week 5 – transcribing SUCKS

Mar 16, 2019

Hi there!

I’m just going to open this week’s blog entry with: transcribing interviews is probably the worst thing that anyone has ever had to do ever.

Bold statement, I know, but you won’t understand it without having gone through the pain of sitting at your desk, three hours after the interview has ended, halfway through your transcription, having already tried Google’s speech-to-text which DIDN’T WORK I TRIED IT STOP SUGGESTING IT, eyes burning and fingers aching, desperately playing and replaying minute 33:06 because you can’t tell if the person you’re interviewing said “whole” or “hold.” No, I’m not okay.

Other than the painful process of transcribing, though, this week I mostly moved away from coding and focused more on the interviews that I had yet to complete: those of Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability, and Captain Paul Figueroa and Deputy Chief Leronne Armstrong of the Oakland Police Department.

After drafting and finalizing the questions on Monday and Tuesday, I began with my first interview, which happened to be Rashidah’s. The transcript of the interview can be found here. Rashidah started the Coalition for Police Accountability following an unfavorable run-in with the Oakland police in an effort to quarantine her son’s dog; in the following encounter, both her husband and her son were killed. This incident motivated her to advocate for increased accountability and reforms among the Oakland Police Department, mainly measure LL, which allowed for the implementation of a citizen review board, the Community Police Review Agency (CPRA), that will oversee the department. Since this measure passed, she has been helping organizations in different cities advocate for similar reform, as well as trying to increase accountability further through new reform. The issue, and the reforms that have been introduced that attempt to correct the issue, are very complex, and this interview was vastly helpful in improving my understanding of them as a whole. A very important takeaway I got from this interview is that a database similar to mine would have to rely primarily on self-reporting, which in and of itself is incredibly problematic – Rashidah brough this very good point up, so I’m going to have to figure out a way to minimize the problems that come with that.

After this, I moved on to my next two interviews, those of Captain Figueroa and Deputy Chief Armstrong. Captain Figueroa was not only super nice and helpful, but the perspective he provided to me regarding the issue of police misconduct as a whole was super helpful. He explained that, while the media and the public have hours and days to scrutinize decisions that police officers make and decide the “appropriate response,” officers on the scene have a split second to make a decision, and therefore this decision may not always match up with the “appropriate” one. He also explained to me that the definition of misconduct varies between departments and between states, so in creating my database, I’m going to need to have a very solid definition of misconduct before I can go about entering data. Other than that, he gave me some really helpful insight about police training in both use of force and nonviolent de-escalation, the hiring process of officers and what factors might prevent an officer from being hired, and reform efforts that have been implemented, like the CPRA. Deputy Chief Armstrong offered me similar information, expanding a little more about training and hiring practices, as well as overall reform measures and the current tracking system for misconduct. However, he was able to give me a very interesting take on the issue as a whole, being a person of color himself. I haven’t had a chance to transcribe his interview yet (rest assured, it will be a very painful process), but I’ll make sure to attach the transcript in next week’s post.

Though the process of transcribing was painful, getting to interview all of these amazing, driven, knowledgeable people was an invaluable experience that I found super fun and interesting, and I’m sad that all of my interviews are now finished. At least now that these are done, though, I can get to do some serious work on the actual database that I’m creating.

I’m excited to see what lies ahead!

4 Replies to “week 5 – transcribing SUCKS”

  1. Abby W. says:

    ur my biggest inspo. i can transcribe some for you also

  2. Mr. Vermouth says:

    Hi Sami,

    Yes, transcribing interviews is… terrible. But it seems like these interviews yielded some really great results. In terms of the self-reporting issue, I think that the community-based oversight committees could maybe have a hand in regulating this. If more cities implemented civilian oversight, they could possibly enforce the reporting of different incidences or charges.
    I am glad that you had such positive takeaways from your interviews with police officers. We will definitely want to look at hiring practices when setting the parameters of your database.

  3. Anuradha Srikanth says:

    while i agree w Captain Figueroa that officers only have a second to respond appropriately, officers and police departments should still be held accountable for those actions because ultimately it’s the lack of training (or maybe incorrect training) that accounts for those “lapses in judgment” that result in the deaths of black men.


  4. David Z. says:

    I’m planning to interview Rashida in the following weeks too. Great to see that you are working with the Coalition as well 🙂

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