“Ta-Nehisi Coates”:http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/06/in-defense-of-awful-police-work/241196/

bq. Emily Good was arrested for video-taping a police officer–despite the fact that in Rochester, New York, video-taping cops isn’t actually a crime. Accordingly the charges were dropped yesterday. Here’s a defense of Good’s demonstrably illegal arrest … I’m really trying to wrap my head around this: In what world do we defend the right of people to be arrested for non-crimes? Obviously this one. But it can’t continue this way. I deeply believe, that in a world of viral video, it slowly erodes the brand and legitimacy of law enforcement. It’s already happened in many black communities, where the police are simply viewed as another power to be contended with. I’m sure, like a lot of you, I’ve had some talks about my son about how he should interact with the police. “Trust” is a small portion of that conversation.

Here’s a simple proposal – which I am stealing shamelessly from Charlie Stross’s near-future sf novels “Halting State”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0441016073/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=henryfarrell-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399369&creativeASIN=0441016073 and “Rule 34”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0441020348/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=henryfarrell-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399369&creativeASIN=0441020348 (which is _every bit_ as good as its predecessor – I’m waiting for it to come out before I write more about it). Rather than relying on viral video from random passers-by as a possible deterrent to bad behavior, police should be required to wear a perpetually running video camera with audio recording while they are carrying out their duties, with undeletable footage that could be subpoena-ed in the case of either an arrest by the police officer or a complaint by a directly affected individual within a reasonable time period.

This is now well within the realm of technical feasibility as far as I can see, and should not be vastly expensive (certainly no more expensive than e.g. the data retention requirements that police and legal authorities impose on ISPs and telcos). I can imagine some significant problems (e.g. with respect to the privacy rights of third parties caught by police footage), but they don’t seem to me to be insuperable. Of course police could have ‘accidents’ with the technology so that it didn’t work at key moments – but if this happened systematically, it would be a boon for defense lawyers. The actual objections would (I suspect) be more based on sociological arguments than on technology or costs. Police claim (see “here”:https://crookedtimber.org/2009/07/23/police-discretion-a-different-perspective/ for an argument to this effect that we guest-hosted on CT) that they require a certain amount of discretion to do their job properly. Giving the public the right to look over their shoulders in the case of arrests or complaints would severely curtail, or perhaps even eliminate that discretion. There may be something to that argument – but I’m skeptical of it. Much of it reduces down, I think to an implicit Jack Nicholson “you can’t handle the truth” claim – that in order to do their job properly, police officers sometimes have to cut corners in ways that might not look appropriate in the light of day, even if they were appropriate under real world circumstances. Perhaps this is so – but if it’s so, it should be debated rather than taken as a given, since even under the most generous possible interpretation, it also allows a lot of shitty and self-serving behavior along the lines that Ta-Nehisi is complaining about.

Marxism without revolution: Capital

by John Q on July 1, 2011

I’ve been writing series of posts examining the question – what is left of Marxism, as a way to understand the world, and as a way to change it, once it is accepted that capitalism is not going to be overthrown by a working class revolution. The first was about class and the second about crisis. Now for the final instalment: capital.

By the way, the first post got translated into Spanish, here. It’s one of the things that I still find stunning about the Internet that things like this can happen.

[click to continue…]