#Ferguson & Elsewhere, Blotter, Secularism & Security after Charlie Hebdo

Anthropoliteia in American Anthropologist’s review of Public Anthropology

In the most recent (September) issue of American Anthropologist, Angelique Haugerud has an excellent review of “Public Anthropology in 2015” which features both our series “#Ferguson & Elsewhere” and “Secularism & Security after Charlie Hebdo” in addition to various pieces by many former contributors (including myself, Orisanmi BurtonPaul MutsaersJennie SimpsonA. Lynn BollesBradley DunseithMichelle StewartDylan KerriganDidier Fassin, and Laurence Ralph)

Unfortunately it’s currently behind a paywall, but those of you with institutional access should check it out!

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#Ferguson & Elsewhere, Blotter

So wait, are there racial disparities in US policing or not? (Answer: YES!)

If you’re like me, you may have had two academic articles with seemingly conflicting arguments run through your Facebook feed lately.  The first, an article by Cody T. Ross published via PLOS ONE uses a multi-level Bayesian analysis to conclude that there exists

evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is about 3.49 times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police} on average

The other, written by economist Roland G. Fryer and covered extensively in the New York Times Upshot column, concludes that in the case of “the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account.”

How can such diametrically opposed claims be made simultaneously in reputable scientific journals?  While much of these claims seems to rest in a domain of advanced statistics with which anthropologists typically feel less confident, the key to understanding their different claims actually might depend on a more “ethnographic” sense of the data sets they build upon.

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Blotter, DragNet, In the Journals

Anthropoliteia in Anthropology news

Kevin Karpiak's Blog

“Fault Lines in an Anthropology of Police, Both Public and Global” in Anthropology News

Another commentary by yours truly at Anthropology News.  AN format forbids in-text citations and footnotes, but if you’ll follow the links you’ll find a dense web of Anthropoliteia contributors’ work!

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Blotter

In The News: Anthropologists, Criminologists (and some others) on the Newtown Shootings

I still haven’t found much of a voice or aptitude for addressing current events in a timeframe that seems relevant, so like the Trayvon Martin incident, I feel like this blog post is a bit “late to the game” and with less than I’d like to offer. This is of course made more difficult by the fact that research on gun violence has been blocked in the U.S. along multiple lines for some time.

Despite these impediments, there have been several serious attempts to gain an understanding of the role of guns and gun accessibility on mass shootings:
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Blotter

In The News: Police-Community Relations

TORONTO – A Toronto police officer recently apologized for suggesting that women could prevent sexual assault by not dressing “like sluts” during a campus safety information session at York University last month.  Toronto police spokesman, Mark Pugash, stated that the officer’s remarks were “diametrically opposed to the way in which [they] train [their] people, the way in which [they] train [their] investigators and the way in which [they] write about sexual assault.”  Although the officer has been disciplined, many -including  Mila Guidorizzi, part of York University’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Support Line- believe that this cannot make up for the damage that may have been caused by the Toronto officer’s insinuation that women are to blame for sexual assault as it may decrease the likelihood that survivors of sexual assault will report their assaults or seek counseling.  Others, such as the vice-president of campaigns and advocacy for the York Federation of Students Darshika Selvasivam, believes the Toronto police’s procedures for handling sexual assault cases should be evaluated by a third party as current police training  “clearly isn’t sufficient enough because this officer clearly felt comfortable (making the comments) despite the training that he had received.”  Toronto police asserted that they have worked with a number of outside organizations to create an adequate training program for sexual assault investigators and maintains that the officer in question does not represent the force.

