10 policing the crisis


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The title of this week’s session is taken from the famous study of ‘mugging’ by Stuart Hall et al. in the 1970s in which the authors note the racialised nature of the crime of mugging and the instigation of a public ‘moral panic’ in the association of young black men and violent street crime. Taking this as a starting point, we shall look at the way in which racialised people have been seen as having a natural propensity to crime and deviance that justifies the use of ‘special measures’ against them. We shall pay particularly close attention to the cases of disproportionate incarceration, the ‘prison industrial complex’ and of the suspension of law in the case of the ‘Northern Territory Intervention’.

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10 policing the crisis

  2. 2. Overview Crime, deviance and racialization Figures and legislation Case Studies: Disciplining deviance: The ‘NT Intervention’ Racial Profiling: Police Killings and Africans in Melbourne Race and Incarceration !
  3. 3. Crime, deviance and racialization Historical backdrop ‘Policing the crisis’ Moral panics 1. Historical backdrop:! ! Crime and deviant behaviour (behaviour that defies the norm - e.g. homosexuality was seen as a deviant behaviour) were historically racialised. ! ! 19th c.: it was believed that certain populations were naturally prone to criminal and/or deviant behaviour.! Criminals/deviants were said to be ‘born bad’.! Eugenicists (explain) believed that the lower classes should be sterilised to avoid the reproduction of the ‘criminal class’ and breed out deviance.! ! This belief persists in some quarters.! ! e.g. The Bell Curve, influential 1994 book an race and intelligence in the US.! ! The authors, Herrnstein and Murray argued that african americans and latinos were less intelligent than whites and asians, and that a person’s intelligence could be predicted according to their ‘race’ (undeconstructed view of race).! ! They measured IQ by looking at factors such as unemployment, divorce, having an illegitimate child, and incarceration, all of which are considered deviant behaviours engage din by ‘less intelligent’ people.! ! They concluded that because minorities were more likely to have carried out one of these behaviours, that they were less intelligent as a whole. The blamed welfare provisions for allowing black single mothers to continue to have babies who they believed had a natural propensity to being less intelligent. Because, other Americans were having babies at a lesser rate, Herrnstein and Murray feared for the overall intelligence of the US population.! !
  4. 4. Some facts & figures No figures for all groups in Australia Aboriginal crime figures Behind the numbers BRIXTON 1981 1. Due to different practices across the states, there are no universal figures of crime per ethnic group in Australia or of who is more likely to be the victim of crime.! ! Some Figures from the UK:! ! - Ethnic minorities – more likely to be stopped and searched! - On average, five times more Black people than White people are imprisoned in England and Wales, where 1 in 4 people in prison is from an ethnic minority background. ! - Muslim people currently make up 12% of the prison population in England and Wales.  ! ! 2. We do have some data about Aboriginal people and crime rates.! ! Jeffries and Newbold:! ! 13% of Aboriginals are unemployed (but the real rate is much higher as there is no work where they are).! ! Much higher proportions of drug use according to the figures.! ! Life expectancy among Aboriginals is 17 years lower than for non-indigenous.! ! Homicide and victimisation:! ! The Indigenous homicide rate rests at around 20 per 100,000, with victimisation at 14 per 100,000. ! !
  5. 5. Legislative framework It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if: (a) the act is reasonably likely in all the circumstances to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people, and (b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or some or all of the people in the group. Racial Discrimination Act (1995) By suspending (excluding) the operation of Part II of the RDA, the members of the communities affected by the NTER legislation were effectively denied the protections afforded by the RDA to every other citizen to challenge legislation that they consider to be in breach of the RDA Australian Human Rights Commission Australian racial discrimination act was first introduced in 1975.! ! [click to reveal]! ! For a case to be considered under the Act,! ! 1) The act must be done in public;! 2) It must be reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate the people against whom it is directed; and! 3) It must be done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the group against whom it is directed.! ! There is a strong burden of proof making it quite hard to take cases under the Act. There have only been 2 successful cases taken at federal level.! ! [click to reveal Bolt article] The most well-known recent successful case taken was against the journalist Andrew Bolt for two articles that he wrote against Aboriginal people which were deemed in breach of the Act.! ! In 2014, George Brandis, as Attorney General, tried to get rid of section 18C of the racial Discrimination Act on racial vilification. The issue was framed as being one of freedom of speech (the freedom to be a bigot - Brandis). Ultimately the changes were not passed due to community submissions.! ! During the NT Intervention, the Racial Discrimination Act was suspended as it would have conflicted with the aims of the ‘emergency response’ in the NT that the government wanted to carry out.! ! [click to reveal] A report by the Australian Human Rights Commission found that this was discriminatory. The report argued,!
