Policing (Re: spooky shit, a paradox & numbers)

alec ramsdell a_ramsdell at hotmail.com
Sun Jul 19 11:30:41 PDT 1998

>Date: Sun, 19 Jul 1998 03:14:16 -0500
>To: lbo-talk at lists.panix.com
>From: Yoshie Furuhashi
>Michael Perelman wrote:
>>Despite all the scary high tech stuff, why does the law enforcement
>>establishment do such a bad job in finding people. The Unibomber's
>>turned him in; McVeigh got caught in a traffic stop. They can't find
>>Instead, they merely get people to testify against others rather than
>>what we might think of as police work.
>>Am I off base here?
>Could it be that what we think of as 'police work' has little to do
>what policing is all about?
>Policing as it exists now in core capitalist countries (especially the
>seems to me to be about the production of: (1) spectacles of
>(2) selective repression and disenfranchisement of workers on the
>of the labor market; and (3) social control of the entire working class
>'consent' to the 'law & order' ideology. Apprehending all the people
>break laws and regulations can't be the objective, for the number of
>offenders would be astronomical.

And who can gauge how the spectacle-screen performs on behalf of points (2) and (3)?

>From Jerome Miller's _Search & Destroy_:

"In 1851, for example, when San Francisco had only 30,000 citizens (few of them black), there were 100 murders. By comparison, there were 75 murders in San Francisco in 1984 when the city's population was 716,000."

. . .

"In an interesting analysis, criminologist Michael Tonry notes that . . . between 1970 and 1992 . . . 'given increased availability of ever-more-lethal fire-arms, the proportion of assaults proving fatal (that is, the ratio of homicides to assaults) should be increasing. To the contrary, it has steadily fallen. This suggests that much of the apparent increase in assault rates reflects higher reporting and recording, rather than a higher incidence of assault."

. . .

"Not surprisingly, the group most hard-hit by this pandemic overcharging and most likely to garner a 'felony arrest' criminal record are African-Americans."

. . .

"My own experience in hundreds of criminal cases over the past two decades leads me to conclude that the major actors in the criminal justice drama are increasingly eager to arrest on highest charges possible, prosecute to the limits of the law, and demand the longest prison terms potentially available. It is now common policy to overstate the seriousness of most alleged incidents from the first moment the individual is seen as a potential arrestee and deemed a possiblity for criminal justice handling. The fact that police and prosecutors cannot always accomplish their agenda of arrest and imprisonment is less a measure of permissiveness in the courts than an indication that some vestiges of due process have managed to survive the hysteria of the times. The merits of the inflated charges are not at issue. Rather, it is a poker game in which the charges are kept close to the vest for purposes of intimidation or bluff, with an eye to their potential for getting the defendant to fold--guilty or not."

The hyseria of spectacle is distressingly aimed at youth these days. A case-type is molded, then selective cases produced and distributed with ornamental variations through various media, the picture being painted of a scary and pathological next generation and/or the usual misfit stereotype. By recontextualizing these youth into the idealized media-ether, _real_ questions of actual material conditions and social relations can be quietly suppressed.

Juvenile arrests are up. Who knows how much "real crime" is happening though.

"Burgeoning crime among adolescents is the perennial cry when it comes to hyteria on crime. Although juvenile crime has grown dramatically at times, many knowledgeable criminologists have seen little evidence of a profound difference in the rate of serious crime among adolescents over the past thirty years."


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