DragNet

DragNet: June 15 – 30, 2014

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After months of debate, the ACLU released previously sealed records regarding the cell phone-tracking tool in use by several departments.

 

The topic of surveillance packed a powerful punch this month, with the court releasing documents regarding Stingray technology capabilities. After months of debate, the ACLU released previously sealed records regarding the cell phone-tracking tool in use by several departments. The publication comes nearly 3 months after initial buzz about the tool that circulated after a suspect’s phone was used by police to track him to his apartment prior to obtaining a warrant. The more notable specifics of the technology can be found here.

The problem of prison over crowding is presented by Alyse Berenthal’s article in Anthropology News this month. As an anthropologist interested in the ethnographic aspects of justice, Berenthal spent time working with people in self-help legal clinics. By restricting definitions of justice to the individual level, Alyse work offers insights to the pitfalls of an over burdened justice system.

The truth is in the data.   The proof is in the series of graphs presented by Nicole Flatlow in Think Progress’ article about the existential growth of the US prison population. States like California are so over-populated with prisoners that courts have ordered that prisons take steps to reduce inmate populations. Local jails are feeling the pain of overcrowding, with large volumes of low-risk or offenders awaiting trial making up a large proportion of total prisoner populations.

Also in surveillance is Kirsten Weld’s post about the institutionalization of intelligence gathering by the US. From the Spanish-American War, to FDR’s administration, to the aftermath of 9/11: it becomes apparent that data mining is nothing new to the US’ administrative history. Whether or not the US has a right to act as “global policeman” has yet to be determined by both the law and its citizens.

Stingray technology was not the only cause of raised eyebrows this month. James Eyers of Financial Review put tap-and-go credit card technology under scrutiny in a post from earlier this month. Some departments are criticizing tap and go transactions; pointing to higher theft and break-ins by criminals looking for this specific type of credit card. Banks are standing by their anti-identification policies, stating that crime inevitably changes alongside technological innovations and they as a financial entity cannot be held accountable.

First shared in May, Mother Jones’ post by Katie Quandt was popular again this month. Entitled “What it’s like to visit your mother in prison on mother’s day”, Quandt reflects about the impact of her foster sister’s incarceration on her role as a mother. The article comes shortly after Sesame Street’s recent initiative to talk about challenges children with parents in prison face, citing that 1 in 28 children fall into this category (with that stat increasing to 1 in 9 children among African American children).

Have plans to lounge beachside this summer? If so, you can’t miss David Thompson’s “must read” journal articles for Spring 2014. Catch up on the latest in anthropology and policing in scholarly publications here.

Border Criminologies announced their recent initiative to first digitize and eventually physically document material works by UK immigrants. The archive is intended to act as a reminder of the creative process of individuals even during times of extreme stress and uncertainty. It serves to emphasize the role of material culture in criminology.

Should community policing lead the way in 2014? Steve Early advocates for this approach in In These Times pose on June 23rd. He attributes the more “reactive policing” approaches to post-9/11 emphasis on response. Would regular officer assignments result in higher reliability ratings from the public? Should community relationship building be instated to replace reactive responses?

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DragNet

DragNet: June 1 – 15, 2014

"The challenge of on-officer cameras is the tension between their potential to invade privacy and their strong benefit in promoting police accountability," ~ACLU

“The challenge of on-officer cameras is the tension between their potential to invade privacy and their strong benefit in promoting police accountability,” ~ACLU

June kicked off with a post by Scott Shafer of NPRNews regarding the drastic increase in California parole rates. Where previous years saw less than a 10% release rate for “lifers”, 2013 recorded a near doubling of this statistic. California governor Jerry Brown has reiterated that crime type is no longer as much of a determining factor for parole as is the level of threat an inmate poses to the community.  For more about the parole increase, check out Matt Levin’s article about lifers freed from prisons as well as his timeline cataloging the history of California parole trends.

“To the radicalized youth who demonstrated in 14 Brazilian state capitals on May 15, the World Cup represents a fundamental flaw in the Workers’ Party (PT) project,” writes Rodrigo Nunes in a news post from Aljazeera. While your friends are busy blowing up your Facebook feed about the soccer of World Cup, Brazilians continue to show outrage that the event has brought their country few winners, but many losers. For more about the political implications of the World Cup, check out Werner Krauss’ article on the Huffington Post.  Here, he dissects the event from a structural-ritual perspective. Anthropoliteia also featured a post from Meg Stalcup in our continuing coverage of the World Cup.

It’s not just police getting virtual these days- so are crime scenes. In a personal favorite post by Kashmir Hill of Forbes, Hill recounts the Internet trail left behind by Santa Barbara Shooter Elliot Rodger. The troubled youth produced several YouTube videos documenting his gradual decline into criminal violence.

What would Jeremy Bentham and Michel Foucault have to say about Lebanese prison systems? Yazan al-Saadi’s post on Al-Akhbar evokes this and other questions about surveillance and control. The original panopticon envisioned a top-down power structure wielded by authority figures over non-authority figures.  In the context of Lebanese prisons, however, this concept is turned on its head as it is the prisoner who seemingly wields ultimate control.  Also in surveillance, the wife of ex-IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre has requested a formal investigation by the US state department after sensitive information from a phone call with the US embassy appeared in a popular tabloid a few days later.