  6. 6. THREE CASE STUDIES THE NT INTERVENTION RACIAL PROFILING PRISONS In order to see how deviant and criminal behaviours are racially constructed, the rest of the lecture will focus on three cases:! ! The elements that links all of these are:! ! a) that the criminal and/or deviant acts of a minority of people from a particular racialised group is extended to everyone perceived to belong to that group. Everyone is under suspicion.! b) that prevention and/or punishment is extended to the whole group! c) crucially, that the law is used to discipline racialised populations, who are seen as ‘unruly’. These examples are all contemporary but note the continuity with past practices, e.g. under the colonial racial state. ! ! Many have pointed out how the relationship between poor racialised minorities and the state does not differ significantly today than under colonialism, slavery, or ‘protection’.
  7. 7. The Northern Territory Emergency Response Critiques Compounding stereotypes The ‘Intervention’: The facts ‘Stronger Futures’ The facts:! ! In 1997, a report, Little Children Are Sacred, was commissioned by the Howard government.! ! Its remit - to look into child sexual abuse in the Northern Territory.! ! Findings: Aboriginal communities were blighted by child sex abuse, pornography, and underage exposure to sex and prostitution. Alcohol was a big factor in fuelling this behaviour.! ! Government response: 7-point programme -! ! Restrictions on welfare so parents spend their money on food and other necessities and not alcohol. Family welfare payments would be linked to children's school attendance. ! A six month ban on the sale of alcohol in most of the concerned Indigenous communities. ! A ban on the sale and possession of hardcore pornography, which was seen as “rife in Aboriginal communities”. ! Medical checks for sexual abuse for Indigenous children younger than 16. A permit system restricting non-Aboriginal access to Indigenous land would be scrapped. Howard said made the permit system made it easier for abuse to go undiscovered. ! Proposing legislation to enable the government to acquire five year leases for over 64 Indigenous communities in return for compensation.! Extra police provided by the federal and state governments will investigate sexual abuse in the communities.! ! [Video 1: shows first meeting between Intervention enforcers and local people]! !
  8. 8. Racial Profiling What is racial profiling? Police Killings in the US Africans in Melbourne 1. What is racial profiling?! ! Explain poster and ‘driving while black’! ! According to David Cole (2003), profiling “involves reliance on a generalization about people of a particular group.”! ! Police stop, search and arrest people for a crime because, due to their perceived ‘race’, they are suspected of being involved in a crime, whether or not they have been.! ! As we have seen, this is because race and criminality/deviance have been historically aligned.! ! Often, racial profiling leads directly to a greater number of racialised people being imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. Victims often perceive their victims to have belonged to a racialised group. e.g. in the UK, victims of muggings often identified their attacker as being black whether or not they had seen his face: they made a connection between public perception and media coverage of muggers as black and the attack without any direct evidence.! ! Many have pointed out that racial profiling is an inefficient method of policing. Apart from leading to errors, it also creates a large degree of mistrust in the police from minority groups who are reticent to report crime and often have a negative relationship with police.! !
  9. 9. US Police Killings & Black Lives Matter 1,172 PEOPLE KILLED BY POLICE SINCE AUGUST 9, 2014, THE DAY OF THE MICHAEL BROWN SHOOTING IN FERGUSON, MISSOURI VOX.COM Since Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012, there has been a spate of police shootings of Af American people. ! 1,172 people killed since shooting of 18 year old Mike Brown was shot by Ferguson Missouri police officer, Darren Wilson, unleashing the Black Lives Matter movement. ! Other famous cases include Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy shot for playing with a toy gun, and Freddie Gray, kept in a choke hold by police in NY while he repeatedly said ‘I Can’t Breathe’. ! Most reported cases have been of men, but many women have been killed including trans women. Most recent case = Sandra Bland who dies in a police cell following arrest for a minor traffic offence. But many other women have gone unnoticed leading to a social media campaign : #SayHerName. ! [Click on photo for link]: The Killed by Police website keeps a record of people killed since 2013. Think of the sheer numbers involved.
