Dispatches, From the Field

The Good DPO

The editors of Anthropoliteia welcome Olly Owen with a dispatch from fieldwork with police in Nigeria. Olly Owen is ESRC research fellow at Oxford University’s Department of International Development, and has been working in Nigeria since 2003. 

Owen_photo

 

Here is a story from my fieldwork in Nigeria in 2011. I was going to contextualise this story more, with an introduction which draws out its implications. I would have analysed what it says about values, conceptions of professionalism, public evaluations of effectiveness, small-town insecurity, fear and distrust, the symbiotic relationship between the politician and the policeman and their at-once-shared, at-once-conflicting interests in keeping the peace and staying in power I would also have considered what else it tells us about the everyday distance between the police and the public which requires the use of interlocutors, and the resourcefulness, the improvisations and blunt methods used to be efficacious in this resource-poor environment. But if you’re reading this blog, it’s likely you’ll be alive to those meanings and able to see them in the testimony here related, without me labouring the point and killing the material. So all I will do by way of context, is say that this took place while I was staying in a university located in a medium-sized town in southern Nigeria. All the place names mentioned here are pseudonyms, necessary due to the potentially sensitive nature of the truth in an environment where both politics and policing are as much about carefully-preserved representations as realities. For the sake of transparency, I should say that we talked in English which I recorded in notes.

It is a slow weekday morning, and I am bored so I walk across the grass with a petty excuse to go and call on my neighbour in the staff quarters. There in his house I meet a man, a former colleague, who is steadily working his way first through cups of coffee and then glasses of red wine. My neighbour introduces him as a friend and former colleague who has left academia for politics and has won election as the town’s Local Government Chairman[1]; but this coveted job is proving no bed of roses as, after three months, there are continual staff crises in his office; and so he has come to campus to hide from the madding crowd and console himself for a few hours. He asks me who I am and what I’m doing here, and when I tell him I am doing an anthropological study of policing, he leans back and expresses how he thinks that would play in Nigerian academia:

Anthropology of policing ehn? Hmm… That subject, in this country they will just kill it. ‘OK, it’s good but where will you get funding from, so we won’t pass it…’

Then remembering something more important, he begins –

I know a very fantastic police officer, who is DPO here.[2] When they took away the old DPO we complained, because we had rapport – like he relates very well to all these community leaders, they are the ones giving information – not knowing that they are giving us pure gold. This DPO, wasn’t supposed to be DPO, he was second (choice,) but the one who was supposed to go (first) now committed one atrocity so bad they couldn’t cover it up. In fact, he committed two; the first they covered but the second had become unmanageable so that even his senior had to run for cover.

So when the elections came around, we sat down and he said ‘Oga,[3] what do you want?’ And I said, ‘I want a free and fair election’. And he said, ‘Oga, how will it affect you if there is a free and fair election?’ And I said, ‘I will certainly win massively because the people are in support of us’. So he said ‘that means if it is disrupted it may be problem for you?’ I said, ‘sure’.

He said ‘OK, this is how we will do’. He said ‘just take this paper, just sign, that is all I need’. And if you see the money he asked for it’s not much – I was thinking it’s some hundreds of thousands, but it’s not up to fifty K[4] – just ten buses, because ‘I’ve been thinking’ (says the DPO) ‘election law says we can’t have armed police at polls, but there is nothing to say we can’t have pressure points. So give us ten (mini) buses, with fuel, and we have eleven wards, station them around, and small money for ‘corner-corner’[5], then I can get some extra weapon from HQ. Then accreditation will be very quiet. So about 12 (noon) when voting starts my men will just pretend there is one emergency – rush there, show of strength, and people will see us coming back (thinking) like ‘they are very calm, they have dealt with the problem’.

I know political thugs in Nigeria. One thousand of them can’t stand up to two fully ready – I mean fully ready – policemen. They are not like these other countries (he gestures vaguely with his hand towards the TV where we have just been watching Al Jazeera coverage of angry protests in Egypt); if you shoot one of them, even in leg, the others will just run. So all you have sacrificed is one leg and you have peace.

