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Deja vu all over again: the recurring problem of post-social policing in France

An update along the lines of our continued interest in policing “after the financial crisis”…

Le Monde reports that, come January 2010, there will be a full stop on the deployment of the unités territoriales de quartier (UTEQ), the socially-oriented policing groups developed by Nicolas Sarkozy after the banlieue riots of 2007 (and after he had virtually eliminated another socially-oriented style of policing, in 2002, known as the police de proximité).

The reason? Minister of the Interior Brice Hortefeux explains that he doesn’t have the means (“moyens”) to implement the program in light of the loss of 2,000 posts this year.  This doesn’t mean a complete loss of on-the-ground policing, however (the translation is my own):

Le rapport prône également l’élaboration d’un diagnostic “approfondi” dans chaque territoire et un “partenariat sérieux” avec les élus. Un tel scénario présenterait l’avantage de combler les trous, mais mettrait à bas la philosophie même du dispositif : être en contact régulier avec la population.

[The report also argues for a “deeper” diagnostic analysis in each territory, and a “serious partnership” with elected officials. This scenario has the advantage of filling the holes in the budget while having at its core the same philosophy: to be in regular contact with the population]

So we’re back to exactly the point we were at in 2002, when Sarozy dismissed the police de proximite as irresponsibly uneconomical even while those on the left emphasized that close contact with those being policed is essential for proper police work.

This is the “problem of a post-social police” that I wrote about in my dissertation (and which I’ve been trying to develop in an article I’ve been working on): how to devise a style of policing once the object to which its been oriented (which it helped create)–the social, as represented in a population–becomes only one in a larger array of governing objects?  This is the question police, and we as social scientists, still face and for which there are as yet no adequate answers…


Tasers, tasers and more tasers: this time at an Oakland A’s game

It’s becoming clear that “the taser” will have to be one of the things we think through…  Another incident, this time right here in the East Bay:

According to Oakland Police spokesman Jeff Thomason, the unidentified man was allegedly drunk and yelling profanities, prompting A’s security to ask the cops to have him removed. Police say he appeared to be intoxicated, refused to leave and took a swipe at one of the cops. “Given his size and his condition the officer thought it appropriate to taser him,” Thomason said. The tased fan was hospitalized and held on a “5150” crazy hold.

via Matier And Ross : Taserball.

What’s more, the tasing officer has himself been the object of much scrutiny over the last several months, including some of the corollary incidents that occurred in the wake of the Oscar Grant shooting.

Now, I don’t think it’s very helpful if this blog serves just to document the many tasing incidents that occur–as our own socdeputy points out, by many important measures the use of these non-lethal implements is rather paltry.  On the other hand, and I think Brian would agree with me here as well, the fact that these incidents captures the public imagination is inself something that we probably need to reflect on.

Now, some of you may have read an article that I’ve been preparing (and finally submitted!) which argues that paying attention to the figure of the taser in the French banlieue riots of 2005 and 2007 offers insights into the very form of political action at stake in France today.  I call this emergent space, briefly, the “problem of a post-social police”– a pervasive set of open questions (ethical, social, political, technical) that are being negotiated around the goals, orientations and forms of legitimacy associated with the police once one of its founding objects, The Social, has lost its sway.

Now, from that perspective, one of the interesting aspects of the video (which can be seen below, after the break) is the way that, even as the incident is unfolding, there is a high degree of quite public negotiation of the scene: you can hear people off-camera debating the police action (“i can’t believe you guys tased him!”  “He was being belligerent!”); some people move away, while one man tried to move forward, causing a minor incident of its own; and, if I’m not mistaken, you can see some uncertainty among the police themselves as to how to move forward–after the man is (literally) done thumbing his nose at the cops, he appears to actually be putting out his hands to be cuffed.  One of the officers in physical contact with the man actually jumps back, apparently surprised by the second “tase”.  To add to everything a foul ball happens to be hit right into the middle of the fracas.

At the very least, I would hope that an anthropology of policing would be able to account for the complex levels at which incidents like this occur…

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