Guest Lecture: Project Servator – affective counterterrorism and atmospheric policing


On 18 October, 2023, Sam Berlin presented project findings about recent developments in British counterterrorist policing methods to the Social Justice, Cities and Citizenship research group at the University of Leeds School of Geography. Based on interviews and fieldwork with counterterrorism police in three British cities, his paper Project Servator: affective counterterrorism and atmospheric policing explored recent developments in counterterrorism policing techniques with the advent of Project Servator, a new police programme that has brought counterterrorism policing into a more explicitly atmospheric domain. Over the past decade, Project Servator has been adopted by many British police forces to disrupt the ‘hostile reconnaissance’ needed to plan a terrorist attack. During Servator patrols, police use specialized techniques to read the atmospheres of the spaces they are patrolling. They also manipulate these atmospheres to provoke suspicious responses, which they use to decide who to question and sometimes stop and search. The ‘atmotechnical’ techniques (Wall 2019) mobilized by Servator police represent a new frontier in policing and surveillance aimed at overcoming the challenges that contemporary lone-actor and low-tech terrorism present.