Image from ACLU.org
Image from ACLU.org
The editors of Anthropoliteia are happy to continue an ongoing series The Anthropoliteia #BlackLivesMatterSyllabus Project, which will mobilize anthropological work as a pedagogical exercise addressing the confluence of race, policing and justice. You can see a growing bibliography of resources via our Mendeley feed. In this post, Sameena Mulla notes contributions to the recent discussions about missing black girls (with thanks to Leslie Wingard).
If you take anything away from this post, it should be to read Eve Dunbar’s article, “On Gwendolyn Brooks and Disappearing Black Girls.” Dunbar writes:
In Washington, DC, the city currently home to America’s least popular president ever, the mainstream media “broke” the story that a rash of black girls had gone missing. Social networking platforms circulated hashtags and headlines speculating the girls had been abducted and forced into sex work. Others worried the girls were dead. The police countered all theories by assuring local and national worriers that these missing black girls were merely runaways. Continue reading
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the words “DragNet” in the subject header and I’ll get on it!
Let’s face it: Americans are living in an age of extreme surveillance. The government is listening to our phone calls, capable of controlling our computer cameras remotely and (perhaps) reading our Facebook messages.
You may want to think twice before accepting that new friend request from your favorite social networking site. Why is that you may ask? As social networks have experienced exponential membership growth rates over the last decade or so, the police, too, have taken notice. More recently this has translated into law enforcement authorities employing social media sites such as Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter to combat and deter crime arguing that if average people are using these sites to find long lost friends or create new bonds there is no reason why police should not use these networks in their efforts to prevent crime.
Of the many advantages -from a police perspective- of using the social network as another tool to combat crime is that it allows officers to conduct online investigations of its users with near-anonymity. With the click of a mouse and a few registration steps, police detectives are setting up fake profiles to ‘friend’ suspects under investigation and gain intelligence information. Up to this point, criminal gangs have been their main focus.
For example, in the state of Florida, police report that gang members are using these sites to brag about their involvement in criminal activity. Members often post photos of themselves in gang colors along with gang related hand gestures. Some even use these sites as a way to communicate threats about future criminal activity against other rival gangs.
Florida police have recognized these shenanigans and have used the fist of law to combat such unruly behavior. In October of 2008, the sunshine state passed statue 874.11, which makes it a 3rd degree felony for anyone posting electronic communications that “furthers the interest of a criminal gang,” The charge carries a sentence of up to 5 years. What’s more, successful conviction of a felony charge such as this may result in the defendant’s loss of his or her right to vote.
You may be asking yourself what exactly does “furthering the interest of a criminal gang,” mean? Unfortunately there is no exact definition, which means that the individual police officer conducting the investigation is given total discretion in deciding who is allegedly violating the law; this should not be taken lightly and should be seen as very frightening. Essentially, this means that anything you post online -be it a comical statement or picture that is not intended to represent anything criminal, such as a cartoon or hand gesture- can easily be misinterpreted as criminal gang activity. One could argue that this is yet another example of our 1st Amendment rights (freedom of expression) being tossed out the front door. Currently, Florida is the only state with such a law on the books, however, numerous states are in the process of creating similar initiatives.
Lack of clarity in the law and the deceitful process used by police to intrude members’ profiles is causing a ruckus amongst digital rights advocacy groups, such as the Electronic Frontier’s Foundation (EFF). This civil liberties group, based in San Francisco, argues that deceptive police tactics like creating fake profiles to gain access to individual’s profiles -especially those set to private- is a blatant violation of people’s right to privacy. Shawn Moyer -a spokesperson from the digital rights advocacy group Fishnet Enterprise- declared that such intrusion is not only wrong, but also unethical, noting that police pretending to be someone else are actually in violation of Facebook’s terms of service policy against willful impersonation of another individual. Despite this rule, however, police continue to employ this tactic without any legal ramifications because there are no state or federal laws governing when and how police may conduct their online investigations on social networking sites.
In order to gain some sort of clarity on these issues the two digital rights advocacy groups filed a Freedom of Information action suit against the Dept. of Justice. In a whopping 33-page response, the DOJ expressed their interest in -and implied their support for- police using the social network as an investigative tool and stated that all investigations are legal, as long as they are accompanied by a valid search warrant. The DOJ did, however, remain silent on the issue of police violating social networks’ terms of service agreements. Although the DOJ did provide some answers to these fundamental questions of right to privacy online, their response seems to be mediocre at best.
Therefore, until both transparency and clarity are provided within the laws of online investigations, you may want to take some time to see who is really behind that new friend request. Also, if there was ever a time to re-examine your profile you may want to do that now -you wouldn’t want an image or a comment you posted last week (or last year for that matter) to be misinterpreted as criminal. Remember, there is a disclaimer on all major social networking sites that states that all posted information is public information  .And if you didn’t know, now you know.
 DOJ Report