shannon_mattern + policing + governance   1

Policing Is an Information Business | Urban Omnibus
Policing and urban planning have a lot in common. Both cops and planners’ ostensible goal is to make the city a more livable place, though this goal is constantly haunted by a question: Livable for whom? Both transform a public’s experience of a city, generally by imposing and enforcing rules and systems that change how people move through space. In the United States, public understanding of both professions is to some extent influenced by romanticized media narratives which heavily emphasize cities like Los Angeles and New York. Both sectors have a particularly heavy fetish for maps and data as mechanisms for understanding and shaping cities, a fetish that has intensified in the past few decades thanks to advances in technology.

Where the two professions diverge starkly is in matters of time and violence. Where urban planning might be considered a slower, bureaucratic, deliberative process, policing is expected to engage with and respond to city conditions and events in real time — or, increasingly, ahead of time. And unlike urban planners, cops are permitted to respond with firearms and Tasers.

That being said, planning is fully capable of enacting slower, more systemic acts of violence onto a city, and like policing, such violence can be enabled and plausibly denied by sufficiently complex data and maps. Where the urban planner has eminent domain and urban renewal, the police officer has crime hotspots and risk terrain modeling. Where a planner might control a city through highway design and traffic flows, a police department’s automated license plate readers or mobile cell site simulators render public movement into potential patterns of criminal behavior...

Of course, as tremendous instruments of power and violence, maps have been used by police (agents of the former, authorized to hold a monopoly on the latter) for decades. But in the 1990s, the emergence of desktop GIS software for and in police departments dramatically increased the data collection and storage capacities of that “information business.” The technology’s adoption coincided with the era of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and his avuncular lieutenant Jack Maple. This is where many histories tend to pinpoint the transformational moment for crime mapping: Bratton and Maple tracking turnstile jumpers in the New York City subway system, Maple outlining a four-point theory of policing management on a napkin at Elaine’s restaurant (“Accurate, timely intelligence; rapid deployment, effective tactics; relentless follow-up and assessment”), New York’s crime rate precipitously falling thanks to the data-driven innovations of CompStat....

The first CompStat maps were made with pins, paper, and transparent acetate. The NYPD technically didn’t have the budget to support their cost, so the New York City Police Foundation provided a $10,000 donation. Although the department would eventually switch to computerized maps, displayed on eight foot-by-eight foot screens in One Police Plaza, the image of police officers fumbling with pushpins and acetate film they could barely afford suggests a surprisingly scrappy origin story for a management strategy so often associated with precision and technical expertise — even if its own name is both vague and technically meaningless....

With the suspension of traditional legal oversight over surveillance, the NYPD Intelligence Bureau expanded the geography of threats to public disorder beyond the broken window and inside the perfectly-maintained façades of mosques, restaurants, and internet cafés in predominantly Muslim communities.

That geography fell primarily to the purview of the Demographics Unit, which employed a mix of street-level surveillance and undercover work with mapping and analysis of publicly available data.
predictive_policing  smart_cities  governance  urban_planning  policing  mapping 
june 2018 by shannon_mattern

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