DragNet

DragNet: March 9 – 22, 2015

Speaking of departments that have gotten a bad rap, Police Chief Alejandro Lares Valladares of the Tijuana police department recently equipped officers with body-worn cameras. He hopes the initiative will both improve police-citizen relations while holding each accountable for their actions.

Speaking of departments that have gotten a bad rap, Police Chief Alejandro Lares Valladares of the Tijuana police department recently equipped officers with body-worn cameras. He hopes the initiative will both improve police-citizen relations while holding each accountable for their actions.

You’d think members of a police department as big as NYPD would know somebody somewhere might be able to trace Wikipedia page edits to their network. We shared Kelly Weill’s post for The Capital, which exposes how a computer linked to NYPD allegedly altered information on Wikipedia pages about police use of force against Eric Garner, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo. Also bleak is their revelation that additional edits have been linked to the same NYPD IP addresses for entries covering stop-and-frisk, NYPD scandals and local NYPD and political leaders.

Speaking of departments that have gotten a bad rap, Police Chief Alejandro Lares Valladares of the Tijuana police department recently equipped officers with body-worn cameras. He hopes the initiative will both improve police-citizen relations while holding each accountable for their actions. Carrie Kahn of NPR recounts why, despite a long history of corruption, Lares believes the cameras will also capture how “citizens try to criticize my police officers.” Will body-worn cameras finally even the playing field?

According to Peter Moskos, it’s not just NYPD or Tijuana officers who are guilty of corruption: it’s “The Whole Damn System!”. We shared his post for Cop in the Hood, which explains how the recently issued (and damning) DOJ report of Ferguson’s police department “is about a whole system of government using the criminal justice system to legally steal from its residents.” Do you agree with his conclusion that, “one could be blind to race and still be outraged?” Feel free to weigh-in in the Comments section.

We previously shared AAA President Monica Heller’s call to fellow anthropologists to contemplate and discuss the intersection of race and justice. The events in Ferguson, as well as the subsequent police shooting of Eric Garner, made this topic one of utmost importance to the general public and scholars alike. In the same vein, we shared Jennifer Curtis’ post for Political and Legal Anthropology earlier this month. Learn how you (and/or fellow colleagues) can join this crucial discussion by submitting your ideas and suggestions to Jeff Martin at jmart@illinois.edu. APLA will be hosting a coordinated discussion of race and justice in Denver, November 2015.

Whether your own interests lie within the field of anthropology, sociology or criminal justice, chances are that you’ve heard a little (or a lot!) about Emile Durkheim. In my favorite “open-access” voucher of the month, Berghahn Journals announced they will offer free access to some of Durkheim’s original works in honor of the 24th anniversary of the British Centre for Durkheimian Studies. You can enjoy reading his pieces in their original French, or English translated, versions.

Did I miss something? No worries- it does happen on occasion. If you have any suggestions for DragNet, or if you want to call attention to a specific blog or article, send an email to anthropoliteia@gmail.com with the words “DragNet” in the subject header and I’ll get on it!

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DragNet

DragNet: February 23 – March 8, 2015

Spencer Ackerman's post for The Guardian  investigates a US-based policing "black site" known simply as Homan Square. Once inside the walls of this Chicago warehouse, constitutional rights are said to go out the window.

Spencer Ackerman’s post for The Guardian investigates a US-based policing “black site” known simply as Homan Square. Once inside the walls of this Chicago warehouse, constitutional rights are said to go out the window.

It would appear that Ali Wajahat is not the only name in modern-day cop shows with a twist according to a post by Mike Hale of NYtimes.com. Comedian Colin Quinn’s series, creatively dubbed “Cop Show”, debuted in mid-February and is quickly accumulating nods of approval for its amusement factor. Look for cameos by big-wig comedians, such as Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan, on this mock-u-mentary hit. You can catch up on the series- which is currently available for streaming- on LStudio.com.

In far less cheery news, we also shared Spencer Ackerman‘s post for The Guardian, which investigates a US-based policing “black site” known simply as Homan Square. Once inside the walls of this Chicago warehouse, constitutional rights are said to go out the window. Lawyers interviewed by Ackerman report that it has become standard practice to assume apprehended individuals who remain “unlocatable” through otherwise standard procedures have landed themselves within the Homan black box. Follow ongoing coverage of the investigation by The Guardian here. We also recommend Alexandra Starr of NPR’s post for Codeswitch we featured earlier this month.

A previous DragNet post asked, “When officers behave questionably, who you gonna call?” It appears Shea Serrano -staff writer for Grantland– has taken it upon himself to provide an answer to our quandary. His post, The Second Banana Cop Matrix: A Definitive Guide to Who You Should Call for Backup wins my non-existent prize for best satirical post of the month (plus, after reading Homan Square coverage we could all use some comic relief, right?). Worthy of note is his shout out to my own personal favorite police “side-kick” ever: the kid from Last Action Hero.

