Posts Tagged police

book review: Policing the City

Policing the City by Didier Fassin, Frederic Dubomy, Jake Raynal
Other Press, March 1, 2022. 112 p. 

Academic reports can be dry and difficult to absorb by those who aren’t in academia. Adapted from the essay ‘Enforcing Order,’ this ethnographic presents information in a thoughtful, accessible and creative format. It’s a fascinating exploration of law and order.

What is ethnography? Ethnography is a three-pronged social science practice. First, it involves sharing the everyday lives of those people studied over a long period of time. Second, the ethnographer establishes relationships and gradually makes discoveries, interfering as little as possible in the outcomes. Finally, it’s a writing practice that may take the form of articles , books, films, photographs to communicate their findings. 

Anthropologist and sociologist Didier Fassin spent 15 months in the mid-2000s observing an anti-crime squad in one of the largest precincts in the Paris region. The French people face many of the same challenges as those in the United States, particularly racism and police brutality against immigrants and minorities. Fassin wanted to understand the violence in these working-class, largely immigrant suburbs—“But more, perhaps, than the number of deaths, it is the police’s daily harassment of low-income groups and racial minorities and hence the experience of humiliation, discrimination, and violence, that leave the deepest marks in these communities.” 

Not only an academic, Fassin had first-hand experience as a resident of this urban community. His son was targeted by the police. In Policing the City, we see everyday routine and rituals and how police departments sustain prejudices and systemic violence against these communities. Fassin found that the police believe that judges can be too lenient and on-street punishment compensates for that. Police officers operate like vigilantes. Eight out of 10 officers were from rural areas or small towns with little experience in urban areas, leading to prejudices and leads to tensions and clashes between the police and residents of housing projects. He also observed that police have been given a lot of power and autonomy. This development led to more anti-crime squads throughout France. There needs to be greater diversity in police recruitment. In the UK, unarmed beat officers become integrated into the community. In the United States, an armed officer patrolling in a car with a limited relationship with the public is the norm. That’s the established model most everywhere worldwide. 

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When She Flew: review, author interview and giveaway

Title: When She Flew
Author: Jennie Shortridge
ISBN: 978-0451227980
Pages: 322
Publisher: NAL Trade (November 3, 2009)
Category: fiction
Review source: author
Rating: 4/5

In When She Flew, author Jennie Shortridge creatively focuses on two controversial and often overlooked issues: homelessness and child custody. In basing her novel on a true story about a Vietnam veteran forced to live of the grid, hiding in the woods with his 13-year-old daughter, Shortridge provides an empathetic and unique perspective into these issues through the viewpoint of the daughter, Lindy and one of the police officers involved in the case, Jessica Villareal. When She Flew is thought-provoking and you get deeply involved with the characters on both sides. It’s about the bond between parent and child, doing the best thing even if the decision to reach that point is complex and it is about so much more. The story provides plenty of suspenseful moments. I do not want to give anything away. Lindy and her father always had an escape plan if anyone encroached on their living situation. He knew no one would understand.

Officer Villareal [Jess] becomes complicit in allowing Lindy to reunite with her father and in essence escape from police custody and Child Protective Services or foster care. A mother herself, who had her own daughter choose to live with her father, Jess becomes almost haunted and truly invested in this case, knowing how the separation from her own daughter has changed her own life and how difficult it has been to repair the damages from the past.

Jess has many regrets about her past and in helping Lindy stay with the father that protects her and loves her, she feels she might be protecting this girl despite completely disobeying police orders. Will her career be in jeopardy due to her actions or will the police force understand in the end? Shortridge has written a compelling, provocative novel that is certain to spark numerous conversations and hopefully drive some people to action to help those less fortunate than themselves.

Jennie agreed to answer a few questions for me.

Amy Steele [AS]: Jennie, thank you for answering a few questions. I mainly asked questions from the early part of the book so that I wouldn’t give anything away.

AS: What is the significance of the herons and other birds in the book, like the barn owl?

Jennie Shortridge [JS]: From the moment I started to write Lindy, she was enamored of birds. She kept a rescued barn owl as a pet, and followed a heron out of the woods, setting the story in motion. Birds and flight became a metaphor not only for Lindy’s journey in the story, but for the other characters as well, including police officer Jessica Villareal and her estranged daughter, Nina. When it came time to give the book a title, which I tend to do at the end, When She Flew seemed to sum it all up!

