Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Critical Perspectives on Quality of Life Policing

The new Tenderloin Community Justice Center has potential to improve community-police relations in the neighborhood. In order to make sure the project doesn't stray toward further unfair criminalization of homeless people and other disempowered members of the community, it's useful to take a look at some of the recent criticism of "Quality of Life" policing. For a critical perspective on the issue, take a look at Incite!'s FAQ and factsheet, available at http://www.incite-national.org/index.php?s=107

3 comments:

Hadar Aviram said...

While the concerns regarding criminalization of the poor are not unwarranted in general, and I don't take them lightly, I think the concerns that the CJC might contribute to this can be alleviated through a better acquaintance with the program. The CJC mandate makes a point of assuring that a criminal conviction, or even criminal charges, are not a condition for obtaining social services through the welfare "wing" of the court. IMHO, many of the folks who object to the CJC on these grounds would come on board if this information was more widely known.

That said, the quality-of-life issue certainly merits discussion. Interestingly, one of the issues brought up at the town hall meeting had to do with non-policing community answers to problems like, uhm, public urination in the street. If more businesses were committed to community building, and were willing to open their toilets to the public, we would perhaps have less of a problem.

I hope we'll hear more from proponents and opponents at the conference.

Heather said...

Following Jonathan Simon's post from last summer (http://governingthroughcrime.blogspot.com/2008/07/community-justice.html), my main concern with the CJC is that it puts courts in the center of the discussion of poverty. It seems like the city has a motive to 'clean up' the Tenderloin in a way that not all members of the community would find accepbable.

Hadar Aviram said...

That's a very good point, Heather. I guess one of the things that we need to address, as a society, is why we need to frame all social problems - even when we have noble aims in mind - in terms of crime. What I'm wondering is whether we're doing more good by focusing our efforts on reframing the issue or by working with the existing frame. It's a tough one and I'm not sure it has a right answer.