Tag Archive: police state

Do We Really Want Cops With Body Cameras Filming Everything They See?

policecameraFrom Mother Board

Police departments across America are eagerly fitting their officers with surveillance cameras that record the public from a cop’s point of view. The technology was trotted out as a way to keep police accountable—to cut back on brutality, acquit wrongfully accused officers, and bust the ones that abuse their power.

Framed with that noble intention, there’s plenty to commend about law enforcement’s latest toy. But folks are singing the praises so loudly it’s drowning out a host of crucial privacy questions that need to be asked as we creep toward nationwide police surveillance.

And creeping we are: A growing number of police departments are adopting the cameras, which are worn attached to glasses or a uniform. The New Orleans police jumped on the bandwagon yesterday, joining the likes of Oakland, Las Vegas, Seattle, and others that already use the cameras. Los Angeles is in the middle of a Hollywood fundraising campaign to purchase 500 body-worn cameras for the LAPD. In New York City, a federal court suggested the NYPD try out a pilot program to cut back on unconstitutional stop-and-frisks.

Lord knows the police need policing, and there’s logic in assuming that if your actions are watched and recorded all the time you’re more likely to behave responsibly—be you civilian or cop. But seen another way, camera-fitted policeman smacks of a surveillance-happy government that’s gone a bridge too far. Even if it’s possible to privacy-invade someone into good behavior, that doesn’t mean it’s not an unsettling can of worms to open. (more…)

The Making of “Outside Agitators”

This illustration is available in poster form from artist Corina Dross, to raise funds for arrestees in Ferguson.

This illustration is available in poster form from artist Corina Dross, to raise funds for arrestees in Ferguson.

From Crimethinc.

On August 19, ten days after police murdered Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a slew of corporate media stories appeared charging that“criminals” and “outside agitators” were responsible for clashes during the protests. CNN alleged that “all sides agree there are a select number of people—distinct from the majority of protesters—who are fomenting violence,” quoting a State Highway Patrol Captain, a State Senator, and a former FBI assistant director to confirm this.

Today’s militarized police understand that they are operating on two different battlefields at once: not only the battlefield of the streets, but also the battlefield of discourse. So long as most people remain passive, the police can harass, beat, arrest, and even kill people with impunity—certain people, anyway. But sometimes protests get “out of hand,” which is to say, they actually impact the authorities’ ability to keep the population under control. Then, without fail, police and politicians proceed to the second strategy in their playbook: they declare that they support the protesters and are there to defend their rights, but a few bad apples are spoiling the bunch. In this new narrative, the enemies of the protesters are not the police who are gassing and shooting people, but those who resist the police and their violence. When this strategy works, it enables the police to go back to harassing, beating, arresting, and killing people with impunity—certain people, anyway.

Sure enough, a few hours after these articles about “criminals” and “outside agitators” appeared, the St. Louis police killed another man less than three miles from Ferguson. Here we see how defining people as “criminals” and “outsiders” is itself an act of violence, setting the stage for further violence. You can predict police behavior at protests with a fair degree of accuracy based on the rhetoric they deploy in advance to prepare the terrain.

So when we hear them say “outside agitators,” we know the authorities are getting ready to spill blood. All the better, from their perspective, if people buy into this rhetoric and police themselves so no officer has to get his hands dirty. This is often called for in the name of avoiding violence, but self-policing returns us to the same passivity that enables police violence to occur in the first place. How many people would have even heard about Michael Brown if not for the “criminals” and “agitators” who brought his death to our attention? Self-policing also preserves the impression that we all choose this state of affairs of our own free will, reinforcing the impression that anyone who does not is anoutsider. (more…)

What They Mean when They Say Peace

policestateFrom Crimethinc.

The Forces of Peace and Justice

“I’m committed to making sure the forces of peace and justice prevail,”Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said in Ferguson on Saturday, August 16, after a week of conflicts sparked by the police murder of teenager Michael Brown. “If we’re going to achieve justice, we first must have and maintain peace.”

Is that how it works—first you impose peace, then you achieve justice? And what does that mean, the forces of peace and justice? What kind of peace and justice are we talking about here?

As everyone knows, if it weren’t for the riots in Ferguson, most people would never have heard about the murder of Michael Brown. White police officers kill over a hundred black men every year without most of us hearing anything about it. That silence—the absence of protest and disruption—is the peace which Governor Nixon wants us to believe will produce justice.

This is the same narrative we always hear from the authorities. First, we must submit to their control; then they will address our concerns. All the problems we face, they insist, are caused by our refusal to cooperate. This argument sounds most persuasive when it is dressed up in the rhetoric of democracy: those are “our” laws we should shut up and obey—“our” cops who are shooting and gassing us—“our” politicians and leaders begging us to return to business as usual. But to return to business as usual is to step daintily over the bodies of countless Michael Browns, consigning them to the cemetery and oblivion.

Governor Nixon’s peace is what happens after people have been forcefully pacified. His justice is whatever it takes to hoodwink us into accepting peace on those terms—petitions that go directly into the recycle bin, lawsuits that never produce more than a slap on the wrist for the killers in uniform, campaigns that may advance the career of an activist or politician but will never put an end to the killing of unarmed black men. (more…)

Daniel McGowan Sues the BOP

daniel_mcgowan_FREE!From HuffPost:

Daniel McGowan may have been the first person thrown in solitary confinement for writing a HuffPost blog. Now he’ll be the first person to sue the Bureau of Prisons over it.

The environmental activist and former prisoner filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the prison system over an April 2013 incident in which U.S. Marshals threw him in a Brooklyn federal jail — ironically, for criticizing earlier violations of his free speech.

“The Bureau of Prisons does not like criticism and their reaction was unsurprisingly to try and crush someone who stepped out of line,” McGowan told HuffPost Tuesday in an email.

After a federal judge labeled him a terrorist in 2007 for arson committed with the Earth Liberation Front, McGowan spent years in some of the federal prison system’s most restrictive prisons, the communication management units (CMUs). The Bureau of Prisons denies it, but internal prison files strongly suggest McGowan was placed there because of his continued outspoken association with the environmental movement. (more…)