This week has been particularly busy for my project, and the next few weeks will probably be so as well, as I’ve begun the process of interviewing so that I can gather information for my database.
The first few days of the week were spent preparing for these interviews; I spent most of Monday and Tuesday reading the last book I had on my list, Ethics in Policing: Misconduct and Integrity by Julie Raines of Northern Kentucky University. The book primarily focused on the different motivations of officers when both committing and reporting misconduct, and explained how the current political climate as well as officer training and implicit biases can come to have an effect on the issue overall. I found the reading very interesting, and the knowledge I gained from the three books I have read over the past few weeks allowed me to begin drafting interview questions.
I began with Dr. Aaron Shapiro of the University of Pennsylvania, who also happens to be one of my outside advisors and who specializes in policing and urban studies. The goal of this interview was to get a professional opinion regarding how politics and the media affect the very polarized issue of police misconduct and accountability, if current reform efforts are effective, why officer convictions are so rare, and why no current federal database exists.
From this interview, I was able to gather that one of the main sources of the issue of police misconduct is the idea of mass incarceration, that putting people from poorer communities in prison without addressing the fundamental issues of these communities, and this results in biases and allows these incidents to continue. Dr. Shapiro also discussed how there was no clear solution, but ideas like databases and algorithms to predict misconduct and bad behavior can be helpful. He also brought up the interesting concept that, due to police departments having difficulties hiring, education requirements are frequently lowered, and officers with fewer years of education are more likely to commit misconduct. Overall, Dr. Shapiro gave me some helpful suggestions for people to reach out to and books to read, as well as a better idea of things that I should include in my database.
I also drafted the interview questions for Philip M. Stinson, the former cop who created his own database mentioned in this article. I thought his experience as a police officer would be helpful, so a lot of the questions I wrote focus on what the current method of tracking misconduct is, what the repercussions are against accused officers, why officer convictions are so rare, what current reform efforts exist, and why and how he decided to create a database in the first place. I also plan to ask him about what kind of information such a database should include.
In terms of future planning, I have scheduled the interviews of two Oakland police officers, Captain Paul Figueroa and Deputy Chief Leronne Armstrong.
Lastly, I have completed some more pretty basic coding, and I hope to move on to the more specific aspects of my coding next week, since by then after my interviews I will have more knowledge about what kind of information I should be including. I also hope to be able to go to Oakland at some point in the next few weeks, since there were some complications with that this week, so that I can observe the policing situation in a “crime-heavy” area firsthand.