In the Journals

In the Journals – April 2016

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Welcome back to In the Journals, a look at some of the many recent publications on the law, sovereignty, security and the state. As winter is now well in the rear-view mirror for those of us north of the equator, you might want to spend some time in the sun as you work your way through some of these hand-picked articles.

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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 September 8 – 21, 2014

...just wait 'til you see the T-Shirts that were on sale at this year's Urban Shield event.

…just wait ’til you see the T-Shirts that were on sale at this year’s Urban Shield event.

“The claim that outside agitators had been the riot’s ringleaders…reiterated that black people were incapable of acting as political subjects in the defense of their humanity and rights as citizens,” writes Steven Gregory, professor of Anthropology and African American studies at Columbia University. Although applicable to the more recent Ferguson protests, Gregory’s words reference a series of similar events that occurred in 1930s Harlem. His recollection of several white-black, citizen-police fatalities exposes the need for not only institutional -but cultural- change.

Speaking of which, hopefully some of you were able to attend UC Berkeley’s forum, Black lives matter: police violence, prisons and freedom visions” on September 19th. The event featured speakers such as CeCe McDonald, Julia Chinyere Oparah and Ashon Crawley.

What can anthropology contribute to discussions of race, state-condoned brutality and violence? Pem Davidson Buck reflects on this and other questions in her post for Anthropology News, The Violence of the Status Quo.

My award for most disturbing topic of the month goes to Shane Bauer’s coverage of the 2014 Urban Shield event that was held in Oakland, California. Every year members of police and SWAT teams attend the tradeshow, where the latest tactical gadgets (including things like armored vehicles, blindness inducing flashlights and canine mounted cameras) are unveiled. Wait ‘til you see pics of the T Shirts that were on sale at the event…

Coming in at a close second on the creepiness scale is Jaeah Lee’s post, “So Basically Everyone Killed by a Cop is a Criminal, According to the FBI” And yes, it truly is as bad as it sounds. The fact that the FBI –among other things- allows jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction variation in the definition of “felon” is among Lee’s most worrisome findings.

NPR’s Gregory Warner featured an opposing view of police brutality this month. A Kenyan officer charged with the fatal shooting of two men inspired a local protest…in his favor. Find out why this instance of police brutality was “warranted” in the minds of citizens in his jurisdiction.

Police brutality often brings images of Ferguson, militarization and white-black violence to mind. But what about the seldom-mentioned tactic of police seizure of funds from people not charged with a crime (and without a warrant)? An engaging three-part expose about the questionable search and seizure practice is featured in The Washington Post.

Phew, that was a lot of bad news. Now onto the good- the Anthropology of the Good to be precise. In the words of Professor Joel Robbins, “Consensus about what constitutes good and how we separate this from bad is hard to pin down.” Cheer yourself up by reading about Robbins’ research at the University of Cambridge as well as why an Anthropology of the Good is a necessary complement to the already prevalent Anthropology of Suffering.

Also bound to make you happy is AllegraLab’s call for editorial assistants! Find out if you qualify, then send an email to their team at stuff@allegralaboratory.net before September 30th.

 

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: September 1 – 7, 2014

Smile, you're on camera. Or you will be soon. Police badge cameras have already debuted in several jurisdictions across the US including those in Florida and (soon) Washington, DC.

Smile, you’re on camera!…or you will be soon. Police badge cameras have already debuted in several jurisdictions across the US including those in Florida and (soon) Washington, DC.

“The flow is not one way, (defense) institutions also return home transformed,” writes Stuart Schrader in his post Police Empire. Stuart helped us kick-off the month of September, picking up again with the theme of police militarization. Perhaps a surprise for many to learn, Stuart discusses how militarization and “blurred” policing boundaries are hardly novel developments. Though these topics reached an apex shortly after the death of Michael Brown, the tendency of police to apply foreign tactics in home territories has been happening for several decades.

