A Day in Gaol, Part Deux: Notes on Police, Precincts, and Penality

Spending a day in jail has some social scientific value for the temporarily detained; it enables a closer, albeit short-lived, look at the systems of policing and criminal justice. And because I often expend much time on this blog railing against the excesses of the New York City Police Department, it makes especial sense forContinue reading “A Day in Gaol, Part Deux: Notes on Police, Precincts, and Penality”

The Police Precinct as Augean Stable

Over the past few years, I have met some–very personable and intelligent–young men who seemed possessed by the same passion: they wished to join the police, to “serve their community”, to “give something back”. They knew the police forces they wished to become members of were dysfunctional and corrupt, but that was precisely why theirContinue reading “The Police Precinct as Augean Stable”

Police or Wanna-Be Commandos?

You might have noticed your local police force starting to look increasingly militarized, wearing riot-gear like the type Glenn sports in The Walking Dead, and armed with not just weaponry like Rick Grimes‘ but with an attitude as bad as Merle‘s. Don’t worry, it’s part of a nation-wide trend of SWATting local police: Peter Kraska, aContinue reading “Police or Wanna-Be Commandos?”

The Killing and Vigilante Justice

There are two instances of vigilante justice in The Killing‘s first season: Bennett Ahmed is brutally beaten by Stan Larsen and Belko Royce, and Councilman Darren Richmond is shot and critically wounded by Royce. Both victims were suspects in the murder of Rosie Larsen; both have been mistakenly accused, a fact that makes their fates particularly poignant.Continue reading “The Killing and Vigilante Justice”

On Visiting a Prison

I first saw a jail–and its inhabitants–as a child. Our family car had been broken into and some of its contents stolen, so we drove to a police station to file a report. While seated in the waiting room outside the police officer’s den, I could see what must have been a holding cell, occupiedContinue reading “On Visiting a Prison”

Stop and Frisk, Jersey City Style

This horrifying story of TSA overreach prompts my post today. It has nothing to do with the TSA but everything to do with the abuse of power. Almost twenty-five years ago, while attending graduate school in Newark, I visited Jersey City to meet a good friend of mine. I was accompanied by two other friendsContinue reading “Stop and Frisk, Jersey City Style”

S.2402 Makes The Thin Blue Line Just A Little Meaner

You might have thought that with laws prohibiting assault already in the books, there would be no need for S.2402, the bill passed by the New York State Senate on June 5th that ‘creates the crime of aggravated harassment of a police or peace officer.’ Sponsored by Senator Joe Griffo, S. 2402 ‘would make it aContinue reading “S.2402 Makes The Thin Blue Line Just A Little Meaner”

The Police as Paramilitary Force: A Problematic Conception

It is rare to find a police force—anywhere in the world—that enjoys cordial relationships with the community it polices i.e., a police force that is viewed and treated inclusively as a member of the community, one not so much against the bad guys as for the good guys, and which conceives of itself as providingContinue reading “The Police as Paramilitary Force: A Problematic Conception”

The Closing of the NYPD’s Mind

Today, Brooklyn College hosted a panel titled ‘Are We Safer? Costs, Benefits, and Alternatives to 20 Years of Aggressive Street Policing” (organized by the Herbert Kurz Chair in Constitutional Law and Civil Liberties, Professor Anna Law.) The panel’s discussants were: John DeCarlo, Michael Powell (New York Times), Alex S. Vitale, and Franklin E. Zimring.  The rangeContinue reading “The Closing of the NYPD’s Mind”

The Boston Bombings Are Bad News

By now, the bombings at the Boston Marathon are ‘old news’ for our  24-hour news and social media cycle. We’ve now run through the standard template of responses to such an attack: suspicion of the usual suspects,  rallying cries of support for the afflicted, stern, righteous denunciations from political leaders, racist rants of revenge andContinue reading “The Boston Bombings Are Bad News”