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Yearly Archives: 2015
Privacy is a rapidly changing concept. In many respects, it has faded markedly over recent decades. Transparency seems an almost overwhelming zeitgeist. Secrets have become very hard to keep, despite vigorous attempts. See, e.g., http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/dr20151208-untraceable-communication-guaranteed . This new work, in itself, is not a paradigm shift as much as it is a modernizing of a model long in use — e.g., two users sharing a username and password who leave messages in “draft” form on an email server which, itself, was a technologized update of the “dead drop” methodology spies have used as long as there have been spies.
Hope springs eternal, e.g., https://gcn.com/articles/2015/12/08/private-data-as-a-service.aspx . However, for the nonce, privacy and transparency remain locked in a continuing battle, much like bazookas (and their successors) versus armor. When the power of attackers increases the defenders develop stronger protections. Thus it has been, both in physical and digital worlds, for a long time.
What changes that dynamic usually is a paradigm shift, often from outside the attacker/defender box. The paradigm shift may reflect changes in technology and/or changes in mindset but, either way, the old attacker/defender paradigm becomes either less useful or irrelevant.
What possible paradigm shifts do we see? For example,
1. could the general public become more comfortable with increasing transparency, including to police and other intelligence agencies?
2. could invasive technologies stably overcome any probable defenses?
3. could an electromagnetic pulse (or a conceptual equivalent) stably make this game irrelevant?
Most people seem to agree that the primary purpose of terrorism is to create terror. At least we agree in theory. When it gets down to brass tacks, agreement is a little harder to come by.
We label events as “terrorism” (or not) depending in part on:
a. association with others we label terrorists
b. damage done, injuries and deaths caused, especially if at a socially valued target (gang fights in the slums rarely are labeled terrorism).
c. whether we are surprised at the event, e.g., we don’t label as terrorism the “usual” friday night bar fight, anything that’s “normal” for the neighborhood (even if people are made afraid).
d. political proclivities and the sociological other
What seems odd is that, other than the folks who are “hysterical for a living,” few seem interested in measuring fearfulness. Media denizens don’t generally use objective measures, so they’re not helpful for our purpose.
We’re left with a definition way out of sync with how we actually apply the label. So, where are we likely to be going, e.g.,
a. abandon the concept of terrorism, merging it instead with “violent crime” or something similar? This would implicitly recognize that victims of violent — and even nonviolent — crimes often become fearful.
b. consistently restrict it to events where the avowed purpose was to create fear. If this choice is adopted, the label would have to be an outcome of subsequent investigation. That delay probably would not sit well with the political classes.
c. abandon the term as rife with surplus meaning, misleading, and, errrr, fear-mongering.
What is your conceptualization of terrorism? is it
b. the destruction of the world trade centers in New York?
c. Coordinated team-based attacks such as at Mumbai or, more recently, Paris?
d. Lone wolves (e.g., http://www.lonewolfthreat.com) such as Timothy McVey?
e. the various Al Qaeda affiliates and copycats?
f. ad hoc street gangs?
g. organized (or disorganized) crime by another name?
Have we created too broad a rubric for it to be useful? To what extent should police and/or military be engaged in conflict with these folks, and how? How can terrorism best be impeded or prevented?
What does our future look like in a world where terrorism seems to make frequent headlines?
Consider http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2015/1123/New-Orleans-park-shooting-rattles-city-enjoying-record-low-homicides-video among many others. Some cities, e.g., New Orleans, while not as peaceful as one might wish, seem to be stabilizing in terms of homicide while others, e.g., Baltimore and Chicago and Milwaukee, seem to be experiencing increased violence.
Be the details as they may, and conclusions depending upon which measures one chooses, it’s clear that violence is up in some places and down in others. The core question remains, “Why?”
Criminologists and others have been debating the uneven distribution of crime for a very long time. Police futurists, wonder, naturally enough, what role police might have if we were more effectively to “protect and serve.” At present, police are often recognized as part of the problem. Looking ahead,
- can police become a more effective part of the solution? if so, how?
- what parts of the solution are best addressed by other components of the community instead?
Community policing, by a variety of names, has been around for a very long time. Some would argue that it precedes Sir Robert Peel’s principles (e.g., http://lacp.org/2009-Articles-Main/062609-Peels9Principals-SandyNazemi.htm).
In a more modern context, it has been contrasted with both combat policing and neighborhood-driven policing (http://futuresworkinggroup.cos.ucf.edu/docs/Volume%201/Vol1-NDP-FWG.pdf , p. 9). Many police believe that there are times where each of those models might be appropriate.
In the wake of recent U.S. uproars , in Sanford FL, Ferguson MO, Baltimore MD and a variety of other places and including on or near various college campuses, there has been a re-examination of what is right and proper for police to do. That re-examination is still under way.
The relationship between police and community has never been a stable one, nor should it be. For example, when gang members are shooting at me, I want combat policing to come to my rescue. However, when my neighbors and I disagree about the proper care of our front lawns and the disagreement gets out of hand, it is not combat policing that is likely to produce an improved situation.
All of us at heart want policing customized to the needs we perceive at the time. However, what happens when what I perceive is not the same as what my neighbor perceives? What if my neighbor is of a demographic different than mine? Suddenly the police role becomes a bit more of a challenge.
None of the above is new. What is new is that in the U.S. many police departments and policing associations are engaged in discussion regarding how we might better “protect and serve.” A goal of that discussion is to build futures better than our past. The Society of Police Futurists International has that discussion front and center on its agenda.
This one was developed by the folks at Argonne National Laboratory. It’s at https://vimeo.com/36975812 . It is 15 minutes long. As you proceed through it, consider
- how the police of today could have helped
- how the police of the future will have to be different from today if they are to contribute more to the resolution of the scenario.
- then consider how police might get from where we are to where we would need to be.