Police In The Panopticon

Dr. Brett Stoudt guests. We marvel at the military-grade technologies empowering police to be everywhere at once, and how their Kafkaesque aversion to accountability turns any free world into an e-carcerated state.

(1:24) Mitch introduces Dr. Brett Stoudt, head of the CUNY Graduate Center's PhD program in Critical Psychology. He rattles off a handful of the NYPD's latest and shadiest technologies, exponentially increasing the power with which law enforcement can bring the city to its fingertips. He points out that some of these use cases are blatant 4th Amendment rights violations, simply basking in the salad days of unsophisticated policy. Examples include surveillance towers, stingrays, LRAD, x-ray vans and heat vision helicopters. Telekinetic's reoccurring theme -- of technologies slowly creeping over centuries to arrive at their current bewildering state -- pops its head out once again. (10:32) We take stock of all these technologies and ask the obvious question: where does the money come from, and why? Mitch reads verbatim a head-scratching example of Pennsylvania State Police nabbing $4 billion from highway and bridge funds. Brett offers an easy-to-internalize concept: we have convinced ourselves that safety & security equates to police, ergo any program or budget containing safety & security as a line item will naturally translate to, "give this money to police." (16:17) Brett shows how the natural progression of making this money and power more invisible is to migrate to surveillance technologies, where accountability can be further abstracted even as power to manipulate the environment increases. He invokes the concepts of e-carceration and school-to-prison pipelines -- how 24/7 surveillance limits its subjects to walking a frighteningly narrow path, and how that path turns into a plank when enough data can be gathered to support biased precedent. (21:47) Mitch's hot take: given the keys to such an astounding amount of data, we should be policing on intent rather than behavior. Brett dismantles this argument with the quickness. (25:44) We talk through a simple, memorable mental model to reform police and communities: ask yourself how much police contribute to safety where you live. De-center police as the assumed answer to crime, and then de-center crime from the concept of harm. From this new lens of observing and analyzing your community through the notion of mitigating harm, you begin to see just how little the police can or should actually be involved, which leads to a reassessment of where community investments should be going instead.