Sasha Goldstein of the New York Daily News continued the militarization thread with the story of a Texas man who was shot by police recently at a Texas truck stop. Though some officers were armed with AR-15s, more attention was gained by the (now notorious) “fist bump” exchanged between two officers. The move was caught on video following the shooting. Despite being armed with a non-lethal BB gun, the man reportedly raised the replica and pointed it at officers before they open fired.

Between police militarization and never-ending streams about officer use of force, many are wondering what if anything is being done to ensure the effective monitoring of police in the field. If you are among those scratching their heads, be sure to catch NPR’s feature “Can Body Cameras Civilize Police Encounters?” Where the benefits of badge cameras are easily perceived by the public, the lesser-known “cons” (and implementation difficulties) are often overlooked. In addition to Ferguson, officers in several jurisdictions (including Florida and soon, Washington, DC) are already adopting the technology.

David Greene wins this week for favorite “off beat topic of September-so-far,” covering the mandate for NYPD officers to attend social media 101 training. In case you forgot, the reason behind the training stems back to the April 2014 twitter campaign disaster, #myNYPD.

And last but so-not-least, the folks at Anthropoliteia were pleased to offer not one but two new posts for your reading pleasure. The first, A new grammar of public security in Brazil, was featured September 1st in our Book Reviews section. Daniel Silva reviews Paulo Mesquita Neto’s “Essays on Civilian Security” (2011). We also welcomed back In the Journals, which offers a bi-monthly rundown of recent academic publications. Be sure to check out August’s highlights!

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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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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DragNet

DragNet August 1 – 24, 2014

Whether you rely on Twitter, Facebook, Washington Post or Reddit for updates, chances are your August feed has been dominated by discussions surrounding the death of Michael Brown.

Whether you rely on Twitter, Facebook, Washington Post or Reddit for updates, chances are your August feed has been dominated by discussions surrounding the death of Michael Brown.

Whether you rely on Twitter, Facebook, Washington Post or Reddit for updates, chances are your August feed has been dominated by discussions surrounding the death of Michael Brown. Matt Thompson of Savage Minds touched upon the conflicting coverage of recent events in Ferguson (as well as the implications highlighted by news entities like The Washington Post and New York Times) in his entry, “What is a rioter?” Likewise, the short (and terrifyingly poignant) comic featured in Medium’s August 14th post expands upon the reality of modern police militarization. Among other problems, it emphasizes the role of basic training (or lack thereof) in the police use of military-issued equipment.

If militarization is of particular interest, be sure to check out Taylor Wofford’s piece in Newsweek. Although many associate the growing police use of military grade gear and weaponry with Ferguson protests, Wofford details how departments have been “silently preparing officers for battle” as far back as the early ‘90s.

The Economist’s post Cops or Soldiers? is also relevant to concerns about police militarization. More intriguing is the fact that the article was originally featured back in March (preceding the events in Ferguson). Although SWAT teams are implied as representing an important tool of departments, when and where such teams should be deployed remain key (unanswered) questions.

Of course, Anthropoliteia staff have not been silent bystanders to Ferguson discussions. Meg Stalcup offered insight about the series of events, providing the seldom-addressed topic of officer perceptions. Although the dynamic of officer-civilian relations remains mostly hostile, Stalcup posits that with officer’s “under threat perception, it’s not surprising, although unprofessional and deplorable, that officers menace the protestors they are supposed to protect.” Lastly, don’t miss Anthropoliteia’s second Ferguson post Blue on black violence and original crime: view from Oakland, California. Our developing forum featured Brad Erickson on August 21st. In his post, Erickson uses his own experiences researching the people and police of Oakland, CA to comment on the racial and militaristic implications of Michael Brown’s shooting.

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DragNet

DragNet: July 15 – 31, 2014

 

With facial recognition technology growing in popularity (think Facebook), companies like CV Dazzle are responding with creative solutions aimed at protecting privacy (and, for that matter, your face).

With facial recognition technology growing in popularity (think Facebook), companies like CV Dazzle are responding with creative solutions aimed at protecting privacy (and, for that matter, your face).

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