The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing released some recommendations for improving police-citizen relations this month, beginning with the regular measuring of “community trust”. Carrie Johnson‘s post for The Two-Way also recaps the Task Force’s stance on the ever-popular “body-worn camera solution“, with concerns about privacy packing a powerful punch. These recommendations came just days before the killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson, which is especially poignant given that Commissioner Charles Ramsey has a position on the Task Force. Also noteworthy is the fact that Wilson’s district is the site of PPD’s current body-worn camera pilot project.

Also on the topic of police-citizen violence, a DOJ investigation into patterns of police use of force in Ferguson, Missouri found “alleged sweeping patterns of discrimination” within the city’s police department. But the discrimination doesn’t end there. The report also found that blacks were “68% less likely than other races to have their cases dismissed by a municipal court judge”. My personal LEAST favorite statistic, you ask? Of 21,000 total Ferguson residents, 16,000 of them were found to have outstanding warrants (often for minor violations). Stay tuned to our twitter feed for ongoing coverage!

Did I miss something? No worries- it does happen on occasion. If you have any suggestions for DragNet, or if you want to call attention to a specific blog or article, send an email to anthropoliteia@gmail.com with the words “DragNet” in the subject header and I’ll get on it!

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DragNet

DragNet: February 9 – 22, 2015

Is America ready for an NYPD cop show with a Muslim twist? In my favorite post of the month, Wajahat Ali recounts the inspiration, hilarity and first steps of writing the pilot script of MJ for HBO.

Is America ready for an NYPD cop show with a Muslim twist? In my favorite post of the month, Wajahat Ali recounts the inspiration, hilarity and first steps of writing the pilot script of MJ for HBO.

What do women bring to police command positions? Decentralized leadership, partnership and transparency, according to Lieutenant Colonel Nadia Rodrigues Silveira Gerhard. We shared Professor Lenin Pires’ interview with Gerhard earlier this month as she is the first woman to take on a leadership position in Rio Grande do Sul’s military police. Pires works as an anthropologist with the Public Safety Department of Fluminense Federal University. Be sure to catch more articles in Cultural Anthropology‘s Protesting Democracy in Brazil series here.

When there’s something strange about an officer’s demeanor, who you gonna call? This is precisely the dilemma Lisa Mahon faced. Don’t miss her interview with This American Life’s Ira Glass, titled “Cops See it Differently“. You can view the video footage (recorded by Joseph Ivy, who was also in the car during the confrontation) referenced during the interview here.

In shocking news, Republicans and Democrats appear to agree on one thing lately: reducing federal prison costs. In an effort to lower recidivism, the crime rate AND federal prison system costs, H.R. 759 is quickly gaining bipartisan support. Also known as the Recidivism Reduction Act, the evidence-based measure would serve to connect eligible inmates with recidivism reduction programs. There, inmates could earn credits toward “alternative custody arrangements” to lower the amount of dollars otherwise being spent to house them within the federal system.

It’s no wonder the script for the first half of MJ has generated such an overwhelming internet response. The co-creation of Al Jazeera‘s Wajahat Ali and author Dave Eggers, MJ isn’t your typical cop show…it’s a cop show with a Muslim twist. In my favorite post of the month, Ali recounts the inspiration, hilarity and first steps of writing the pilot script for HBO. The only bummer comes toward the end, when you realize MJ hasn’t yet made it to TV (why, we ask, WHY?!). Feel free to peruse the piece, available here, and freer to clamor for Hollywood to make this show happen (Ali even entertains the idea of revamping it Walking Dead style if all else fails…)

In the aftermath of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, I’ve been surprised to hear several officers insist that citizen education about how to interact with officers would reduce such tragic encounters. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that at least one city has recently made baby steps in this direction. This month we shared ML Schultze’s post, which covers Akron’s first-of-its-kind “crib sheet”; detailing the do’s and don’ts of officer-citizen interactions. The sheet was created by high school students with assistance from the city’s police department. The question is, will other departments follow suit?

Did I miss something? No worries- it does happen on occasion. If you have any suggestions for DragNet, or if you want to call attention to a specific blog or article, send an email to anthropoliteia@gmail.com with the words “DragNet” in the subject header and I’ll get on it!

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DragNet

DragNet: January 1-12, 2015

Police_violence

Police Chief Charles Ramsey and George Mason’s Laurie Robinson were selected by President Obama to serve on the White House’s newly created Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The President hopes the task force will come up with solutions for improving police-citizen interactions by mid-February.

Body cameras aren’t a quick fix for police violence, writes Jennifer Dawn Carlson in her post for LA Times. The failure of juries to indict Darren Wilson or Daniel Pantaleo in the wrongful death cases of two unarmed citizens has left many pointing to body camera technology as an obvious solution for ending police-citizen violence. Carlson closes her piece with a powerful question: if citizens equipped with cameras aren’t enough, will officers equipped with cameras prove to be?

Speaking of the police-citizen rift, we shared NPR’s Renee Montagne’s interview with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Laurie Robinson of George Mason University. Ramsey and Robinson were selected by President Obama to serve on the White House’s newly created Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Obama hopes the task force will come up with solutions for improving police-citizen interactions by mid-February.

