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Articles by Benjamin Tschirhart

Louisiana Sheriffs Repeatedly and Conveniently Destroy Public Records

by Benjamin Tschirhart

There are 64 sheriffs across the state of Louisiana. Despite what many of them apparently believe, they are subject to certain rules and laws, just like the rest of us. That message just hasn’t reached some of them. Two-thirds of them appear to be in violation of ...

Sheep and Sheepdogs: Use and Abuse of Non-Lethal Crowd Control Weapons

by Benjamin Tschirhart  

To understand the true gap between the role of the police as understood by the public (to protect and serve) and as understood by the police themselves, one need look no further than a protest or public demonstration. Here, especially when provoked, police quickly assume their ...

Closed Circuit Cameras: Not the Objective Lenses We’re Told

by Benjamin Tschirhart

The camera is the ultimate symbol of faithful and accurate recording in the public consciousness. Photographs and camera footage command overwhelming respect and deference from candid, everyday selfies all the way to court proceedings. “The camera doesn’t lie,” as the saying goes. Or so popular wisdom would ...

Police Departments Conspire with Boards to Secretly Install License Plate Cameras Without Consent of Residents

by Benjamin Tschirhart

Flock Safety” sounds innocuous, like a company that might provide security for chicken farmers. However, this company has nothing to do with fowl. But make no mistake; what they do is foul. Speaking to the people of Lakeway, Texas, Mayor Thomas Kilgore felt compelled to make the disclosure that “a surveillance system has been installed in the city of Lakeway.” Usually, when a community installs a system like this, they have some knowledge of it – not this time. “We find ourselves with a surveillance system, with no information and no policies, procedures or protections.”

As the mayor, the people of Lakeway probably ought to expect that the mayor’s office might know something about the eight license plate readers that had been installed on roads in the town, both public and private. He didn’t. He only learned about the existence of the cameras after they had already been in place, capturing people’s movement for around six months. The executive branch of the city had taken no part in the decision. That honor had been claimed by the Rough Hollow Homeowners Association and its governing body, “Legend Communities,” which signed a deal in January 2021 granting local police ...

Banishment: Using an Ancient Solution to Address a Modern Problem

by Benjamin Tschirhart

The old has become new again in the city of Saint Louis. For several years now, police have been issuing “neighborhood orders of protection,” which forbid a cited person from entering a specific municipal area for a certain amount of time. Those found in violation of the order may be arrested and criminally charged. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing.

Ancient Origins

Ostracism is one of the oldest forms of democratic discipline, first appearing in the historical record around 500 BCE in ancient Greece. Each year, the voting citizens of Athens had the chance to banish one person from the city for a period of 10 years. Each man in the assembly would scratch the name of his candidate on a clay pot shard or ostrakon. The person whose name appeared the most was forced to leave the city for a period of 10 years. If he returned before that time, the penalty was death. However, his property and estate were not forfeit, and he could reclaim them, stepping back into social life upon his return.

Ostracism was used in ancient Greece as a preemptive measure. In this way, it bears some resemblance ...

Police Study Shows That Reform and Effectiveness Are Not Mutually Exclusive

by Benjamin Tschirhart

Following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, a new social movement has emerged and is growing in popularity. The burgeoning movement is calling for police reform along with the reduction of police budgets and tighter reigns on police training and tactics. Their demand (shocking many conservative thinkers) is to “Defund the Police!”

An opposing viewpoint insists that whatever the measures required for the reform of police culture, a reduction of police power and funding must necessarily lead to a decline in their institutional effectiveness. This, they insist, will lead in turn to predictable (and terrible) social outcomes: more crime and the destabilization of society. In the U.S. there exists a “law–and-order” tradition which places a premium on authority and values conformity to social norms and rules. Under this predominantly conservative paradigm, failure to comply with the exercise of official authority is interpreted as “defiance.” The authoritarian institutional culture which pervades much of law enforcement is preoccupied with control and punishment; perceived defiance is often answered with immediate and overwhelming force.

It is against this social backdrop that the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University published a study in the Fall 2022 ...

The Business of Dying: Coroners, Medical Examiners, and the Crisis of Death Investigations in the United States

by Benjamin Tschirhart

A medieval system: historical and modern coroners and death investigations

If there is one thing which most sets us apart as humans, it must be our answer to death. We are not the only creatures who mourn our dead, but we are among the only ones who ...

Police Killings Reach Record High – But Also Lower than Ever Before

by Benjamin Tschirhart

There were more police killings last year than any year before. Also, we’ve never had it so good. Different sources are claiming both of these things. Obviously, they can’t both be true. Or can they? The only certain (and least satisfying) answer seems to be this: the ...

Police Violence Ignored When It Fails to Support the Media’s Ideological Bias

by Benjamin Tschirhart and Richard Resch

The tragic shootings of Black people by white police officers are a catalyst for national outrage. They are regular grist for the media mill across the country and rightly receive the attention of the public when they occur, as they do all too frequently. ...

Supervised Release and the Erosion of Due Process Protection

by Benjamin Tschirhart

There is an abundance of ways to become involved in the U.S. carceral state. Going in is very easy, but getting out, now, that’s a different story. In fact, for many people convicted of a crime, their involvement with the criminal justice system will be lifelong, even ...

 

 

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