  10. 10. ‘Why do I need to get asked three to four times a day for my ID because I’m walking down the footpath?’ Racial Profiling of Young Africans in Melbourne ‘A couple of times I got picked up off the street, the police told me I was under arrest, took me to the station, and I just found out that they just wanted to talk to me, I wasn’t under arrest…. they just wanted to tell me, ‘get your boys to behave themselves’ and I’m like ‘my boys? This is my friends. We’re only like 17, 18 years old, how are they my boys?’ The police were like ‘we know that you’re the gang leader’, so suddenly I’m the leader of a gang. And everything just started to get out of control. You know, even when I’m walking down the street they call out [my name] and then I’ll look, and then they’ll take a picture of me.’ Smith and Reside (2009) ‘I asked him ‘Hey [X] what are you doing?’ He goes, ‘Oh nothing, I’m feeling bored .… Boys you wanna give me some action?’ You know, ‘Commit a crime.’ I’m like,‘Are you okay?’ … ‘Are you joking?’ He goes, ‘Nah.’ He goes, ‘Youse run, I’ll chase you, we’ll do the usual.’ And he was joking around … I understood that, but like for a second there I thought ‘oh this guy’s dead serious’, ya know, he wants something to go down today, they just do it for the thrill of it. They don’t do it because they’re doing their job, ya know, it has nothing to do with their job. For them it’s just ‘oh we’re bored, let’s go bash a coupla kids.’ Smith and Reside (2009) ‘They kicked me on the ground, I thought I was gonna die or pass out ya know? Just after that, I thought they were taking me to the police station, [they] put me in the van, they drove me all the way to back of [deserted locality]. Then they all bashed me, they chucked my wallet out. ‘Come out you black cunt. Get out of divvyvan’, you know? They hit me straight away, aiming at my leg here with the torch. So I ran down you know, they just, they got in the car and they left ya know, they left me there.’ Smith and Reside (2009)! Africans in Melbourne! ! [First show video]! ! February 2013: 5 African men from Melbourne won a case against Victoria Police whom they had accused of racially profiling them. [Two of the men are Daniel Haile- Michael and Maki Issa in the photo]! ! The five men claimed that they were victims of assaults and racial taunts by police and they were constantly stopped by police and generally treated in a way that non- Africans would not have been subjected to.! ! As a result of the their court victory, the men were allowed to make public police records of their dealings with the men.! ! Notes in police diaries included:! ! being described as ‘criminals loitering in the area’, although there was no evidence that they were in fact criminals.! ! another quote: ‘'Unable to provide police with reason of why they were there or what they were doing. Nervous in police presence''! ! In fact, according to the law, the onus is on the police to justify interfering with a person’s freedom of movement; there is no legal obligation on an individual to justify why they are in a particular place.! ! The police also picked up individuals for wearing ‘homeboy/gangster’ clothing (a common theme see Trayvon Martin case to be discussed). However, these fashions are
  11. 11. Race and Incarceration Aboriginal incarceration facts and figures:! ! 28% - Percentage of Aboriginal prisoners in Australia in 2008 [20].! 48% - Percentage of juveniles in custody who are Aboriginal [32].! 14.4 - Factor by which Aboriginal people are more likely to be imprisoned than non-Aboriginal people [34].! 60% - Percentage by which the imprisonment rate for Aboriginal women increased between 2000 and 2010. ! 6.7% - Incarceration rate of Aboriginal men in Western Australia in 2008. Same rate for Aboriginal women: 0.6%; for African-American women in the US: 0.5% [33].! ! This is compared to percentage of Aboriginals in the total population of 2.5%.! ! Compare this to the US where 3% of the black population is in prison or the UK (1%). The US is often thought os as the worst in the world.! ! Research in the US reveals significant correlation between racialisation and rates of incarceration.! ! As Angela Davis points out, in order to reach such numbers the imprisonment of blacks and ethnic minorities relies on racialised assumptions about black people’s greater propensity towards crime. Because it is believed that blacks are naturally more inclined to commit crime, locking them up is seen as the simplest solution - there is a belief that they cannot be reformed. ! ! Angela Davis and others talk about a ‘prison industrial complex’ in the US (also in the UK): the privatisation of prisons - prisons as profit making, and as such, in need of greater number of prisoners to remain profitable.! ! Davis: Combined with the need for greater prison numbers to fuel the prison industry, locking blacks up is a solution for politicians keen to be seen to be tough on crime
  12. 12. Tutorial Questions List ways in which racialised people have been ‘naturalised as criminals’ (Angela Davis)? Is the criticism of prisons and policing as institutionally racist fair? Why do you think Angela Davis describes prisons as places for ‘disappearing human beings’ (Angela Davis)? What other methods could be used to alleviate problems associated with crime?