Others have suggested a large portion of the police-citizen problem is arguably caused by a lack of knowledge about who polices the police (and how thoroughly). Alex Vitale’s post for The Nation highlights a selection of relevant literature about the subject to get the conversation going.

What on earth would a police department with an enforcement population under 29,000 people need “two bomb disposal robots, 10 tactical trucks and 35 assault rifles” for? We shared Shawn Musgrave, Tom Meagher and Gabriel Dance’s post from the Marshall Project, entitled “The Pentagon Finally Details its Weapons-for-Cops Giveaway” earlier this month. They detail which military grade equipment many local departments have received from military surpluses.

What’s on Anthropoliteia’s Blog Menu for 2015, you ask? Find out here– where you’ll also find a listing of our most popular posts of 2014. Top blogs included Jennie Simpson’s “Do Police Departments Need Anthropologists?” and “Little Green Men: Russia, Ukraine and post-Soviet Sovereignty” by Alexi Yurchak.

Lastly but importantly, Anthropoliteia will be launching a new forum in light of the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks. In the meantime, you can peruse our list of useful commentaries below:

Did I miss something? No worries- it does happen on occasion. If you have any suggestions for DragNet, or if you want to call attention to a specific blog or article, send an email to anthropoliteia@gmail.com with the words “DragNet” in the subject header and I’ll get on it!

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Practicum

Do Police Departments Need Anthropologists?

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Police Call Box © Jennie Simpson

As a new year quickly approaches, and we reflect on the increasing calls for police accountability and a critical review of excessive use of force, I want to take this time to review the past year of Practicum and pose two questions for anthropologists and police agencies alike: do police agencies need anthropologists? And what might that look like?

Since its debut, Practicum has explored the practice of applied anthropologists working on issues of policing, criminal justice, juvenile justice and corrections. I’ve been remarkably heartened to see that a community of practitioners exists who have successfully applied the lens and research methodologies of anthropology to these issues. These anthropologists have “produced anthropology” (nod to the 2014 AAA Annual Meeting) in practice in juvenile justice, corrections, and policing and raised the profile of how anthropologists- through theoretical orientation, research techniques, analysis, and praxis- can contribute to the improvement of justice systems.

With this in mind, and a new year approaching, I want to propose a bit of radical thinking. Perhaps it won’t be radical to some of you, and perhaps for others, it might be a bit controversial. But with the events of Ferguson, continued fatalities in interactions between police and people with behavioral health disorders, and the tensions that structural violence and inequalities produce, I see a place for anthropologists placed within police departments. In an excellent panel discussion hosted by the Urban Institute and featuring Chief Ron Brown (Ret.), Chief Cathy Lanier, and Dr. Tracie Keesee, which I encourage you to view, I was struck by the progressive vision of policing and law enforcement that was presented. However, recalling my own experience in working with police officers, I know how hard implementation- even of the best vision- can be, especially within a hierarchical organization. While criminologists have made concrete headways into working within police organizations, anthropologists have not made similar strides. While I can speculate that this can be attributed to the discipline’s historical orientation and notions of appropriate subjects of study and practice, with the emergence of a strong contingent of academic and practicing anthropologists focusing on policing, criminal justice, and security, I find this may be the perfect time to consider how anthropologists can work with and within police organizations.

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DragNet

DragNet: October 21 – November 3, 2014

It is often the data that is not there that reveals what is most important. I was reminded of this fact again by Scott Vollum's post, The Ghost of the Condemned: What the Death Penalty Leaves Behind, Captured in a Snapshot

It is often the data that is not there that reveals what is most important. I was reminded of this fact again by Scott Vollum’s post, The Ghost of the Condemned: What the Death Penalty Leaves Behind, Captured in a Snapshot

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Book Reviews

A new grammar of public security in Brazil

Mesquita Neto, Paulo. 2011. Ensaios sobre segurança cidadã [Essays on Citizen Security]. São Paulo: Quartier Latin/Fapesp.

Review of: Mesquita Neto, Paulo. 2011. Ensaios sobre segurança cidadã [Essays on Citizen Security]. São Paulo: Quartier Latin/Fapesp.  By Daniel Silva

Why has Brazil’s 1988 democratic constitution advanced in promoting broad civil and economic rights while leaving (almost) unchanged the regulation of the police and armed forces? What’s the impact of Brazil’s Human Rights National Program in recent efforts of democratizing Brazilian society and building up an alternative to a minimal neoliberal state? Why have some types of public security policies been defined without much clarity, especially those that target the non-white-elites? These are some of the questions that Paulo de Mesquita Neto – a Brazilian scholar in political science who prematurely died in 2008 – asks in this collection of essays that he gathered under the rubric of Essays on citizen security. The book as a whole bears the imprint of an author striving to combine the vocabulary and syntax of democratic rule with a scrutiny of public security in Latin America – a grammar not too simple to practice in a continent that during the 1960s and 1970s surrendered to several authoritarian regimes whose marks are still noticeable, if not overly prominent, in current political culture and public debates.

The book as a whole bears the imprint of an author striving to combine the vocabulary and syntax of democratic rule with a scrutiny of public security in Latin America

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