Did Police Militarization Make Ferguson More Volatile?

Slate's weekly political roundtable.
Aug. 15 2014 10:31 AM

The “All Criminal Justice” Edition

Listen to Slate’s show about the protests in Ferguson, Eric Garner’s death and the “broken windows” theory of policing, and Alice Goffman’s book On the Run.


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For this week’s Slate Plus bonus segment Emily, Vesla, and James discuss Vesla’s new book Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control. Slate Plus members get an ad-free version of this podcast with bonus segments. Visit slate.com/gabfestplus and try it free for two weeks.

On this week’s Slate Political Gabfest, Emily Bazelon, James Forman Jr., and Vesla Weaver discuss the protests in Ferguson, Eric Garner’s death and the problems with “broken windows” policing, and sociologist Alice Goffman’s new book On the Run.

Here are some of the links and references mentioned during this week’s show:

  • Following the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer on Saturday, protests erupted in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. The police claim that Brown hit an officer, provoking the shooting, while Brown’s friend claims that the officer shot Brown while he was running with his hands up.
  • Brown would’ve started college this past Monday.
  • Ferguson’s elected officials and police force are not racially representative of the majority-black population. The New York Times reports that no one on the school board is black.
  • The Department of Justice studies the percentages of racial breakdowns in districts to determine whether there is voter discrimination.
  • Local law enforcement agencies have acquired more sophisticated equipment since the beginning of the War on Drugs.
  • The police have not released the name of the officer who shot Brown, but that may soon change.
  • Studies show that black boys are frequently viewed as older than they actually are.
  • Last month, Eric Garner was allegedly choked to death by Staten Island police officers. Garner’s death was caught on video and went viral.
  • Garner’s death is testing how far Mayor Bill de Blasio is willing to enforce his mandate to reform the police department’s relationship with minority communities.
  • In the 1985 decision Tennessee v. Garner, the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement officers cannot shoot a fleeing suspect unless there’s probable cause that the suspect poses a threat to police or the public.
  • A recent report issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York found that prisoners suffered mistreatment at the hands of guards who have little accountability.
  • Some NYPD police union leaders are hinting at possible work slowdowns in response to de Blasio’s seemingly tepid support for police.
  • The Supreme Court ruled in Los Angeles v. Lyons that Adolf Lyons, who’d been put in a chokehold by LAPD officers, did not have sufficient standing to bar the city from using chokeholds in the future.
  • Adopted by the NYPD to break the crime wave in the ’80s and ’90s, “broken windows” policing has nevertheless been criticized for disproportionately punishing black and Latino communities for minor crimes.
  • Sociologist Alice Goffman spent six years in Philadelphia studying the effects of mass surveillance and incarceration on poor black neighborhoods. The culmination of her work is a new book called On the Run.
  • Goffman burned her notes to keep them from being subpoenaed.

Vesla chatters about “Divergent Pathways of Gentrification,” a new study of Chicago gentrification written by Harvard sociologists Robert J. Sampson and Jackelyn Hwang.

Emily chatters about Jodi Kantor’s piece in the New York Times, “Working Anything but 9 to 5.”

Topic ideas for next week? You can tweet suggestions, links, and questions to @SlateGabfest.

The email address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com. (Email may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Podcast production by Mike Vuolo. Links compiled by Max Tani.

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones

James Forman Jr. is a clinical professor of Llw and supervising attorney at Yale Law School.

Vesla Weaver is a professor of political science and African American studies at Yale University, and the co-author of Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control.



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