Numbers 1972, reprinted circa 1983 by Barry Flanagan 1941-2009

Numbers 1972, reprinted circa 1983 Barry Flanagan 1941-2009 Presented by Sue Flanagan, the artist’s former wife 1985 via Tate UK

Studies in Police Science often use language such as “police initiative x was found to be successful because of an x% reduction in crime.” But what does this actually mean, in any lived sense? To gain perspective I reached out to an officer I worked with during my thesis research back in 2012, to which he replied:

“Crime stats don’t really mean too much on a patrol level. Stats are used by police chiefs to say, “Look what we have done.” Crime has nothing to do with arrests. Poverty has everything to do with it. (His patrol area) used to be one of the most dangerous in the U.S. But when initiatives started pushing out the poor, crime sank to an all-time low. (His patrol area) is yuppie-ville; it has nothing to do with the police department. Most officers like to see spikes in crime when they don’t like the chief. It’s an easy way to get rid of them. When the public feels unsafe the head of the organization gets replaced. So that’s how crime states are used on a patrol level.”

So, there you have it. It appears that crime stats (at least in one officer’s opinion) join the ranks of the other politically charged facets of the criminal justice system. Now more than ever, I’m wondering exactly why these stats carry so much weight in determining which initiatives are “best”…


Wondering About Crime Stats


Hello, OPD

Oakland, California, February 2014:

On the train, a boy with a paint-filled shoeshine applicator writes his name on the seat in front of him. He works adeptly and quickly, even turning briefly toward me, grinning, while his hand continues in a smooth, controlled motion. A camera stares at us from the other end of the car. He appears either unaware of its presence or unaffected by its gaze.

A crowd waits until midnight to pack 2 hours of City Council time with protest against phase-two funding for Oakland’s Domain Awareness Center. Among those making public comments is a masked ‘Ben Franklin’. ‘George Orwell’ cedes a minute of his time to another speaker. Among jeering and outcry during the council’s discussion, the council-president calls for civility else the public be forcibly cleared.

A few days later, wandering on dérive through West Oakland, armed with my own micro surveillance apparatuses (a pair of eyes and a memory, and a digital camera), I snap a few photographs of traffic cams and empty squad cars. Again, I’m struck mostly by their impotence here, by how much escapes or doesn’t mind their field of visibility. I try to imagine how or if data flowing down walls made of monitors in dark control rooms changes being here on this corner.

Domain Awareness, Oakland, CA


Kevin Karpiak's Blog

Just happened to be looking this up today in the OED:

community policing n. policing at a local or community level; spec. a system of policing by officers who have personal knowledge of and involvement in the community they police.

1934   New Castle (Pa.) News 20 Feb. 16/3   Major Adams asserted that the modern principles of community policing are based on antiquated methods.
1973   Times 24 Sept. 2/6   Community policing, at present one of the most controversial talking points in Andersontown.
2000   P. Beatty Tuff i. 4   The mayor think rhyming sound bites, community policing, and the death penalty going to stop fools from getting paid.
Not sure exactly who major Adams is or what he’s about, but it is interesting to think that the newness of “community policing” was in question even way back in 1934.  Of course, I’m also not sure what Adams meant by “community policing” had…

View original post 15 more words

“Community Policing” in the Oxford English Dictionary


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?

Following up on the British “riots”: Jonathan Simon on GTC


This past weekend I visited Detroit’s 2011 North American International Auto Show, where Ford used the opportunity to show off its new police Interceptors (check out Ford’s site complete with siren loading graphic and nationwide tour dates).  Seductively displayed in front of a slogan proclaiming, “Protecting Our Community. Securing Our Future,” and the message, “Ford salutes first responders. The heroes you depend on depend on Ford,” the cars were hard to miss.  There was something rather striking about the Interceptors -fierce yet sleek- that seemed to draw a continuous crowd of all ages.

The name alone is alluring: Interceptor.  It rolls off the tongue and brings forth images of blockbuster car chases complete with explosions and gritty, attractive male leads like Jason Statham or Daniel Craig.  As I stood listening to the soft “ooohs” and “ahhhhs” of passersby and watched dozens of people whip out their cameraphones (yours truly included), I asked myself who Ford was trying to sell the Interceptor to -the police or us?  Moreover, what was Ford really selling -the car itself, an “ideal” representation of the police, a car-chase fantasy, their own “Ford-tough” image, or all of the above?

Ford Interceptor Attracts Attention at the Detroit Auto Show…


Philadelphia Police Headquarters Buiilding

I was earlier today contemplating this statue, which stands outside of the Philadelphia Police Department Headquarters at 8th and Race Sts.  Note the quintessential 1950s “professional officer” style of uniform… and also how there is a gun on his right hip, a little girl on his left hip.   All kinds of signification going on here…  N.B. also that the Philly PD HQ (partially visible in the photograph, behind the statue) looks like a set of locked handcuffs from an aerial view.

Police “material culture”

In the Journals

As I try to put together a course on “Policing in Society” for the upcoming semester at the same time that I try to figure out for myself the place of anthropology in criminology (or vice versa, or somesuch). I came across this article, which I think has particular potential for our discussions here:

Rethinking Criminology(ies) through the Inclusion of Political Violence and Armed Conflict as Legitimate Objects of Inquiry

Maritza Felices-Luna

University of Ottawa

Abstract: Criminology has yet to achieve full recognition as an independent discipline. Its development has been hampered by a multiplicity of often stale debates between a “traditional” and an “alternative” criminology over the legitimate object, theories, and methods of the discipline. Rather than pursuing the debate in its current form, this article explores how focusing on new objects of inquiry and the challenges they represent may help to bridge the criminological divide. By rendering the borders of criminology’s object permeable, we may produce a malleable and dynamic discipline that deals with processes of normalization/differentiation/othering as well as ordering, governance, and control from different normative and political perspectives, theories, and methods.

via Project MUSE – Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice – Rethinking Criminologyies through the Inclusion of Political Violence and Armed Conflict as Legitimate Objects of Inquiry.

Articles referenced

Felices-Luna, M. (2010). Rethinking Criminology(ies) through the Inclusion of Political Violence and Armed Conflict as Legitimate Objects of Inquiry Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice/La Revue canadienne de criminologie et de justice pénale, 52 (3), 249-269 DOI: 10.3138/cjccj.52.3.249

Rethinking Criminology(ies)

In the Journals

The UC library system doesn’t subscribe to the journal Policing, so I haven’t been able to check this out yet, but their April issue is on Academic/Police collaborations and should be of major interest to all the readers of this blog

Academic–Police Collaborations—Beyond ‘Two Worlds’

Karim Murji, Guest Editor*

via Introduction: Academic-Police Collaborations–Beyond ‘Two Worlds’ — Murji 4 (2): 92 — Policing.

Special Issue of the journal “Policing” on Academic/Police Collaborations

In the Journals

As part of the continuing project to think through policing in the financial crisis, i thought it would be helpful to highlight the current issue of Anthropology News, which gives examples of anthropological takes on the same issue in other domains

October AN Addresses the Economic Crisis

AN cover, October 2009 Full-text October 2009 In Focus commentaries will be available here through October 31, and subsequently through AnthroSource. Share your comments on these articles through the AAA blog. Read more about accessing Anthropology News electronically on our archives page. See the AN homepage for information on opportunities to contribute to AN.

via October AN Addresses the Economic Crisis.

October AN Addresses the Economic Crisis