The annual “Blarney Blowout”, is a party weekend at UMass Amherst with a reputation for rowdiness. This year there were only a small number of arrests and a typical number of citations for minors with alcohol.
There was a huge police presence from surrounding communities, and students were told by police that they couldn’t gather in large groups.
The reporting suggests serious police state overkill. Some of the casual police techniques noted in the Daily Hampshire Gazette are a little chilling:
The helicopter equipped with a high-definition camera system provided a live feed to the emergency operations center at the police station, providing clear views of where large parties were taking place or about to occur, Livingstone said.
This assisted in spotting people consuming alcohol on the roofs of homes, and also helped police determine that a report of large fight in a Main Street parking lot at 1:14 p.m. was a hoax. Livingstone said this saved time by not having officers dispatched to that area.
Also, note that police are actively monitoring social media:
Officers used social media, such as Twitter, to identify where parties might occur, including at 10:25 a.m. when numerous students said they were heading to Puffer’s Pond.
The police were clearly working hard to prevent the riots from 2 years ago that lead to property damage, and an out-of-control police response that included teargassing, resulting in police abuse lawsuits.
Is Policing a Thankless Job, or are Heavy-Handed Policing Incentives Too Strong?
Keeping order and preventing bad situations from happening, so people can have honest disagreements about what level of police presence and surveillance is necessary. But there a few incentives problems for the police here:
- The police generally aren’t going to get “credit” for problems that don’t happen.
- The police might be blamed for problems that do happen or aren’t dealt with effectively.
- Not enough people are actually concerned with civil liberties violations and surveillance state overreach, so there is not much downside for very aggressive surveillance.
These tools exist, and we are paying for them. How often are State Police helicopters with high definition surveillance cameras patrolling the skies above other events? Do these high tech military-style tools and techniques prevent problems or create problems?
Is it simply inadequate for officers to be doing foot patrols and writing alcohol citations without everything being monitored from the sky and via command centers?
This is a clear trend in policing, and we should be keeping a close eye on what we are giving up in exchange for all this enhanced “security”.