Data-Driven Policing on Stolen Land

Matyos Kidane and Ni Anaya from the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition about their work 

Abolition really takes creativity. You have to think of another world that’s possible

Ni Anaya

During the Allied Media Conference, the Abolish Carceral Tech track is filled with hands-on workshops, meet-ups for community-building, and epic sessions of strategising and dreaming. In this series,  Justice, Equity, and Technology Table member Safia Oulmane speaks with session organisers about their work. Matyos Kidane and Ni Anaya share more about the session Data Driven Policing on Stolen Land.

Data Driven Policing Interview

The session 

Colonisers have always used data to subjugate people and violently possess land. Today’s so-called “data-driven” policing – such as through the use of algorithms and predictive analytics to target people and places – is a continuation of that history. In Los Angeles, California, the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition organises against these tactics. In their report Automating Banishment: The Surveillance and Policing of Looted Lands, the Coalition explores the relationship between policing and land in Los Angeles, exposing the relationships between policing, displacement, real estate development, and conquest.

At the 2022 Allied Media Conference, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition will share the findings of the report. Using interactive tools, they will help session participants uncover shared logics and harms among their diverse experiences. The Coalition will also map out how such experiences are interrelated through industrial, non-profit, and academic complicity in policing. Rather than seeking to reform, regulate, or refine data-driven policing technologies – as has been the predominant approach across the United States – the Coalition aims to abolish them while seeking reparations for communities who have been harmed.

Session organisers Matyos Kidane and Ni Anaya about their backgrounds, their work and their vision for this session. 

What got you involved with this work?

Matyos: "I come from a similar background as most of the folks here. My family emigrated to the U.S. when I was young. Most of my family was politically active in Ethiopia, but I wasn’t really interested or involved [at that time]. Growing up in Los Angeles, I viewed policing as an occasional nuisance, but not really a danger. A lot of that had to do with my privilege as an African immigrant. But as I got older, I witnessed police violence, and with my presentation as a Black man, I was targeted more and my relationship with police changed. I started organising Black Lives Matter in Los Angeles and eventually I heard Hamid and Jamie Garcia (from Stop LAPD Spying) speak. Through that, I plugged into the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and now I am lucky enough to be part of their staff.

My daily work consists of collaborative research in our workgroups. This looks like community outreach based in Skid Row1 as well as in other neighbourhoods in South Los Angeles. I also engage in public forums like the board of police commissioners’ meetings or city council meetings."

Ni: "What got me involved specifically with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition was that after coming back into the neighbourhood from university for a while and seeing the changes that were happening; seeing that many folks who I grew up with have continued to be arrested, deported, and murdered by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).  There are instances in which folks would be running away from the police and end up dying because of the deadly consequences of the policing program.

I like to think that I've been an abolitionist since I was a kid – both as a child of immigrants and as someone who has witnessed a lot of domestic violence in a home setting. When you’re undocumented in a patriarchal society, I've seen how you’re not able to get help because of the fear of your status. The only resources available, which folks are forced to utilise, are through policing. And, as we know, especially when it comes to patriarchal heteronormativity, with anti-Blackness and anti-immigration, it has deadly consequences for us.

That analysis has been really strong for the Coalition. Even in my own experiences of being stopped and searched, of being constantly harassed as a kid for doing what we had to do; knowing that substance abuse and harm, including my own substance abuse. Rather than waking folks up to understanding our traumas, society has really looked to criminalise folks and not really understood where folks are coming from.

So, our daily engagement looks like building analysis and finding creative ways to dismantle things that are constantly reinforced while we are told "this is the only way possible". Abolition really takes creativity. You have to think of another world that’s possible. Despite the fact that the policing system hasn’t been working for a long time, we keep getting sold the lies of reform; the lie that our abusers are going to do better, be better, and that there’s going to be some oversight when we know this is just another form of abuse and gaslighting. So we are really looking for creative ways to authentically come into this discursive space.

As individuals, we all have so much knowledge, so much power, so many things that we can contribute. Finding ways to tap into that work looks different for everyone, but everyone has something to contribute. So our work looks like collective building and seeing what those creative solutions can look like. But, ultimately, it’s rooted in building with one another and interpersonal relationships because it's the people in communities who are going to keep communities safe, not police and not the police state.

What struggles have you encountered along the way and/or expect to encounter in the future?

Matyos: "Personally, I struggle with meeting people where they’re at. One thing we find in Los Angeles is that folks inextricably link police with safety. Deprogramming generations of public relations that the LAPD has done is a big obstacle. And we have done that very well even just by calling in the community and naming LAPD as an occupying force."

Ni: "For me, it is just the messiness of the introspective difficulties that come with organising. As a young femme in anti spaces, we are making sure we’re calling out things that constantly happen and really making sure that there’s strong support network that are really abolitionists but also survival-centered and that address harm in real time. So really looking at what we call the “stalker state” and the architecture that exists beyond what can be considered just policing."

What does "abolish carceral tech" mean to you?

Matyos: "Abolishing the tools that the state uses to banish community members."

What are you hoping participants will gain from your workshop?

Matyos: "When we highlight the conservative efforts between corporations and the police to push people out of their neighbourhoods and how this manifests in the targeting of Black neighbourhoods and the constant harassment of Black people, a lot of folks feel vindicated and realise that this is a reality and not just in their heads. So one thing I hope people could take away from this workshop is just the reaffirmation of that reality and the realisation that they’re targets; that this is real and it‘s a war.

Ni: "I hope they are able to share with one another different skills, tactics, and ways that we can continue to push back, agitate, and support one another with different tools. I am also hoping that this session will be discussion-based and that folks will feel comfortable chatting, communicating, and talking about themselves, their experiences, and the passions they bring to the movement because that definitely makes a difference in the work"



The session Data-Driven Policing on Stolen Land is scheduled Thursday 30 June, at 08:00 PM CEST 

Registere here for the Allied Media Conference to join!