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A Policed People's Account of the State

In 2015, Americans learned that public authorities in Ferguson, Missouri and several other municipalities had imposed a ‘predatory system of government’ on poor black citizens through the police force.   Over the next three years, two thousand Americans testified about their experiences with police, their conceptions of American democracy, and their dreams for the future.


We use a new technology and public infrastructure, Portals, to initiate conversations about policing in communities where these forms of state action are concentrated.  Portals are virtual chambers where people who are far away from one another can converse as if in the same room. We amassed over 850 conversations across 14 neighborhoods in six cities – the most extensive collection of first-hand accounts of policing to date.  More than a data collection technique, however, the Portals are a medium for listening, site of democratic deliberation, and soon became a public good and civic infrastructure in their host communities.


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