Friday, October 29, 2004

The Criminal Justice Military-Industrial Complex (Article Evaluation)

I just finished reading an article titled The Militarization of Policing in the Information Age by Kevin D. Haggerty and Richard V. Ericson, published in the Journal of Political and Military Sociology in Winter, 1999 (Volume 27, pages 233-255, no link to article available).

The authors provide a fascinating analysis of the directed technology transfer of military technologies to the police. The authors are both Canadian academics and assess developments in Canada, Great Britian, and the US.

While several US cities have embraced [surveillance] efforts, the UK has been the leader among western nations in their attempts to surveil the city. It has reached the point that a city dweller in Britain can now expect to be caught on film every five minutes. Such efforts have a clear military lineage. For example, the British leadership in this area can be traced in part to the several decades of experimentation with electronic counterinsurgency and antiterrorist city planning conducted in Belfast by the British Army. (citations omitted)

The end of the Cold War caused many defense contractors to seek civilian markets for their products and thus qualify their product line as "dual use", thus creating an additional Defense Department funding justification, opening up civilian and police technology funding sources, as well as creating a vast secondary market.

This has given the police many new surveillance and data mining tools to play with. The social implications of these new forms of police surveillance are of great interest to me. The authors write in their conclusion:
The introduction of such communication technologies into policing is no t the harbinger of a totally controlled society. What we appear to be witnessing is the emergence of a society where both surveillance and the public knowledge of such surveillance is increasingly the norm. It is this reflexive public appreciation of surveillance which can introduce a dynamic interplay between the watchers and the watched. Even as the optics of these new technologies become more refined, people search out spaces (both physical and informational) beyond official scrutiny and attempt to creatively turn the gaze back upon the official watchers. (citations omitted)

If you have the time, I suggest reading the whole article. It's available from your local library through the magic of InterLibrary Loan (ILL).

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