The third eye is a mystical organ place in the middle of the forehead that sees beyond normal perception. An invisible eye that is often shut but when opened is a sign of enlightenment, an existence that embraces a deeply spiritual connection. It’s only fitting that the drones of capital at the Seattle Police Department receive their own third eye in the form of a lifeless digital recording device. They didn’t receive their third eye from a deep spiritual connection nor from reaching, gaining, or fulfilling enlightenment. They received their cybernetic third eye from their deeply capitalist connections.
The SPD’s job is to protect and serve capital and the affluent citizens of Seattle metropolis. This city is a place that has been almost pacified with social control, economic displacement, and gentrification, all of which amount to a softer form of the counter-insurgency practiced in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. In the United States, the occupying army is the police and they have maintained order for the past century and a half. When the population ever grew too rebellious for local police departments, the National Guard and the FBI were called in to destroy the rebels and pacify the population back into capitalist normalcy. It has always been pretty blunt, brutal, and straightforward. But now things have changed. Gone are the days of the classical FBI counter-intelligence program, with its phone taps, undercover agents, arbitrary police raids, and long jail sentences. Not to say those things are gone, but something has fundamentally changed in the way government agencies attempt to control the population. They are no longer able to be so direct when handling a rebellious population. And so in order to maintain their control, the local police departments have been given their cybernetic third eye: the body camera.
These body cameras serve many functions, one is to supposedly reform police violence. But we all saw and remember Eric Garner’s death in New York. It was filmed on camera, and yet nothing happened to the cop who killed him. Right now sentiment around policing and police violence has never been so negative. The body cameras will be used as a means to create better propaganda to legitimize police and their violence. Every time the police beat or kill someone, the public will be told by the politicians and the media to just wait for the video. Then when it comes out, the public either rebels or is quiet. As long as there is video, everything is supposed to be okay. That is the power of the cybernetic third eye.
The capitalist and the colonizer need to constantly produce this type of propaganda in order to keep the masses in a stupor. These new propaganda methods are vital to counter viral social-media and the disintegration of the classical media outlets. Now every citizen, oppressed person, and rebel carries a cam in their pocket and can televise police brutality instantly, as it occurs. The body-camera is a last ditch effort to counter this proliferation of personal cameras among the populace. But in this propaganda war, the police are losing. They simply cannot keep up. And even if they did, the police cannot stop beating or shooting people. It is what the capitalists have paid them to do.
Social media has created an interface for those pocket cams to capture moments and images that can spread rapidly at the click of a button. However, the corporations that maintain this infrastructure (Comcast, AT&T, etc.) and the corporations that maintain the interface (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) have the ability to cut us off from at any moment. Sprint, Comcast, and AT&T can pull the plug whenever they feel like it, just as Google and Facecrack can prevent access at a whim. In the end, we still have very little control over the images of police brutality we capture.
Although they are losing the propaganda war, the police have benefited from social media and will continue to do so. Social media is probably the greatest surveillance structure ever developed. As facial recognition, gait analysis, and other odd identity recognition programs develop they will be integrated into the digital framework of surveillance. The more people share, they better they can be policed by those who control the infrastructure. These body cameras are a part of that surveillance framework and have become part of the infrastructure of policing, in the sense that surveillance and tracking are just as much a part of policing as human to human contact.
The new models of policing we hear about often is the “community policing” models. These models are varied and usually very flexible. One thing they all have in common is the element of convincing the community to police itself, and turn snitch. It can be visually summed up by the image of a white gentrifier peering out his blinds in order to report a suspicious black person to the police. This is the model we have in Seattle. Over the decades this model has integrated every new development in data collection and surveillance technology, including social media. Currently the SPD uses Nextdoor, Twitter, and Facebook to help them find targets for repression. Whether it is a pot dealer publicly tweeting about their next deal or a gentrifier calling the police on their neighbor, the one constant is snitching. The public is being to conditioned not only to snitch on each other, but to snitch on themselves.
The SPD has a new weapon in its arsenal of community policing methods. It is something called SeaStat, a computer program that analyzes the data collected from the phone calls and police. It spits out a map of crime affected areas to be targeted in “emphasis patrols.” Once this data is analyzed, the police can then increase or decrease their presence in high crime neighborhoods. But all of the data fed into SeaStat is exactly that: data. A neighborhood full of gentrifiers who call 911 at the slightest provocation can increase crime statistics in the area. Thanks to SeaStat, a barrage of 911 calls in a neighborhood will bring more police cruisers to the streets. This is how “community policing” works in the new digital era. And as we have mentioned, when the SPD arrive on a call, they now have their brand new third eye attached to their uniform.
This is all a bit complicated, but we just want to state the obvious. Cameras will not keep us safe. As long as there are armed men driving around in police cars, only the rich will be safe. The rest of us will be kept in line. Being able to see our repression on a body-camera does nothing to change the actual conditions of our lives. We don’t need to give the police a third eye, we need to get rid of the police