Ayesha Kazmi

PERF’s Jamaican Misadventures

In The Political on 28/12/2011 at 22:53

Recent probing into the independent investigation of the Oakland Police Department (OPD), launched by Mayor Jean Quan to review the heavy handed actions of Oakland police at the Occupy crackdowns, revealed that the investigation to survey police conduct was anything but independent.

According to videographer, Scott Campbell, who was shot in the leg by a rubber bullet by the OPD, “The ‘independent’ investigation proposed by the city is just another version of the police investigating the police … This is especially true given the questionable past conduct of the ‘investigators’.”

According to the authors of “Quan’s codependent investigation of the OPD”, Scott Johnson and @MaryMad, the “independent” investigators have too many ties to the police, including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and, most notably, the Police Executives’ Research Forum (PERF).

Johnson and @MaryMad charge Mayor Quan as having merely “created an investigation to appease those concerned about police violence while bending over backwards to avoid hurting the feelings of the police officers”. In other words, while directing a violent suppression of peaceful protesters simply exercising their first amendment rights, an OPD hallmark, particularly of people of colour (POC), Mayor Quan simultaneously covers her tracks by launching an investigation of police misconduct by the very forces that are instigating that violence.

Although Mayor Quan is in good company while she stands knee deep in contradiction. Thomas Frazier, a special advisor to the OPD, Frazier, whom I wrote about last month, was a member of the Department of Justice (DoJ) less lethals research group and was also once president of PERF. Frazier is currently leading the “independent” investigation of the OPD. The surfacing of PERF, once again, is where I would like to draw attention. PERF, much like Quan and Frazier, also has a seemingly excessive habit of throwing themselves knee deep into contradiction.

Since PERF’s executive director, Chuck Wexler’s now infamous appearance on Democracy Now! whereby admitting to leading conference calls consulting Mayors and police chiefs around the country on how best to deal with the occupy movement, the public’s attention on this shadowy organisation has intensified. Journalists like Max Blumenthal revealed that Wexler had been sponsoring international trips for police officials to receive policing instruction in Israel in his extensive piece “The Israelification of American Domestic Security”, to Philip Brennan who brought attention to PERF’s British connection, to Kade Crockford of the Massachusetts chapter of the ACLU who investigated PERF’s close working relationship with Lockheed Martin. Johnson and @MaryMad’s latest piece is merely another anticipated installment of this rather mysterious jigsaw puzzle. To quote Crockford, “PERF should continue to be the subject of journalistic and citizen inquiry.”

Research into PERF’s conduct is particularly crucial given PERF’s insistence on dressing themselves in progressive standards. While admitting to consulting with police chiefs and local mayors on how to best handle occupy movements around the United States, with violently disastrous results, PERF asserts an image as a police think tank “promoting community policing and police strategies that ensure everyone’s Constitutional rights, including First Amendment free speech rights, are protected”. Adding to this image are articles such as Joshua Holland’s retort to Naomi Wolf’s botched Guardian piece in which Holland insists that PERF is anything but shadowy.

“Last year, it held a conference call among police chiefs who were worried that Arizona’s harsh immigration law, SB 1070, would drive a wedge between law enforcement agencies and the immigrant communities they are supposed to protect and serve. Fox “News” ran a story at the time alleging that PERF was some sort of far-left police organization and therefore illegitimate. Now we’re getting a similar story from progressives, which is discouraging.”

Yet looking through PERF’s history provides us with quite the contrary picture. It appears that the Fox News attack has provided PERF with a “get out of jail for free” card and, thus, PERF has potentially used this as a mechanism to cozy itself in the left. Articles in alternative/independent news sources, such as AlterNet, reinforce this problematic image, while the sticky legacy, as discussed in my previous investigation on PERF and the Anonymous “d0x” (link subsequently removed by stickypaste.com), of many of those on PERF’s Board of Directors, members, and previous presidents are enough to cause alarm – one only really has to say the names of John Timoney and Tim Dolan around activists circles to elicit a jeering response.

Consequently, it should not come as any surprise that the following article from 18 May 2008 appeared in the Jamaica Gleaner. The article titled “Grants Pen residents say policing model failed”, states that according to a 2008 study:

“Residents of Grants Pen, located in north St Andrew [Kingston, Jamaica], are agreeing with the findings of a study commissioned by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that points to the failure of a coalition of private-sector groups to restore civility to the battle-worn community.

“’It is not a model in terms of success and replicability,’ the report reveals.

“Attracting a cost of J$177 million, the policing model was conceptualised and implemented to harmonise the relationship between residents and the police, soften the image of the community, and reduce the high crime rate…

“However, two years into the project, crime has not been significantly reduced and the community continues to experience disunity. Residents tell The Sunday Gleaner that the well-intentioned project has failed them.”

PERF had a 3 year contract from 2002-2005 to conduct police reform in Kingston, Jamaica, and the coalition of private sector groups mentioned above had been formulated by PERF.

However, true to its propensity to angle itself as a progressive leaning police think tank, Wexler, in PERF’s April 2004 newsletter (download PDF here) which was devoted entirely to their Jamaica project, delighted in PERF’s ability to “make a difference” in poverty and crime stricken Kingston with promises of making community based reforms in the Jamaican police force, or the Jamaican Constabulary Force (JCF), in order to build trust and harmonise the relationship between citizens and police.

Clearly, things had not gone to plan, with wide criticism from citizens, academics, and the media.  According to the same Jamaica Gleaner article, police injustice and brutality, since the PERF reforms, increased mistrust amongst Kingston residents toward the JCF in the years following PERF’s intervention.

What went wrong?

It is difficult to piece things together. Last month, I pulled together several sources that speak about PERF’s involvement in Jamaica – sources, such as the April 2004 newsletter, items on wikileaks, reports published by USAID and the American Chamber of Commerce, and finally newspaper articles in the Jamaica Gleaner. I will do my best to piece together what I believe happened in Kingston, Jamaica in installment pieces.

I should hopefully have the next installment up within the next 24-48 hours. Do check back!

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  1. […] According to the authors of “Quan’s codependent investigation of the OPD”, Scott Johnson and @MaryMad , the “independent” investigators have too many ties to the police, including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and, most notably, the Police Executives’ Research Forum (PERF). PERF’s Jamaican Misadventures « AmericanPaki […]

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