He had come to the Netherlands for a family visit, the Aruban Mitch Henriquez. On Saturday the 27th of June he enjoyed a UB40 concert at Night at the Park in The Hague. Ostensibly, he had shouted that he had a “gun” in his pocket, which according to some bystanders was a joke: in a Caribbean context “gun” can refer to an impressive penis. The police responded and attempted to bring him into custody and later declared that he had resisted his arrest. Preliminary results from the autopsy now indicate that Henriquez died of asphyxiation after being held in a chokehold and being crushed by five white officers who sat on his body. The national department of criminal investigation has now ruled out that he had a gun. Nor had he used drugs or too much alcohol, according to the toxicology report.
|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 email@example.com with the words “DragNet” in the subject header and I’ll get on it!
It’s hard to know what exactly to say, to think, to feel or how to react at a time like this; even as a scholar of police. Which is not to say that everything in the case is terribly ambiguous. Quite the opposite: another young black man has been the victim of a deadly and unaccountable state violence in front of our very eyes. I suppose the disorientation lay in how to move forward, and for that I have no strong answers.Embed from Getty Images
Having said that, several of us at Anthropolitiea have been active on Twitter, I imagine in an effort to make sense of exactly that existential question. This is not dissimilar to my own reaction during and after the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman affair. Below are some of our thoughts, as we form them:
The U.S. isn’t the only country experiencing a stark growth in prison populations. While true that the US has the highest proportion of its citizens behind bars, Brazil and China are among other countries recording higher prison population numbers. In honor of the 40th anniversary of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975) the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History will be hosting a global conference for social sciences and humanities researchers to discuss the rising role of the prison in the modern age.
A supposedly “shifting” image of the typical heroin user in the 21st century strikingly resembles the rich, white, socialite users of 1880s Boston. A feature by Adam Rathge appeared in Points Blog; chronicling the shift of opiate usage by race and social class during this time frame. Special attention is paid to the impact of state legislation and local law enforcement initiatives prior to the passing of official federal mandates. In other opiate-related news, the question as to whether heroin use should be pursued as a crime versus an illness is being debated in states such as Rhode Island. With this past January seeing a more than doubled rate of lethal heroin overdoses, the state is pushing to equip officers with Narcan to better prevent heroin-related deaths. Read the interview with the state’s Director of Health, Dr. Michael Fine, for details.
$6.2 billion (to most of us) is quite a large sum of money. This is precisely the amount allocated to US police departments by the 41 million speeding tickets issued in any given year. What would happen to law enforcement budgets if cars were (almost magically) able to “drive themselves”? Google’s driverless cars are raising precisely this question among law enforcement officials and civilians alike.
Have you suddenly started noticing people talking a lot about Netflix’s newest series, Orange is the New Black? Even without being caught up, you can still enjoy a roundtable discussion inspired by the show that was hosted by the folks at Public Books.
Is live monitoring of surveillance cameras the way to ensure “effective panopticism”? Syracuse Chief of Police Frank Fowler seems to think so. Earlier in May, Fowler proposed that officers should evolve from their current, reactive use of cameras to respond to crimes that have already committed. Fowler argues that live monitoring of surveillance feeds by officers will convert cameras into a proactive policing tool.
If you’re planning a summer vacation that requires a considerable amount of time in the car, plug into NPR News’ RSS feed we shared last month. A myriad of police-related podcasts are featured, and are sure to make the ride feel faster. In case you exhaust that list, we recommend Archipelago’s feature on policing in downtown Oakland. Listen to Bryan Finoki, Nick Sowers and Javier Arbona as they explore the hyper-policed areas of the former Occupy movement.
Originally published 35 years ago, Policing the Crisis regained the spotlight in our Book Reviews section in May. Merijn Oudenampsen discusses how the book’s message has evolved since its first publication and applies its take-aways to the current climate of Dutch politics.
Speaking of anniversaries, 2014 also marks 10 years since Jacque’s Derrida’s passing. Anthropoliteia circulated information about an upcoming gathering of Derridian legal scholars organized by Critical Legal Thinking. Speakers include Aggie Hirst and Cathering Kellogg.
In other news, Hamtramck, MI police inspired mixed emotions upon the debut of its newest “addition”. An armored military assault vehicle was donated to the department by the US military, fueling discussions about whether there should be (or is) a separation of US police and US military.
Macedonian police also made headlines in May, with ethnic rioting in Skopje provoking criticisms about excessive use of force. Thanks to Tweeter Chris Diming, who provided an additional post from the Independent Balkan News Agency.
Do anthropologists belong in police departments? Anthropoliteia’s newest regular feature –Practicum– debuted with a post from our new author Jennie Simpson. Tune in to read Jennie’s reflections and experiences about what its like to be a social scientist working for/with departments.
One thing I’m a bit embarrassed by is how paltry our coverage of the events in Ukraine have been over the past few weeks. I’m sure I’m not alone in watching from afar and being fascinated with what is happening, but I have no special expertise in the region. Does anyone from our readership?
