Source: Al Jazeera America
Spreading bad policing models to Latin America can only exacerbate inequality and state violence
A young activist named Diego Ibáñez, a native of Bolivia, is accused of spraying New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton with fake blood at a Times Square rally on Nov. 24. Protesters were angry not just about the deaths of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island in New York.
Images of the action drew attention to the export of violent police practices from New York to Latin America by consulting firms that employ Bratton and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Through their alliance with criminologist George Kelling of the conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute, Bratton and Giuliani have been preaching the broken-windows policing gospel to mayors and police departments in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.
The broken-windows or zero-tolerance theory argues that serious crime is best prevented when smaller quality-of-life crimes are not tolerated. When, for example, graffiti and petty crime are permitted in urban spaces, the theory holds, criminals are emboldened to commit more serious crimes.
But in reality broken-windows policing, which does nothing to address the causes of crime, such as systemic poverty, is primarily designed to allow promising downtown spaces to gentrify for economic development and turns peripheral areas, where poverty is concentrated, into mini police states where all residents are potential suspects.
Bratton — Giuliani’s police commissioner in the early 1990s — helped implement an early version of the broken-windows theory at a time when the city was beginning its gentrification project, one that sent real estate prices soaring. Bratton and Giuliani had a famous falling out after Giuliani unceremoniously dismissed him from his post in 1996, and they have quietly become two important competing consultants for police forces in Latin America and the rest of the world.