In the aftermath of Ferguson, MO as well as a series of collective protests to police violence across the country, there was an outpouring of narratives from those in communities where police activity is concentrated. These narratives have highlighted the stark contrasts between the formal legal empowerment and right to be free from state interference and the daily, lived experience of citizens in poor communities.
Despite these prevalent narratives, current research is ill-suited to help us understand how the Michael Browns of America come to experience the police and state authority more broadly. Theories of how communities perceive the police and how these perceptions affect identity, relations among residents, and political action are underdeveloped. This important work requires a better way to measure these dynamics across communities. The Portals Policing Project aims to do just that.
Today, the Portals Project has collected over 850 conversations across 14 neighborhoods in six cities (Baltimore, MD, Chicago, IL, Los Angeles, CA, Milwaukee, WI, Newark, NJ and Mexico City, Mexico) - the most extensive collection of first-hand accounts of the police to date. More than a data collection technique, however, the Portals are a public good, civic infrastructure, and site of democratic deliberation.