One thing that’s fascinated me in particular is how quickly the state of policing shifted, and what this potentially means for how we think about such things as “police,” “state,” “violence,” and “democracy.” You know, all those classic elements of Police Studies that draw on Weber.
In the spirit of continuing our discussion of the British “riots”, Jonathan Simon has an interesting post that I think echoes many of the things that came up in our own discussion. Here’s one particularly cogent nut he offers up in describing the importation of American criminal justice techniques to Britain over the past decade:
“….[C]hronic overuse of criminal justice as a ready made tool for addressing social insecurity under Neo-liberal economic assumptions has led to collapse of both deterrence and legitimacy.”
Now there’s a thesis. Thoughts?
I have to say I resisted writing this post. I have a visceral distaste for academic discursive hermeneutics performed from afar–this is partly why I’m an ethnographer, after all– and, that’s even more the case when trying to write au courant journalistically
However, despite having absolutely no ethnographic expertise among British police and only a concerned collaborator’s familiarity with the issues on the ground there, I’m going to just get over it–tempered still, hopefully, by a degree of humility and a recognition of our responsibility to ignorance. The reason I’ve made this decision is to emphasize an ethnographic fact that I think is important for this blog: so much of what makes police a salient issue in broader terms are in fact riots and, conversely, so many riots, uprisings and rebellions are in fact about police.
All that was a way of putting a large preliminary asterisk on certain observations I’ve made following the news coverage via my own personal extended network of interwebs (BBC, CNN, NPR, Jeff Martin’s twitter feed…). I’ve noticed a narrative dynamic emerging that I find a bit frustrating: on the one hand, news coverage presents the familiar “these are criminals/hoodlums without a politics,” with all its logical absurdities (is criminality innate and apolitical? If so, if these are innate tendencies and not the result of social conditions, how has London and then other cities in the UK suddenly–within the last several days– sprouted so many of this type? What would be the litmus test for whether determining this is a political act, by the way?).
On the other hand, often in an effort to show “the other side” or to emphasize some diversity of opinion on the events, news coverage includes another narrative which risks being equally tired and absurd, the “this is an expression of political-economic disenfranchisement” argument (with it’s equally non-falsifiable claims–what, again, are the criteria for deciding that this is political, and when where these events put to that criteria? what factors and/or data were considered? what would apolitical events look like? If at least one of these criteria should be statements of such from the protesters themselves, it does not seem to meet the definition…)
- Generational conflict. The “this is political” camp insists that the events are the result of the UK’s disinvestiture in social programs while experiencing wideing gaps in real wealth, but within that analysis there’s a type of inter-generational awkwardness, especially between what I think of as the Stuart Hall generation, associated with the Tottenham riots of the early 1980’s, and the present generation of protesters. What’s interesting is to watch the older leftists struggle with understanding and/or translating the events; I’m thinking of some of the interviews with the MP from Tottenham and others, such as Darcus Howe, who seem to be attempting to work out some space for understanding them within a framework of social dis-investiture in the absence of an actually articulated voice of such a grievance. The terms, or even the very language, seems to have moved somehow in the last 30 years.
- Policing is a social program. On the other hand, the “these are hoodlums” camp–set up as critics of the protesters (and thus anti-anti-dis-investiture)–emphasizes the affected business people and residents, often pointing to their calls for more police presence and in fact outrage at the lack of protection. The contradiction here, of course, is that policing is a social program financed through government. If anything, this is the voice criticizing dis-investiture. What to make of that?
I think a less contradictory framing is possible if we make use of Foucault’s geneaology of liberalism (which I’ve written a bit on before), itself formulated during a crisis-point in global capitalism, which identifies neoliberal efforts to “reduce government” as one strategy, within a longer history of liberal political thought, which attempts to find external principles of limitation on government. Part of why Foucault spends so much time on this is that it offers a prescient insight into so much of the nature of policing, security & surveillance today: namely that it springs from the same concern and theory of government. Although often misread, I think, Foucault’s point is that the policing techniques of surveillance (much used in Britain) which skeev many of us out are not efforts to achieve a tightly controlled police state, but the opposite: it’s a strategy of governance which, for many reasons, sees such totalitarian aspirations as ineffectual and unnatural. In this sense, security strategies of surveillance are attempts to provide a “policed” state (in the older sense of “happy, well -ordered and thriving”) with minimal police (in the sense of a specialized political organ claiming the monopoly of legitimate violence) interventon; police without policing.
In this sense, the policing strategies so heavily relied upon by Britain over the last several years are both part and parcel of a political rationality that also focused on finding more “economical” forms of government. The same rationality which leads to a dis-investiture of the social programs targeted by “austerity measures.” The two sides of the framing in the popular news-framing, then, are certainly not contradictory, nor is the one an effect of the other: they are two sides of the very same political rationality; one that more and more seems diseased. What will be the alternative? I’m not sure, but finding a useful answer, I think, depends on understanding the political logic in which we find ourselves.