Policing and Social Justice Lab

The Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab is a research collaboration to investigate the history of policing and criminalization in the city of Detroit during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, document the politics of crime control and civil rights activism, and excavate and map police-civilian encounters including homicides, brutality, and misconduct. The lab deploys student research teams to explore archives and databases, interview historical actors, and present their findings through multimedia digital exhibits and interactive maps. These investigations build on the efforts of historical activists and civil rights/civil liberties organizations that have long demanded civilian review boards and community control of law enforcement and criminal justice institutions—including police, prosecutors, courts, and jails—in Detroit and Wayne County. Through its public engagement mission, the Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab presents its findings for classroom use, for journalists and policymakers, and especially as resources for impacted communities and social justice-oriented organizations.

The Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab—a partnership with the U-M Carceral State Project‘s Documenting Criminalization and Confinement initiative—operates through curricular and extracurricular components. Through the “Cold Cases” HistoryLab seminar (History 393), teams of undergraduates research specific periods of Detroit’s history, build document-rich website exhibits, and analyze patterns of police violence and misconduct through digital mapping. As research fellows and interns, undergraduate and graduate student researchers also work on more specialized projects, including multimedia reports about specific incidents and themes, and synthetic maps designed to create an extensive database of policing killings in Detroit.

Principal Investigator: Matthew Lassiter

Project Team: Grace Bergeron, Dominic Coschino, Charlotte Fater, Francesca Ferrara, David Helps, Lily Johnston, Izzie Kenhard, Sam Lauten, Caroline Levine, Mix Mann, Zev Miklethun, Sophie Mishara, Nicole Navarro, Lloyd Simpson, Maddie Turner, Brianna Wells

Contributors: Brendan Bernardo, Jesse Blumberg, Casey Jong, Robert Joseph, John Kistler, Jack Mahon, Austyn Marks, Jamie Murray, Gregory Parker, Sahil Patel, Mahal Stevens, Kori Thomas, Hannah Thoms, Aidan Traynor, Allison Tuohy, Khadija Williams



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