SAN JOSE – Facing increasing numbers of racial profiling and other bias allegations, the San Jose police department has broadened its definition of profiling to include “any biased behavior at any time during an encounter with the public.” Prior to the change, San Jose’s Police Duty Manual stated that an officer must not “initiate a contact solely” based on factors including race, color, nationality and gender,” however, it is difficult to prove biased policing has taken place under this definition as officers could argue the person in question was stopped for a valid reason such as a broken taillight of failing to signal.  While the new definition does not directly address this issue, the city’s independent police auditor believes the change is a “huge” move in the right direction, noting past attempts to get the previous police chief to address issues of biased policing.  It is hoped that the new definition with help rebuild the “strained” relationship between San Jose’s minority communities and the police.  This is just one change in a series of alterations to the department’s operation.  Last year, the new police chief stopped his officers from impounding the cars of unlicensed drivers who were picked up for minor traffic violations, a practice many believed to target undocumented Latino immigrants.

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Blotter

This past weekend I visited Detroit’s 2011 North American International Auto Show, where Ford used the opportunity to show off its new police Interceptors (check out Ford’s site complete with siren loading graphic and nationwide tour dates).  Seductively displayed in front of a slogan proclaiming, “Protecting Our Community. Securing Our Future,” and the message, “Ford salutes first responders. The heroes you depend on depend on Ford,” the cars were hard to miss.  There was something rather striking about the Interceptors -fierce yet sleek- that seemed to draw a continuous crowd of all ages.

The name alone is alluring: Interceptor.  It rolls off the tongue and brings forth images of blockbuster car chases complete with explosions and gritty, attractive male leads like Jason Statham or Daniel Craig.  As I stood listening to the soft “ooohs” and “ahhhhs” of passersby and watched dozens of people whip out their cameraphones (yours truly included), I asked myself who Ford was trying to sell the Interceptor to -the police or us?  Moreover, what was Ford really selling -the car itself, an “ideal” representation of the police, a car-chase fantasy, their own “Ford-tough” image, or all of the above?

Ford Interceptor Attracts Attention at the Detroit Auto Show…

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Blotter

In the News: Police and Technology

Perhaps this past holiday season you got an iPad, a Blackberry Torch, the new iPod Touch with the built-in camera to keep you in constant face-to-face contact with your old roommate from college, your spouse, or whomever.  Even if you didn’t, you probably spent a significant amount of time staying in touch with the world through various forms of technology and social networking.  While this seems to have become the norm, might the ever-expanding world of technology and communication be encroaching upon our civil liberties…?

This week it was revealed that police forces in England and Wales have gathered data on millions of people who have called to report possible crimes or pass on information, recording names, addresses and contact details, and in some cases asking for the callers’ date of birth and ethnicity.  Critics like Daniel Hamilton of the pressure group Big Brother Watch forewarn that this sort of police data collection could lead to a “Big Brother” state and argue that data could easily be accessed via freedom of information requests; 13 police forces have already complied with such requests.  “For the police to log this kind of information isn’t just wrong -it’s dangerous,” he urged, noting that “the public must be confident that, when they report a crime, they do so in the comfort of anonymity and without risk of their details being stored on a central police database which can be accessed by thousands of people.”  While senior officers admitted details could potentially be used in future investigations, they maintain that databases like these are necessary to “fight crime, protect vulnerable people and ensure concerns were dealt with appropriately”.

If that doesn’t bring you to pause, how about hidden camera police interrogations?  Sometime next month the New York Police Department will begin tests of its new plan to videotape interrogations of people suspected of felony assault. The pilot program will run in two precincts: The 67th Precinct in Brooklyn and the 48th Precinct in the Bronx.  One squad will run tests with the camera in plain view, while the other squad will use a camera that “will not be obvious,” to those being interrogated in order to examine how cameras impact interrogations.  Interestingly, the police will only be required to disclose the presence of the camera if someone under questioning directly asks about it.

Finally on a more collaborative note, some police departments have found ways to work with the public via social media networks to combat crime.  With car thefts are on the rise in Seattle, the Seattle Police Department has resorted to a new tactic for recovering stolen cars: Twitter.  The new plan involves tweeting the details -including color, year, make, model, body style, and license plate- of stolen cars and asks Twitter followers who come across the stolen rides to call 911 and provide their locations.  Seattle PD also emphasized that citizens should not confront individuals occupying stolen cars.

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