At this point, my neighbour chips in to affirm “because they are just doing it for money; small money.” The politician continues:

The DPO said ‘just give me about twenty (phone) lines, it can be the lowest[6] one, only it must be Nokia, then a small gen so even if there is no light we know they are charged’.[7] And it went very smoothly, because in this town we are used to thugs, and if you come to vote they will say ‘no, go home, we have already voted for the party you want, go home and don’t trouble yourself’; and if you talk (back) too much they can cut your leg, or anything. But if people see they can freely vote, someone will come and say ‘I have voted, it was fine’, someone else will now vote.

So after election he came to me and said ‘Oga, now I am very sure we will see rise in robbery, because they have given these boys guns and they have not been given chance to use them – like me, we have tried, we have collected about 55 guns but it’s a lie, we know there are more’. So it’s true! After about one week they started to rob, and he said ‘this is all the work of one gang’ because he studies them. They will enter Ilafon road and leave by Ijebu road. So instead of chasing them around town, he will just watch how they do, send his guys to see them. So they put ambush down that roundabout by Oke-Idanre. But they never reached there and they didn’t go back down the Ilafon road.

So they would usually come a day ahead; like if one week they come by Tuesday, the next they would come Wednesday, and there was only one time they reversed it, thinking that by that, no-one would catch them or be waiting and they can continue to rob Iife until they tire and go and rob somewhere else. And they would usually come and 6 or 7 o’clock to rob cash points around the town, like chemists, supermarkets, and most times they will abduct one or two girls. Sometimes they will let them go, sometimes they can kill them.

So the DPO is telling me that ‘Oga, I’m very sure they have a hideout somewhere’; as we used to sit down and drink red wine like this. And I would just stop listening, as he always has one theory or other, like in security meeting, and all the time no (result). But I continue to listen to him because of how he handled election, and if he asks for something, I am the chief security officer of the Local Government, so I say ‘take’. So he is asking for unmarked car, all sorts of things, I give him.

So he starts to think and says ‘There must be one girl who has been raped and knows where they go’. So he asks all of the community leaders ‘Baba, is there any such girl who has recently been raped by armed robbers’? So one day one girl turns up at the police station and says ‘Baba says I was to ask of you’. So he says ‘Sit’, and that, ‘listen, I know what has happened to you, but do you want them to be arrested?’ And she says ‘yes, only they said if I tell anyone what has happened they will find me and kill me’. And so he said ‘take me to the place’, and it was a forest, a thick bush, about three kilometres off the road, a very dense place.

They will just drive the car they have stolen inside and disguise it with the branches they have broken, and move inside again. So they reached the place and there was girls’ clothing all around and underwears and this is the place quite alright. And she said there are five of them, Igbirras from Okene and each of them will have a round (at raping her). So he took her home and said ‘Tell Baba that when you came you didn’t meet me in the office; otherwise if anyone hears and you die, it’s not from me because I am not going to tell anyone, but if you go back to Baba saying these people are going to be arrested, OK, anything could happen’.

So if she told or she didn’t tell, I don’t know. Then the next week the DPO said ‘we’re going to get them tonight’, and I didn’t listen cos he always has a story; then about 2am my phone went and I didn’t answer, because it’s usually these useless people (pests), then he rang again by 4am and I picked it and he said ‘I am in the hospital, about eight bullets hit all around me but I’m OK’.

So what happened is that a woman reported her (Volkswagen) Golf taken and her husband kidnapped in it.[8] And so they don’t bother chasing them round the town, they just went straight there – he had been preparing a few men – just pick you, and you, and you – but without telling them what for, and waited there. And they were there from 9pm to around 12, then the DCO[9] says ‘Sir, let’s stay a little longer’, and just they were whispering, as if you talk, it will travel…

Then the Chairman starts to whisper:

…and just as they were about to go, the DPO is thinking it can’t be that in two weeks they have prepared another hideout, because it takes time to know the anthropology of a place.

So as they were about leaving, one of the robbers appeared – looked around – went. Came back with another one, then a third. So they were already there the whole time! Because the woman had reported the case late. So, while he was wondering what to do, because it’s a split-second decision, where are the other two? And they could have had the guy or a girl with them.

