Dossiers, From the Field

Economies of Security and Care in Catalonia, Spain

The editors of Anthropoliteia welcome Johanna Römer with a Dossier in our From the Field section.

Police Marcha Dignidad

Police presence at the Marcha por la Dignidad. Photo courtesy of Lee Douglas.

 

“The history of prisons in Spain?” a Catalan prison guard asked me, a man in his mid-forties, his hands resting on a heavy leather belt. “Everything has already been written. Our vocabulary, our forms of punishment – even the word cell itself, all come from Catholic and monastic practices.”

He turned to face the thick glass wall of the bunker.

“I spent years teaching…in law enforcement, in the private sector, and now I just want to be here, with these guys [inmates], where I can have peace and quiet,” he said, nodding towards a small group of men talking softly around a checked tablecloth whose color was imperceptible through the glass.

“Look at that. No one makes problems.”

While monitoring the inmates through the glass, the guard narrated other stories of prison work; but his last seemingly unremarkable comment, “no one makes problems,” stayed with me.

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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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