An unlikely economical analysis of police body mounted cameras appeared in The Motley Fool’s investing section.  Ryan Lowery reflects on the potential profitability of the leading police tech companies (including TASER and L-3 Communications) that produce the majority of the equipment.

Issues of excessive force, surveillance and militarization come to a head in Kent Paterson’s post on CounterPunch. Using recent examples of militaristic responses by members of the Albuquerque police department, Paterson builds up to a broader discussion about the impact of police technologies on aggressive responses and use of force by US police departments.

Juvenile detention centers in California will be receiving $80 billion in coming months to rejuvenate current facilities. Several proposals for amenities and new features reinforce a community-based emphasis.  Officials hope the restructuring will help to solidify rehabilitation as a prevailing theme.

Tina Dupuy authored an engaging piece about casual vs. institutionalized racism in AlterNet this month. Why does the US rally more readily against casual comments than it does to institutionalized forms of racism (such as the prison system)? And further, does/can one form of racism lead to the other?

“Ban them, ban them all with a carve out for hunting weapons,” says Scott Martelle from LA Times Opinion. Referring to his admittedly minority stance on gun control in America, Martelle proposes the next steps for eliminating gun violence in America.

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DragNet

DragNet, March 2014

♫ Duh duh duh duh ♫  The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to introduce yet another new regular feature: DragNet.  An addition to our “Round Ups” series, DragNet will offer monthly highlights of the English-language academic blogosphere for topics related to policing, security, crime and punishment around the world.  We’re thrilled to have Kristin Castner serving as the Section Editor and lead author for the feature. ♫ Duh duh duh duh DUH ♫

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Announcements, Conferences

Anthropoliteia at the American Anthropological Association Meetings (2010, NOLA version)

Since people seemed to find it helpful last year, I’ve decided to try and make A@AAA an annual feature.  So here you go, my annual round-up of police, crime and security events at this year’s American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings.  As always, if you know about a session or paper that I’ve missed, let me know in the comments section and I’ll add it to the list.

Wednesday, Nov. 17th

1:15pm

2:15pm

2:30pm

9:00-9:15pm

Thursday, Nov. 18th

8:00-9:45am

10:15am-12:00pm

1:45-3:30pm

4:30pm

5:05pm

Friday, Nov. 19th

8:00am

2:30-3:00pm

2:45pm

3:45pm

4:30pm

Saturday, Nov. 20th

10:15-10:30am

1:45-3:30

Sunday, Nov. 21st

8:00-9:45am

8:15am

8:30am

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Announcements, Conferences

UC BERKELEY CONFERENCE: Queering Race, Policing Bodies: Militarization & Resistance | Center For Race Gender | CRG

Queering Race, Policing Bodies: Militarization & Resistance

Presenter:

“Documents and Disguises: Transgender Politics, Travel, and U.S. State Surveillance,” Toby Beauchamp, UC Davis

Presenter2:

“The Face of Gays in the Military: Neoliberalism, Multiculturalism, and the ‘Right to Fight,'” Liz Montegary, UC Davis

Date:

Thursday, September 10, 2009 – 4:00pm – 5:30pm

Location:

691 Barrows Hall

via Queering Race, Policing Bodies: Militarization & Resistance | Center For Race Gender | CRG.

(poster after the break)

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Blotter

Obama Tries to Defuse Gates Controversy

A series of articles and reports have come out today based on Obama trying to diffuse the Gates controversy: See NPR’s story by clicking here. Also listen to Sgt. Crowley tell his side of the story,  Sgt. Who Arrested Gates Tells His Story. Also listen to one of my favorite civil rights attorney’s, John Burris, discuss race and policing with two police chiefs. Burris has prosecuted  many police officers for misconduct and civil rights violations. He is notable for his involvement in the Oakland Rider’s scandal (a group of corrupt OPD officers) and was co-counsel in the Rodney King trial. Listen to “Black and Blue: Police and Minorities” from NPR’s Talk of the Nation.

One of Burris’s points is that police officers come to a call with expectations framed by the information that dispatchers give them. In part this is because officers also form stereotypical expectations about situations they go to, e.g. B&Es. Burris also makes the point that I have made, which is that respect is a major issue of urban policing especially between male cops (black or white) and black men contacted by the police. Burris recommends what cops call “verbal judo” which is just a “tactical” name for respectful communication. This is becoming a very popular style of discourse in law enforcement and is now part of the police academy curriculum training and is available as free training through the Learning Portal at the  California Peace Officer’s Standards and Training Commission.

Portland Or, Police Chief Rosie Sizer, also gives a very cogent explanation of how and why cops handle angry people the way they do when they respond to a scene. She  addresses why new specific policies for dealing with “angry people in their own home” is not practical and the importance of training doctrine and officer maturity for preparing officers for the vagaries of police experiences. Sizer describes Portland PDs in-service training for dealing with “jerks” on the force. Some officers, she said, are “jerks” all the time, but minorities perceive that officers rudeness as racially motivated.

