Dispatches

 

Numbers 1972, reprinted circa 1983 by Barry Flanagan 1941-2009

Numbers 1972, reprinted circa 1983 Barry Flanagan 1941-2009 Presented by Sue Flanagan, the artist’s former wife 1985 via Tate UK

Studies in Police Science often use language such as “police initiative x was found to be successful because of an x% reduction in crime.” But what does this actually mean, in any lived sense? To gain perspective I reached out to an officer I worked with during my thesis research back in 2012, to which he replied:

“Crime stats don’t really mean too much on a patrol level. Stats are used by police chiefs to say, “Look what we have done.” Crime has nothing to do with arrests. Poverty has everything to do with it. (His patrol area) used to be one of the most dangerous in the U.S. But when initiatives started pushing out the poor, crime sank to an all-time low. (His patrol area) is yuppie-ville; it has nothing to do with the police department. Most officers like to see spikes in crime when they don’t like the chief. It’s an easy way to get rid of them. When the public feels unsafe the head of the organization gets replaced. So that’s how crime states are used on a patrol level.”

So, there you have it. It appears that crime stats (at least in one officer’s opinion) join the ranks of the other politically charged facets of the criminal justice system. Now more than ever, I’m wondering exactly why these stats carry so much weight in determining which initiatives are “best”…

 

Wondering About Crime Stats

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Dossiers

Order by the Books: Suicide crime scene investigations in southern Mexico

The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome a special guest post from Beatriz Reyes-Foster as part of our series of anthropological reports From the Field

Abstract

The complex and contested relationship between representatives of a Mexican law enforcement agency and the citizenry it claims to protect is visible in the documents it produces. Ethnographic material further deepens our understanding of the ways in which law enforcement agents and common citizens form relationships based on negotiation and distrust.

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What's going on in Ukraine?

Ukraine Roundtable

Ukraine memorial

Memorials for the dead along Institutka St. © Jennifer Carroll

Both Allegra and Anthropoliteia have been busy covering the political developments in Ukraine and Crimea, so we decided to “collaborate” on our coverage by bringing together the various contributors to pause and reflect on the question: “What has struck you the most, or been most noteworthy, about the developments in Ukraine—from EuroMaidan to Crimea—so far?” Continue reading

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Announcements, Call for papers

CFP Anthropoliteia-sponsored panel at the 2014 AAA Meetings

Long-time readers of Anthropoliteia may remember that some of the first “extra-curricular” iterations of the blog were at panels at the 2009 and 2010 Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association.  In my own humble estimation, these were extremely productive conversations, and not only because they resulted in an edited volume that was published by Palgrave Macmillan last year, of which we’re all extremely proud.

In that vein, and to broaden the conversation, we’ve decided to try sponsoring a panel on anthropoliteia-related issues this year.  If the experiment is successful, it may even become an annual thing.  Please read through the following CFP and consider offering an abstract.  Also, please pass this announcement on to anyone else that may be interested.

Call for Papers: Thinking through police, producing anthropological theory

For a session to be submitted to the 2014 Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association (Washington DC, December 3–7, 2014).  Dr. Kevin Karpiak (Eastern Michigan University), organizer.

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Dossiers

The Anthropology of “Robocop:” Finding New Audiences in Popular Media

The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome a special guest post from Nolan Kline

Spoiler alert! This post reveals details about the new Robocop film.

As a kid, I loved the 1987 Robocop (even though I can’t recall how my parents allowed me to see it given its R rating and violent scenes).  Having grown up in the Detroit area and as a PhD candidate with research interests that all hinge on social inequality, it isn’t hard for me to understand now what I found so fascinating as a child about a film featuring a dystopian capitalist future. When I learned about the 2014 Robocop, admittedly I was excited to see it and interested in discovering whether the new film retained some of its social commentary roots. I was surprised to notice that the new film, more than the original, cut to the core of my current research interests around policing and health. The overlap with my scholarly interests led me to consider how I and other anthropologists might use popular media as a way to discuss anthropology with non-academic audiences.

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What's going on in Ukraine?