AS: What type of research did you do on Iraqi war veterans and PTSD?

JS: I’ve long been interested in post-traumatic stress disorder, and how it affects those who’ve been through harrowing experiences. I’ve talked with mental health experts and read a lot of material, and talked with the police officer who was involved in the true story that inspired When She Flew. I’m really concerned about the plight of our returning veterans, so I wanted to help raise awareness of this issue. It’s estimated (and it’s probably a low estimate) that 30 percent of our returning veterans are dealing with PTSD.

AS: How do you feel about the treatment of homeless people especially based upon how they choose to live or on their appearance?

JS: Also close to my heart are the populations we often overlook and dismiss, such as those who are homeless or mentally ill. People are people. Humans are human, regardless of the situations they find themselves in due to illness, poverty, or just really bad luck. Some people in our society want to blame those kinds of folks for their plights, and by blaming them, clear their consciences of neglect. Call me a bleeding heart, but I think we need to help each other; we need to find ways in our society to make sure we are doing the best we can for all people.

AS: Why do you think people have such preconceived notions about the homeless and by writing this book what did you hope to achieve regarding people’s thought process towards the homeless?

JS: I have to imagine there are as many reasons that people turn away from those who need help as there are people, but I’m guessing it’s because it’s too ugly, too raw, too uncomfortable to face. We are a society based on fear at the moment. We fear anything that doesn’t come in a government approved hermetically sealed package. We fear humans who look different from us, who act differently, who make different choices. My hope in all of my books is always to expand awareness of the different kinds of people who populate our society, and to reveal their humanness, their vulnerabilities, their strengths, their beauties.

AS: As this was based on a true situation, how similar was the situation that the man you read about living in?

JS: I did a lot of research on the actual case, hiking into the forest to the actual encampment, walking the same paths and trails and streets. I met with the police officer countless times. I wanted to get nitty gritty details right so that I could fictionalize others believably. The father was an older man, a Vietnam vet, but his daughter was about the same age as Lindy. Their living situation was very similar, although they lived in a lean-to. Their trajectory away from the forest was similar, although I changed the story pretty dramatically to make it my own and not theirs.

AS: Why did you choose the swastika for Lindy and her father as their protective symbol?

JS: That’s actually a detail I chose from the true story because it was so compelling and made it so clear that the police had to intervene. There aren’t many symbols that have that kind of power and double meaning!

AS: How does Jess’s relationship with her daughter affect her decisions related to Lindy and if Jess were a male police officer how would the dynamics change?

JS: The actual police officer was a single dad, so I don’t think gender was as much at issue as it may appear. I think a parent is a parent, a fierce protector, a softie in the middle for a kid’s well-being. Jess is estranged from her own daughter and young grandson, and she is searching for some kind of connection. Lindy becomes a surrogate, in a way, a second chance to do right by a child, and Jess grabs at it.

AS: What was your greatest goal in writing this book?

JS: To serve the story without exploiting the actual people. It’s the first book I’ve fictionalized from real life, and I took that responsibility very seriously. Now I’m working on another story that fascinated me in real life, and I have to say, it’s really fun in addition to being a great challenge!

AS: Thank you! I enjoyed the read. Have a happy New Year.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for setting up the Book Tour and to Jennie Shortridge for such expediency in answering the questions and providing me with a copy of her wonderful novel.

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BOOK GIVEAWAY: Jennie Shortridge has been kind enough to offer to give away ONE copy of the novel When She Flew. Please leave your email in the comments. Open to U.S. residents only. Contest ends January 8.

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DVD review: Life on Mars: Series 2

Title: Life on Mars: Series 2 (UK)
Starring: John Simm, Philip Glenister, Liz White, and Dean Andrews
Running time: 468 minutes
MPAA: Not Rated
Release date: November 24, 2009
MPAA: unrated
Studio: Acorn Media
Review source: Acorn Media
Rating: A-

