Privacy SOS

Evidence: non-profit policing organization orchestrating nationwide anti-occupy crackdown

Demonstrators and press nationwide have been speculating for weeks about federal involvement in police crackdowns nationwide. An oft-cited article asserting DHS and DOJ organization of the police repression has been largely discredited, due to its citing of anonymous sources and the lack of credibility of that web site more generally.

But yesterday the San Fransciso Bay Guardian newspaper reported that a DHS affiliated organization, the non-profit organization Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), has played a key role in the national crackdown.

The Police Executive Research Forum, an international non-governmental organization with ties to law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been coordinating conference calls with major metropolitan mayors and police chiefs to advise them on policing matters and discuss response to the Occupy movement. The group has distributed a recently published guide on policing political events.

What is PERF?
PERF's executive director is Chuck Wexler, a former operations assistant to the Police Commissioner in the City of Boston. Mr. Wexler currently serves on DHS' Homeland Security Advisory Council alongside police officers, representatives from private corporations, university representatives, current and former governors and others, including Bonnie Michelman, a professor of criminal justice at Boston's Northeastern University, and Ray Kelly, police commissioner of the NYPD. 
A representative from war and security industry giant Lockheed Martin also serves on the council. (Among other contracts, Lockheed was awarded a nearly $1 billion agreement to design and implement the DOJ's massive new biometrics database, "Next Generation Identification," which aims to be the largest biometrics database in the world and will serve US federal and local law enforcement, providing information on millions of people including palm prints gathered from scenes of interest to police.)

What does PERF do, exactly? Their website defines their mission thusly:

The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) is a national membership organization of progressive police executives from the largest city, county and state law enforcement agencies. PERF is dedicated to improving policing and advancing professionalism through research and involvement in public policy debate. Incorporated in 1977, PERF's primary sources of operating revenues are government grants and contracts, and partnerships with private foundations and other organizations.

Since their involvement with occupy crackdowns was exposed, it appears as if the organization has attempted to remove its list of Board of Directors members from the internet. But Goggle cache remembers.

The Board consists of heads of police departments across the nation, namely, Commissioner Charles Ramsey of Philadelphia PD; Chief Charlie Deane of Prince William County PD; Chief William Landsdowne of San Diego PD; Chief Richard Myers of Colorado Springs PD; Chief Edward Flynn of Milwaukee PD; and Chief George Gascon of San Franscisco PD. The organization's leadership extends outside the US as well. Chief Bill Blair of Toronto PD serves as "Member at Large," while Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers of the UK, serves as "Ex-Officio Member." (Screenshot of cached page below.)

PERF, Surveillance and the Security-Industrial Complex

Cooperation between PERF and Lockheed is demonstrated by this policy paper copublished by the two entities: "Law Enforcement Technology Needs Assessment: Future Technologies to Address the Operational Needs of Law Enforcement." The paper argues for police enhancements of many different kinds of surveillance and information sharing technologies, using findings from a survey it distributed to hundreds of police departments nationwide in order to gauge the level of technology already in use by these PDs and those PDs desire for new tools. Numerous police departments from Massachsuetts participated in that survey, including Brookline Police, Cambridge Police and Framingham Police. The survey found the following:

Notable statstics among them: 12.8% of PDs surveyed use "aerial surveillance equipment" (likely drones); 64% use GPS for "tracking suspects;" 9.2% use "see through the wall technology;" 48.1% use "electronic listening devices;" and 20.9% use "electronic interception" devices.

PERF appears to be highly invested in a technology-driven, "predictive policing" model, which operates under the assumption that police can use dataveillance and other forms of surveillance to stop crime before it occurs. This model also provides large sums of government money to private intelligence firms, surveillance purveyors and war giants like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and arguably provides a raison d'etre for organizations like PERF.

Occupy, lookout: while federal government may not be directly in charge of organizing the crackdown on you, its frequent grantees at PERF are helping out in the shadows. 

For those interested, check out this PERF publication about managing large events, which extensively discusses police actions at protests. Among the interesting finds there is this snippet from the NYPD, showing that the department has used blimps to surveil demonstrators from above. The technology is capable of seeing individual faces and tracking individuals in crowds. 

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.