What’s going on in Ukraine?

One thing I’m a bit embarrassed by is how paltry our coverage of the events in Ukraine have been over the past few weeks.  I’m sure I’m not alone in watching from afar and being fascinated with what is happening, but I have no special expertise in the region.  Does anyone from our readership?

One thing that’s fascinated me in particular is how quickly the state of policing shifted, and what this potentially means for how we think about such things as “police,” “state,” “violence,” and “democracy.”  You know, all those classic elements of Police Studies that draw on Weber.

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In the Journals

Michelle Stewart on the erasure of labour in the production of police experts

Our own Michelle Stewart has a fascinating article online over at M/C Journal using an ethnographic eye to attend to the labour (since it’s an Australian journal it has that extra ‘u’) that gets hidden in the production of police technologies.  Or, as she concludes:

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DragNet

“Today the world, once again, is watching South Africa’s response to 193x285q70kerry-chancepolice violence. Emerging from a violent Apartheid past, the newly branded South African Police Services was meant to be a shining example of how best to protect law and order, while ensuring a free democratic society for all. However, recent events in Ficksburg, Marikana and Cato Crest shake the foundation of this vision.”

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Kerry Chance on South African Policing

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In the Journals

Special Issue of Anthropology News features two articles on Police

Although there’s been quite a bit of rumbling over the AAA’s “open access” policies over the last several years, one positive development IMHO has been to move the association’s newsletter, Anthropology News, to an online and OA format.

Police propaganda billboard advertising goals for building a “Peaceful and Healthy Society.” This photograph was taken in Taiwan in the early 2000s. Photo courtesy Jeffrey T Martin

Police propaganda billboard advertising goals for building a “Peaceful and Healthy Society.” This photograph was taken in Taiwan in the early 2000s. Photo courtesy Jeffrey T Martin

And now readers of this blog can benefit.  The most recent issue features several articles on the Anthropology of Law in its “In Focus” section, including two articles on the anthropology of policing: one from Anthropoliteia’s own Jeff Martin, entitled “How the Law Matters to the Taiwanese Police” and another by Jennie Simpson, a recent PhD from American University, “Building the Anthropology of Policing” (the latter featuring a short–and unexpected cameo from yours truly).

Personally, I’m super-psyched that the anthropology of policing is beginning to carve out a space in the larger world of anthropology.  Not only am I currently brainstorming how to incorporate these blog posts into my course on Policing in Society, but I’m secretly formulating a response to Jeff arguing that his use of my beloved Max Weber is all wrong!

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Commentary & Forums

Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman and the Anthropology of Police

I’m sure I’m not the only one on this blog who’s been trying to think of a way to approach the whole Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman fiasco.  Like a lot of scholarship, it’s just so hard to figure out what to add to the constant shit-storm of a media frenzy.  But in my Police & Society class at EMU we have broached the topic, and the discussion has been both passionate and useful.

I thought I’d share the online discussion question I just prompted my students with. I’m curious to hear what readers of this blog might have to say.  Here’s the prompt:

So our discussion seems to have gotten us to an interesting place: on the one hand, the question of what to do with George Zimmerman–did he have the right to be policing his neighborhood?  did he have the right to carry and use a gun?  did he have the right to suspect and pursue Trayvon?–brings us back to a question we’ve been asking repeatedly in the class…  What should be the relationship between “police” and “society,” especially when we consider the use of force/power/gewalt?  Should they be fully integral things, so that there’s no distinct institution of policing?  Should there be an absolute distinction, so that only a small community can claim the right to police power?  If the answer is somewhere in the middle, how would that work?

On the other hand, we’ve also been circulating around the question of freedom and security, norms and rights.  Was George Zimmerman policing legitimately when we acted upon his suspicions, regardless of any evidence of law-breaking? Should the goal, the ends, of policing be the maintaince of community norms at the expense of individual liberty, or is a technocratic focus on law enforcement and civil rights the necessary priority of a democratic police force?

Anyone have any thoughts on how we can use some of the ideas and/or authors from this course to help us answer some of these questions?

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