Now another one appeared, so he felt OK, we can shoot; but just then the DCO raised his hand to tap his arm and the robber with a gun saw the movement and fired at it, and all these bullets fell around him; and he said he was in pain but he fired back, concentrating on the one who was shooting, while the others were targeting others; and after they took him and carried him to the car but he said ‘wait, go back, look for the other one, since he can still follow this path or otherwise he’s going through the bush’. And what happened then I don’t remember.

Then in the hospital, general hospital here, he called me. He’s a proper African man O! Bullets hit him but they didn’t enter! (My neighbour tries to explain, to rationalise, this means they hit him but didn’t cause any significant damage). He was in the hospital and he called these Alfas[10] from near Oyo and the nurses won’t let them in. So as they are changing shift they take a while to get ready, so he just called the Alfas to come in, and if you see someone that can talk to bullet; I mean (mimes quiet incantation) and then phtoo! spit out bullet.

I may give you a note for him, and so maybe we’ll get together.

While listening to this, and now again while re-reading my notes, two things come to the front of my mind. One is the concept of radical insecurity (see Africa’s vigilantism special issue) deployed by the anthropologists of vigilantism, and how profound this is to the people of a town where a gang of robbers and rapists can repeatedly descend on the inhabitants, and where the state can’t do a thing to stop it unless someone takes it on themselves to engage the problem personally. The other is that this mode of policing and governance epitomises Thomas Bierschenk’s ‘lack of prospective vision’ (see the states at work project) – the absence of a public administrative sphere defined by targets, plans and defined policy goals – but re-centres what replaces it – the abundance of tactical mastery which grows up in a place where strategic vision is prevented. There is no set strategy for combating raids in this state or region, and no dedicated resources available to do it, so what the dedicated police officer must do is deploy craft and experience to gather resources, secure political will, build links to gather intelligence from the community to which he will (at that senior level) have only recently been posted, evolve a plan and then lead from the front in putting it into action.

Beyond that, it captures the difference between those who idealise the goal of reforming systems—for whom a free and fair election is a goal and marker of stability and democratic consolidation—and those who live by politics, for whom free and fair election is simply one tactic among many, to be deployed if you think you’ll win by it. And within election periods, the story also showcases the extremely abundant circulation of arms which accompanies elections at even the lowest tier of government, in a place outside Nigeria’s main arcs of instability; and thus the absolutely central importance of the public feeling secure if genuine elections are to be viable at all.

Whatever the task, election or anti-robbery operation, if there’s no kit, you must procure what’s needed for each operation specially. And what is valued is a reliable and rugged kit – AK47s and Nokia, which must be provided from some of the same actors who are being policed, or else begged, borrowed or procured through wiles within the police system itself.

Most of all however, I am left mulling the simple and practical calculations of those who are tasked with using violence to preserve peace; that one leg is a bargain price. A “good DPO” is one who can see that, evaluate the options and take the risk of action in a system where success normally goes uncelebrated and failure brings personal risk or at best punishment from superiors who never mandated this, or indeed any, action, and will rush to distance themselves if it fails. As the story relates, this manifests in two central values – integrity, here meaning not clean-handed idealism but a sense of personal responsibility and duty; and craft – the practical mastery of human and material means to ends.

So far as research questions are concerned, perhaps this story also suggests that in such contexts we need to concentrate not so much on systemic failures and absences, but on what replaces them – practice, craft, experience, bricolage, and the ways in which these solutions are devised, learned, transmitted, and made publicly popular or politically palatable. Much more, as a basic starting point of ethnographic policing research, we need to generate our baseline of reality not in normative considerations or lessons drawn from elsewhere, but in a very thorough and careful appreciation of what constitutes the terrain of assumptions, norms, values, material limitations, political possibilities, risks and options for action in the places where we work, before we can even begin to understand what choices are made and why, by the people with whom we work.

 

[1] Nigeria’s Constitution has three levels of government, each executive-led – Federal (national) Government; State Governments and Local Governments.

[2] DPO is the everyday acronym for Divisional Police Officer

[3] Respectful address meaning (roughly) ‘boss’.

[4] 50,000 Naira, or around $250 at the time.

[5] ‘Corner-corner’ means dodges or making moves, to procure goods and permissions and to smooth the path.

[6] I.e. cheapest.

[7] A small petrol generator is the easiest stopgap solution for the several times a day power supply fails in every town in Nigeria.