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Commentary & Forums

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Researcher of Racial Profiling, Arrested.

NPR Article on Gates Arrest

Henry Louis Gates Jr., a prominent Harvard professor who studies racial profiling, was arrested for “loud and tumultuous” conduct after officers responded to his residence to investigate a possible “B&E” (breaking and entering). Supposedly a white female passerby saw gates and his African American driver trying to force open the front door. Gates had just returned from a trip to China to find his door swelled shut.

A Cambridge PD officer arrived to investigate. At this point the stories that the PD and Gates offer begin to differ. Gates claims tat he was arrested for no reason and that the officers were there because of racial profiling. The PD maintains that they had to investigate a crime and that Gates did not allow an officer into the house to investigate. Further the PD says that Gates  did not provide a state issued ID, only a Harvard University ID. While the officer was trying to obtain ID, Gates allegedly began asking for the officer’s badge and name. After the officer entered the house and obtained proper ID he threatened the officer, “You don’t know who your messing with.” Gates followed the officer outside and continued to berate him. At that point the officer arrested Gates for a public disorder crime (read the Gates Arrest Report).

Is this racial profiling as nearly everyone claims it to be? Racial profiling means that an officer stops, detains, or arrests a person solely on the basis of their race. Or is this a case of racial discrimination? That is, was Gates singled out for disparate treatment by the Cambridge Police, or more specifically Sgt. Crowely? Would  a white professor have been treated the same way?

Based on my professional experience I cannot say that I find the police report satisfactory. In CA, anyway, there would be little or no precedent to make an arrest. I would also hope that an arrest report dealing with “sensitive” person would have more detail. That the District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges does not help. It does not mean that Sgt. did not have probable cause for an arrest, but it does imply that the case could not have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. It also looks really bad from a public relations point of view.

But is this profiling or discrimination? I don’t think that can be adjudicated from the report or Professor Gate’s version of the events. From a working deputies point of view I can agree with many aspects of how Sgt. Crowely handled the situation. He has the right to detain a person for a reasonable amount of time to investigate a possible crime in progress. A person coming to the door and saying they are a resident is not sufficient to satisfy in most officers minds that no crime is occurring. Asking  for Government issued ID that proves someone is a resident is a common investigative technique. Someone refusing to give ID while legally detained is a real problem. It is generally problem to start arguing with an officer and deman

For example, last night (7/21/09) I responded to a noise complaint of a party with underage drinking.  I walk around the house, establish that there is unreasonably loud noise and I can smell the odor of alcohol coming from the residence. I look through the window and see people who look to be under 21. I knock on the door and a person under 21 answers the door. I ask to come inside after explaining why I am there. I am denied. I request identification from which ever minor lives at the house. The woman who answered the door first tells me “get out of my house” and then refuses to give me identification.

What to do? I explain again that I have to conduct an investigation and determine whether or not minor’s are being furnished with alcohol. I also need to make sure the noise is lowered. I explain that I have a right and an obligation to be in the house. The 19 year old proclaims, “My dad is a lawyer and you should leave.”  I also explain the consequences for impeding the investigation and finally gain the compliance of the white rich 19 year old daughter of a lawyer.

The point is this, I did whatever I could to de-escalate the situation and not make an arrest. My job was to stop the noise and ensure not alcohol was being furnished to minors. If I can get out without an arrest, I have done my job. Could it have escalated to an arrest, absolutely. But I give this example so that others will see some of the reasoning behind why the Gates incident could escalate to an arrest without original crime being founded. But this still doesn’t answer the question of whether Gates was discriminated against. I also don’t think that the claim that Gate’s arrest is prima facie evidence for “profiling.” That is not a logical argument (P.1 Gates is a black man. P.2 Gates is a well respected black man. P.3 Gates was arrested. P.4 Sometimes black men are arrested because of their skin color. C.1 Therefore Gates was arrested as a result of racial profiling.)

Are there other explanations for what happened other than racial profiling? Yes. Based on what we know, the officer did not profile. He had a witness who had facts about a specific suspect. The officer did his job and investigated. However, does that mean that the witness, a white woman, was not influenced by race? Social psycholoical research shows that people are influenced by unconscious biases regarding race. Likely the white witness was hyper-vigilant in her assesment of Gate’s trying to get into the house because of deeply embedded stereotypes about black men being criminals. This is very likely the case, but that is not the same a profiling by police.

It is also equally possible that Gates, tired from  a trip back from China, was exhausted and irratable and escalated the situation. He may have also been frustrated, as a black man who has dealt with a legacy of racism, that a white police officer was trying to enter HIS home. It is also possible that the Officer escalated the situation by not receiving the deference he expects from a upper middle class black man. You ask me and this can equally well be explained as being about masculinity. Could this not have been any more about two men in a pissing contest than it was a story of racial profiling? Gates committed the crime of “contempt of cop” and was arrested. The role of deference in relations between men, especially in police-citizen encounters, has been very well described by sociologists and criminologists. When either party feels disrespected, tensions rise and arrests are more likely.

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