What Jonathan’s work in Governing through Crime has shown, however, is that one of the few remaining–maybe the only remaining–domain in which the violence of governance seems legitimate to American voters is in the domain of crime control and punishment. It therefore has become the trope through which all American governance is filtered.
What we’re left with is, on the one hand, a massively inflated, impractical and unjust incarceration system and–importantly–on the the other hand, no way of conceiving any other legitimate form of governance.
This is not a question of corporate greed versus educational egalitarianism, or even good guys versus bad guys (as much as I’d like to hate on Mark Yudof along with everyone else), but of finding a way–literally–of justifying the very real kinds of violence involved in supporting education; of including higher education into the political calculus of life and death.
From the article it appears that the major tactics are more beat cops walking commercial streets and the creation of a new police linked (but not managed) “outreach” initiative aimed at stalling conlicts in Oakland neighborhoods before it turns lethal.
No doubt the beat cops are reassuring, especially to business people like the furniture store owner interviewed by Chip Johnson:
“We had homeless people sleeping in our doorways, people wandering up and down the block, but when he came, that all vanished,” said Ford, 68. “I would say about four out of six days a week, he will stick his head inside the door and say hi. It’s been a great relief.”
Whether a strategy of chasing homeless people away is constitutional or sustainable in the Bay Area (especially when many of our neighbors may soon be joining their ranks) we will leave for another post, let alone whether it has any effect on violent crime.
More intriguing is the outreach initiative which Johnson credits to Mayor Ron Dellums:
Toribio said outreach workers paid for through the city’s Measure Y program have established a “strong working relationship” with some street toughs. The workers regularly target areas with patterns of violence.
“We send them in when we’ve determined there may be trouble brewing, and they work to try and let calmer heads prevail,” Toribio said.
“Most of these guys (outreach workers) grew up in some of these neighborhoods. They recognize guys from the street,” he said. “Some of them have been to prison and battled their demons, and they have a lot of credibility on the street.”
Leave aside the interesting constitutional questions of an apparatus that “work with police”, but “they aren’t agents of the police and don’t share information.” The approach sounds promising to me.
Ironically it underscores some of the problems that shadow the promise of the police. Why do the police lack so much credibility in neighborhoods suffering from violence that they need a parallel apparatus to provide them information as needed to stop or solve violent crimes? When we put more police offices on the streets how might their conduct actually exacerbate violent crime?
It seems, once again, that contemporary re-figurations of police practice revolve around the constellation of concepts that are central to Weber’s definition of the state. We have new types of human communities operating on different sorts of terrain under the aegis of unique claims to legitimacy. This is the ensemble of pragmatic political experimentation that I’ve been calling a “post-social police“.