[8] Car thieves do this to deter the victim from reporting the crime, in order to give them time to escape.

[9] The DCO or Divisional Crime Officer is the officer directly responsible for supervising criminal investigations within a division, reporting to the DPO as senior manager.

[10] An Alfa means a Muslim cleric, especially used to mean one who engages in traditional services such as spiritual healing or protection.

Standard
DragNet

DragNet: April 20 – May 3, 2015

"I think you have to have a shared collective memory of the past to recognize another human being," writes Lawrence Jackson. His post, On Becoming More Human, examines the recent protests against police violence in Baltimore from his perspective as an African American man.

“I think you have to have a shared collective memory of the past to recognize another human being,” writes Lawrence Jackson. His post, On Becoming More Human, examines the recent protests against police violence in Baltimore from his perspective as an African American man.

I was happy to see Illana Feldman’s new book, Police Encounters: Security and Surveillance in Gaza Under Egyptian Rule, make the rounds on our twitter feed last month. In it, my former Anthropology professor at George Washington University discusses the topics of surveillance, control and police violence in Gaza during the period of Egyptian rule. Disclaimer: you’ll want to block off a few hours to tap into this one…it’s addictive from the start!

“I think you have to have a shared collective memory of the past to recognize another human being,” writes Lawrence Jackson for n plus one magazine. His post, On Becoming More Human, examines the recent protests against police violence in Baltimore from his perspective as an African American man. Jackson is a professor of African American Studies and English at Emory University, and is the author of the 2012 memoir, My Father’s Name: A Black Virginia Family after the Civil War. His post undoubtedly earns my vote for “best of the month”- if you have time for one (and only one) read today, this is it.

Those interested in coverage about the tragic police-related death of Freddie Gray shouldn’t miss NPR’s Weekend Edition that we shared late last month. In it, Scott Simon recounts his experience walking among the residents of West Baltimore in the wake of police protests. As the title attests, to many West Baltimoreans, the “largest gang is, in fact, the police.” We also recommend Ta-Nehisi Coates’ post, Nonviolence as Compliance, which was featured via The Atlantic.

What does the concept of “touch” mean, in a policing context? Mark Greif reflects on this question and more in his post, Seeing Through Police. He discusses the “rules” of police-citizen contact (i.e.- they touch you, you keep your hands to yourself), its many functions (intimidation, reassurance, “traffic direction”) and forms (hands vs. batons). What’s perhaps most intriguing about this post is its dual -and rather empathetic- consideration of police as police, and police as people. At the same time, it presents a critical and well-balanced portrait of modern police practices.

Finally, we are pleased to offer continuing coverage of the American Anthropological Association’s developing initiatives regarding police brutality. AAA recently announced they’ll be offering a working group to monitor racialized police brutality and extrajudicial violence. Co-chairs include David Simmons, Marla Frederick and Shalini Shankar. You can view the Working Group charge here.

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!

Standard
DragNet

DragNet: April 6 – 19, 2015

In an unusual demonstration against Denver police, supporters of Jessie Hernandez have allegedly been expressing their discontent by stealing cars. Hernandez was fatally shot by police in January.

In an unusual demonstration against Denver police, supporters of Jessie Hernandez have allegedly been expressing their discontent by stealing cars. Hernandez was fatally shot by police in January.

The police-involved killing of Walter Scott dominates policing news by far this month. Video footage, shot with the cell phone of a bystander who witnessed the event, seems to offer key (and yet incomplete) evidence of how the shooting evolved. Scott had apparently been stopped during a “routine traffic stop” for a broken tail-light. Although the video recording did not capture the full nature of the altercation, it did capture the officer proceeding to shoot Scott in the back while he was running more than 20 feet away from the officer.

Edward Bryant II, head of North Charleston’s NAACP chapter was among those interviewed about the incident by Martin Kaste on NPR’s Morning Edition. While addressing the moment of the film that captured the officer “dropping something” -perhaps the very Taser Scott was charged with stealing- Bryant says that it “reflects something very distasteful…like it’s already been practiced. It’s been already done.” Among organizations taking a stance against the continuation of racialized police violence is the American Anthropological Association, who’s post we shared via Jeff Martin. Stay tuned for their specific initiatives regarding policing culture, which are to be listed soon.

