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Kevin Karpiak's Blog

Just happened to be looking this up today in the OED:

community policing n. policing at a local or community level; spec. a system of policing by officers who have personal knowledge of and involvement in the community they police.

1934   New Castle (Pa.) News 20 Feb. 16/3   Major Adams asserted that the modern principles of community policing are based on antiquated methods.
1973   Times 24 Sept. 2/6   Community policing, at present one of the most controversial talking points in Andersontown.
2000   P. Beatty Tuff i. 4   The mayor think rhyming sound bites, community policing, and the death penalty going to stop fools from getting paid.
Not sure exactly who major Adams is or what he’s about, but it is interesting to think that the newness of “community policing” was in question even way back in 1934.  Of course, I’m also not sure what Adams meant by “community policing” had…

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“Community Policing” in the Oxford English Dictionary

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Apparition des Policiers, Marc Chagall 1923-1927

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Kevin Karpiak's Blog

This post is my first, personal, attempt at refiguring anthropological inquiry after the internet 2.0.  I guess this is just a fancy way of saying that I’m beginning to try to come to terms with doing ethnography after the birth of social media.  For context, my original fieldwork in France, way back between 2003-2005, coincided with Friendster, but that’s about it (it’s no coincidence that it was juring that time that I met my first “blogger”).  I’ve long though about what it would mean to start up a new project in the age of blogging, microblogging, social media and whathaveyou.  I’ve had various personal inspirations, and a few more or less inchoate collaborations (especially through the various iterations of the ARC Collaboratory, whose website seems to be down right now), but, at yet, no sustained engagement.  So here goes.

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Philadelphia Police Headquarters Buiilding

I was earlier today contemplating this statue, which stands outside of the Philadelphia Police Department Headquarters at 8th and Race Sts.  Note the quintessential 1950s “professional officer” style of uniform… and also how there is a gun on his right hip, a little girl on his left hip.   All kinds of signification going on here…  N.B. also that the Philly PD HQ (partially visible in the photograph, behind the statue) looks like a set of locked handcuffs from an aerial view.

Police “material culture”

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Claude Levi-Strauss on police

If you haven’t heard the news yet,  anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss passed away last week.  his passing has sparked a considerable amount of reflection and commentary–including a couple of attempts to synthesize, or, on the other hand, separate out a particular aspect of his grand corpus.

One aspect of his thought that most reviewers emphasize is his consistent critique of modernity through a complicated  anthropological lens which emphasized both a sensitivity to cultural diversity and universal human structures.  One under-remarked element of his work, however, is the way that police and policing, as ethnographic figures, functioned within his critique so as to make it possible.

I think we’re all agreed that it’s one of our shared goals here at Anthropoliteia to point out the centrality of police and policing to the anthropological project, so as a supplement to the various orbituaries and syntheses mentioned above, I thought I’d highlight a passage from Tristes Tropiques which I think illustrates my point.  Pay attention to the complicated ways in which police both illustrate and push forward his anthropological critique of modernity:

(The text is quoted, at length, after the break.  I know it’s a bit lengthy for a blog post, but there really is no way to edit the twists and turns of his prose, in that the meandering juxtapositions are often the very point.  Believe me, by the time you get to “The atmosphere thickens, everywhere” you’ll think every word has been worth it.)

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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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Foucault on anthropoliteia: “The police’s true object is man.”

Michel Foucault, discussing Louis Turquet de Mayerne’s 1611 treatise on the police Aristo-democratic Monarchy:

  1. The “police” appears as an administration heading the state, together with the judiciary, the army, and the exchequer.  True.  yet in fact, it embraces everything else.  Turquet says so: “It branches out into all the people’s conditions, everything they do or undertake.  Its field comprises justice, finance, and the army.”
  2. The police includes everything.  But from an extremely particular point of view.  Men and things are envisioned as to their relationships: men’s coexistence n a territory; their relationships as to property; what they produce; what is exchanged on the market.  It also considers how they live, the diseases and accidents that can befall them.  What the police sees to is a live, active, productive man.  Turquet employs a remarkable expression: “The police’s true object is man.”
  3. …What are the aims pursued?  they fall into two categories.  First, the police has to do with everything providing the city with adornment, form and splendor.  Splendor denotes not only the beauty of the state ordered to perfection but also to its strength, its vigor…. Second… to foster working and trading relations between men…. There again, the word Turquet uses is important: the police must ensure “communication” among men, in the broad sense of the word–otherwise, men wouldn’t be able to live, or their lives would be precarious, poverty-stricken, and perpetually threatened…. And here, we can make out what is, I think, an important idea.  As a form of rational intervention wielding political power over men, the role of the police is to supply them with a little extra life–and, by so doing, supply the state with a little extra strength.  This is done by controlling “communication,” that is, the common activities of individuals (work, production, exchange, accommodation). (bold emphasis my own)

Foucault M. 2000. “Omnes et Singulatim”: toward a critique of political reason. In Power, ed. JD Faubion, pp. 318-319. New York: New Press (see the text for free here)

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