Commentary & Forums

Deja vu all over again: the recurring problem of post-social policing in France

An update along the lines of our continued interest in policing “after the financial crisis”…

Le Monde reports that, come January 2010, there will be a full stop on the deployment of the unités territoriales de quartier (UTEQ), the socially-oriented policing groups developed by Nicolas Sarkozy after the banlieue riots of 2007 (and after he had virtually eliminated another socially-oriented style of policing, in 2002, known as the police de proximité).

The reason? Minister of the Interior Brice Hortefeux explains that he doesn’t have the means (“moyens”) to implement the program in light of the loss of 2,000 posts this year.  This doesn’t mean a complete loss of on-the-ground policing, however (the translation is my own):

Le rapport prône également l’élaboration d’un diagnostic “approfondi” dans chaque territoire et un “partenariat sérieux” avec les élus. Un tel scénario présenterait l’avantage de combler les trous, mais mettrait à bas la philosophie même du dispositif : être en contact régulier avec la population.

[The report also argues for a "deeper" diagnostic analysis in each territory, and a "serious partnership" with elected officials. This scenario has the advantage of filling the holes in the budget while having at its core the same philosophy: to be in regular contact with the population]

So we’re back to exactly the point we were at in 2002, when Sarozy dismissed the police de proximite as irresponsibly uneconomical even while those on the left emphasized that close contact with those being policed is essential for proper police work.

This is the “problem of a post-social police” that I wrote about in my dissertation (and which I’ve been trying to develop in an article I’ve been working on): how to devise a style of policing once the object to which its been oriented (which it helped create)–the social, as represented in a population–becomes only one in a larger array of governing objects?  This is the question police, and we as social scientists, still face and for which there are as yet no adequate answers…

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Blotter, DragNet

Policing and the Recession

In response to Kevin’s inquiry as to whether or not there was any reporting being done on the impact of the recession on policing, I have posted the following articles:

Budget cuts that are the result of the recession have lead to departments cutting training. The California Peace Officers Association (a bargaining collective) was receiving so many inquiries from departments about the consequences of cutting training that they put out the following memo (mjm-duty2train).

Policeone.com has a whole section of its webpage dedicated to policing in an economic crisis: http://www.policeone.com/law-enforcement-and-the-economy

including the following article: http://www.policeone.com/patrol-issues/articles/1834282-Recession-continues-to-limit-cut-police-services/

From the AP on cutbacks in the prison population intended to save dollars: http://www.policeone.com/corrections/articles/1642828-Mass-inmate-release-possible-in-Calif/

An article from correctionsone.com on the how competition between police departments, corrections, and parole affects incarceration: http://www.correctionsone.com/corrections/articles/1877665-Bridging-the-gap-between-police-and-parole/

From the Chicago Tribune on how the recession is leading to departments to cut positions, over time, and even how long officers run the engines of their cars: http://www.policeone.com/patrol-issues/articles/1813441-Police-feel-sting-of-recession-Departments-pare-programs-purchases-to-keep-cops-on-streets/

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Dispatches

Policing after the “financial crisis”

So I did a little bit of “exploratory ethnography” here in my new home of Worcester, MA by going to a Public Safety Commission Meeting.  There’s plenty that could be said about it, even though it lasted all of ten minutes (has anybody else gone to these kinds of meetings?  Have you noticed how existentially absurd they are?  They don’t really do anything like that in France), but one thing in particular stuck out… It seems that the City of Worcester will need to lay off 24 officers by the end of September due to the city’s $1,300,000 (i like to leave in zeros) deficit.  this is on top of the fact that they apparently graduated 32 new recruits in February and promptly proceeded to lay them off at the end of the month.

To me, that sounds like a lot.  To put that in context, according to the WPD’s 2008 Annual report they had 381 budgeted police personnel, which amounted to $38,969,002 in Salary, Overtime and Holiday/Extras.  So these cuts would mean anywhere from about a 6% (just subtracting the 24 officers from last year’s corps) to a 17% (adding together the 24, plus the 32 recruits, plus the 9 scheduled retirees) cut in the workforce and the $1.2 million would be about 3% of the money budgeted for salary. Now, that doesn’t sound like that much, but I have no idea to be honest.  I really have only a general sense of what these kinds of cuts will mean–if they mean anything new at all.

Which got me wondering: does anyone know of any good work and/or reporting being done on the effects of the financial crisis on the practices of policing in American (or other) cities?  If not, shouldn’t we be a part of that?  What kinds of questions can we fruitfully ask about the situation?

Here’s the outline of one: if nothing else, what we’ve learned from the literature on neoliberalism is that it doesn’t make much sense to call it a “retreat of the state”–everyone from Loic Wacquant to Nikolas Rose & co. to the Cheney/Bush homeland security apparatus has shown us that.  Even though that’s very much how the present crisis is being framed (“lack of government funds” etc.), the same truth still seems to hold–wither the stimulus money, for example?

How else to make sense of  “financial crisis'” affect on municipal policing?

Further Reading

Wacquant, L. (2008). The Body, the Ghetto and the Penal State Qualitative Sociology, 32 (1), 101-129 DOI: 10.1007/s11133-008-9112-2

Wacquant, L. (2001). The Penalisation of Poverty and the rise of Neo-Liberalism European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 9 (4), 401-412 DOI: 10.1023/A:1013147404519

Rose, N., O’Malley, P., & Valverde, M. (2006). Governmentality Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 2 (1), 83-104 DOI: 10.1146/annurev.lawsocsci.2.081805.105900

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