All Things Considered also joined the law enforcement culture conversation, with Audie Cornish’s interview with Seth Stoughton. Stoughton is an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina’s School of Law. He suggests the paradign of policing in American is is need of a major makeover; suggesting the current “warrior mindset” should be exchanged for one that is conducive to a “guardian” role.
A 73-year-old undercover Tulsa reserve deputy sheriff who fatally shot an unarmed black man during an undercover operation gone wrong turned himself in on Tuesday last week. He allegedly mistook his gun for his taser; fatally wounding the unarmed man. Robert Bates has been charged with second degree manslaughter involving culpable negligence. He was released on $25,000 bail and is awaiting trial, according to Lindsey Bever and Sarah Larimer of the Washington Post.
In an unusual demonstration against the Denver police, supporters of Jessie Hernandez have allegedly been expressing their discontent by stealing cars. As reported by Michael Roberts for Westword, Hernandez was fatally shot by police back in January after two officers responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle. According to one source, 126 vehicles have been stolen in the area since the beginning of the year, which is nearly double the amount recorded for the same period last year.

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!

Standard
DragNet

DragNet: March 23 – April 5, 2015

chicago gangs

“What would it take for today’s gang members to bring peace to the neighborhood?” writes Laurence Ralph in his post for Anthropoliteia last month. Ralph recounts the story of his friendship with an elderly member of one of Chicago’s most notorious gangs, The Divine Knights. But the story reveals the little known history of the gang, as well as a strikingly “tender” side of the group previously known only among local community members.

To record, or not to record; that is the question! Last month, we shared Carlos Miller’s post for Photography is Not a Crime. According to legislators in Texas, members of the general public should not be allowed to film or record officers by law. But a policy being proposed by a political duo in Colorado begs to differ. Joe Salazar and Daneya Esgar have teamed up to co-sponsor a bill that would award up to $15,000 (plus attorney fees) to citizens who have cameras or recording devices confiscated by officers without a warrant. You can read a copy of the proposed bill here and decide for yourself.

The small town of Madison, Wisconsin is putting a whole new spin on the meaning of “officer next door” in an attempt to foster peaceful interactions between police and local community members. Melissa Block hosts this episode of All Thing Considered for NPR and details how officers and neighborhood residents have reacted to the police department literally moving in next store to high crime areas. The key to the community initiative’s success apparently lies in its exposure of officers and citizens to one another in everyday contexts- both good and bad.

If you, like me, have been amazed to discover how very impossible it is to obtain even the slightest estimates about lethal use of force by police for any given year, you’ve got to read Tom McCarthy’s post for The Guardian ASAP. Finally, we learn why there are no reliable estimates about police-related homicides: it was too difficult, so “we just gave up”. (Yeah, I’m not buying it either!) Although the Bureau of Justice Statistics arguably places a number on all kinds of similar measures, they’re reporting difficulties assessing lethal use of force nation-wide. Among other stumbling blocks are incomplete or never-filed reports (from departments such as NYPD) and inconsistent reporting. Now it’s time to play the waiting game to see if Obama’s newly created Policing Task Force will follow through with his request for “more” (or any?) data…

“What would it take for today’s gang members to bring peace to the neighborhood?” writes Laurence Ralph in his post for Anthropoliteia last month. Not that we need to remind you, but the newest Tip of the Cap feature is up and hungry for your feedback. Ralph recounts the story of his friendship with an elderly member of one of Chicago’s most notorious gangs, The Divine Knights. But the story reveals the little known history of the gang, as well as a strikingly “tender” side of the group previously known only among local community members. Laurence Ralph is an Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies as well as Anthropology at Harvard University. If you leave the post wanting more, be sure to check out his book, “Renegade Dreams: Living Through Injury in Gangland Chicago“.

To end on a fun note (and just because I’m feeling random), treat yourself to browsing through Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty’s eclectic collection of bizarre Soviet Police posters from back in the day. Among my own personal favorites are, “concerned looking smoking guy” and “Gee! My facial angle looks great in this lighting!“. If you’re also the kind of person that likes a healthy amount of “crazy crap” on your walls, you’ll thank me for including a link that can hook you up with your next police-inspired addition.

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!

Standard
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!

Standard
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!

Standard
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!

Standard