or useful in a specific position. This social fact makes what is officially supposed to be an impersonal exercise an intensely personal one while also, paradoxically, further rendering police officers as fungible, and indeed “expendable”, through their depersonalization and depoliticization as individual and collective subjects, respectively. What some call the resultant “transfer industry” thus entails a complex of ongoing machinations and strategic alliances that go far beyond mere “corruption” or “cronyism” as police officers attempt to mold meaningful careers that perform “modern” virtues of institutional merit and professional progress in a context of unending uncertainty, generalized anxiety and competitive suspicion.
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