Life on Mars is a surreal, gripping and sometimes amusing [the writers chose the 70s for a reason] BBC original series, Detective Inspector Sam Tyler [John Simm] gets hit by a car in 2006 and wakes up in 1973 in his own Manchester precinct. He cannot believe it is 1973 or any of this is real. This is the nightmare from which he cannot awake. Everything is foreign to him and he cannot grasp how outdated and seemingly backwards everything is in 1973. The other detectives behave boorishly and in an unregulated manner that often does not sit well with Tyler. Yet to work with this force, he has to come to terms it. And in Series 2, he looks the part even though he acts much more modern. Tyler’s friendship with Annie [Liz White], an officer in the women’s division of the force [he treats her as an equal and values her input on cases], blossoms into a romance. Finally! There was so much will they/won’t they in Series 1. Life on Mars makes everyone in 1973 daft, chauvinistic, and almost savage. Tyler has managed to break many of his fellow officers’ of their bad habits but he still has issues. Now Tyler is back out on cases, trying to stay sane from the voices he hears in his head [hospital monitors beeping, his mother calling his name] and strange people in the street and television characters talking to him. In the past, he runs into his greatest case from the future who he now believes is tormenting him at his bedside. Tyler is obsessed with taking this guy down NOW in the 70s. He’s in limbo: getting called into the future but physically stuck in the past. Life on Mars is a well-written, clever program with a mix of vintage and present tone and style. The tense storylines and unpredictable nature of the show will keep you on edge, particularly with the intense ending.

Bonus Features:

“The Return of Life on Mars” documentary (45 min.)
Bonus behind-the-scenes footage for episodes 3, 5, and 7 and tour of the set (48 min.)
“The End of Life on Mars” featurette (28 min.)

 –review by Amy Steele

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book review: Internal Affairs

Author: Connie Dial
Publisher: The Permanent Press

In her debut novel, former commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department [LAPD] Connie Dial uses her experience and knowledge to pen a mystery about the LAPD. By choosing the dichotomous title Dial is able to weave a novel revolving around an Internal Affairs investigation of the LAPD and etch an accurate, multifaceted portrait about the internal affairs of the LAPD. Internal Affairs is both a whodunit and a guide to what drives many of LAPD’s finest.

When the mutilated body of a West Los Angeles police officer is found in the trunk of a police vehicle on the street in front of the LAPD Deputy Chief Jim McGann’s home all signs point to him as the doer. He had an affair with Alexandra Williams. But it cannot be that easy, can it? Welcome to the LAPD where there are good cops, bad cops, and cops who just look the other way until their pensions kick in. Fortunately Sergeant Mike Turner, investigator for Internal Affairs is leading up the case and he is the type of guy who likes boots on the ground investigative work. He doesn’t like to stay behind a desk and climb through the ranks like his girlfriend, Lieutenant Paula Toscano, adjutant for the Chief of Staff. For Paula, rank and propriety is everything. For Mike, justice and solid police work is most important. These concepts clash as the case moves ahead and more members of the LAPD get entangled in the death of Officer Williams.

She loved him but didn’t like this reversion. They should be discussing department policy and long-term objectives, not autopsies and search warrants. She like the adrenaline high too and missed it, but at this stage in their careers, they should be managing cases, not sitting up all night doing the grunt work. She was beyond the nuts and bolts of police work and thought he was, too. He’d told her he was. She knew this business was like a narcotic. Turner had gotten a taste and was hooked again. She’d wanted to call the shots, not do the bookings. He was slipping back into that other world. It was a small crack that in a few more days might become a canyon unless he walked away right then. Her real fear was that he didn’t want the life she wanted for him and would never really accept it. He had so much to offer and was capable of so much more. She felt as if he was settling for the easy, familiar road of his past and throwing away his future. She’d rehearsed saying all these things, making such a good argument, and then he hadn’t come home, at least not while she was conscious.

Internal Affairs is a rewarding, solid intrigue as the case gets increasingly complex and the players are reluctant to get involved in uncovering the truth as their own careers may be jeopardized. Internal Affairs provides a riveting glimpse, both expansive and specific, into what police officers might be going through on a daily, weekly and yearly basis in their careers. With Dial’s backstage viewpoint, Internal Affairs provides a snapshot into the lifestyle. Most importantly, the novel delves into the feminist aspect of the police force and the LAPD with “The Mafia,” a group of highly ranked women who meet weekly. Few women make it that far up in the ranks on any police force and Dial touches on this often [the unique challenges and prejudices these women face] in Internal Affairs [I think Dial has a compelling non-fiction book in her about this topic alone]. Internal Affairs is an absorbing read for scores of reasons.

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