Malcolm Lizzappi's blog

How Do Civilian Clothed Police Make Police More Accountable?

Photo credit: NBC News

Picture description: On the left is a portrait of Nouman Raja and on the right is a portrait of Corey Jones.

In light of Corey Jones' death, I am wondering how protocol allowing police to be on duty while in civilian clothes creates an environment of police accountability.

"A police officer shot and killed Corey Jones after his car broke down on a Florida highway" last month. "Jones, 31, was on his way home after playing drums early Sunday when his car stalled along Interstate 95." According to the police, "Palm Beach Gardens police Officer Nouman Raja believed it was an abandoned car and stopped to investigate ... as on duty but was wearing civilian clothing and driving an unmarked car."

"A source close to the investigation told CNN on condition of anonymity Wednesday that investigators believe the shooting was a result of Jones and Raja misidentifying each other. The source said Raja felt he had to check the car because there had been burglaries in the area recently and that burglars had parked near the ramp where Jones' vehicle was. Raja "was working as part of a detail related to a string of burglaries in the city," Stepp told reporters Tuesday. The anonymous source told CNN on Wednesday that investigators believe Raja may not have made it sufficiently clear he was an officer and that Jones may not have heard what the officer said. Palm Beach Gardens police have not said how or whether Raja identified himself to Jones."

Given that Corey is black and given how many extrajudicial police killings of black people that has happened in the past year alone, I am skeptical how much Raja wearing uniform would have changed whether Corey would be alive with us today. However, there is something to be said about the power that Raja possesed as an on-duty police officer out of uniform. Raja was not indentifiable as a state agent while he held the priveleges of being one. If we as citizens cannot even identify who is and who isn't entrusted with the power to "protect and serve", then how can we adequately hold them to appropriate standards set out by international human rights? How did Raja being in plain cloths lend itself to a situation of police accountability before he killed Jones? Even though police are rarely indicted for murder after they kill, how can we increase police accountability to a point where people are proactively held accountable?

One thing I know is that it doesn't start with civilian clothed police.


  • Extrajudicial Police Killings



  • Black Lives Matter
  • police brutality
  • Civilian Clothed Police
  • Nouman Raja
  • Corey Jones
  • Palm Beach Police


  • Police Accountability

Slovenia Begins to Build a Fence to Stem the Flow of Migrants

Photo credit: Darko Bandic/Associated Press

Picture description: Soldiers erected a razor-wire fence on the Croatian border in Gibina, Slovenia, on Wednesday.

While on the topic of the 30,000 refugees headed north through Greece  being stranded in Slovenia beuse of neighboring countries closing its borders, Prime Minister of Slovenia says “If we don’t act now, we could have a humanitarian catastrophe on the territory of Slovenia.”

I agree with you, but your conclusion is to build a fence?

All this effort you are putting into keeping folks out, you could be using to prepare for the "30,000 refugees" that are on their way.

Prime Minister, do you care about human lives? If so, I wonder why you are making it harder for families, children and women to escape war and destruction.


  • European Refugee Crisis


  • Europe


  • Slovenia
  • Fence
  • Refugees
  • Migrants


  • Refugees

Exactly "Trade and Rights Aren't Mutually Exclusive"

In a recent blog post in Huffington Post, Mihra Rittman called upon Britain to call out Kazakhstan's violation of human rights. The call happens within the context of a senior UK Foreign Ministry official's prediction that "Kazakhstan [is] "on the verge of being a significant player on the international stage," and "that President Nursultan Nazarbaev's visit to the United Kingdom on November 3 and 4 "will confirm Britain's desire to be a partner of choice for Kazakhstan as it takes forward further reforms in governance, rule of law and human rights." Her call followed as the title of her article indicates, that there is no need to embrace Kazakhstan for its potential progress industrially if it won't also take steps towards ending its human rights abuses.

The call conviently locates the decision of trade relations in the hands of British officials, as if Kazakhstan had no choice in the matter. I would personally call for Kazakhstan to hold off on trade relations with the global power until it addresses its grave abuses.

If you're wondering what I am talking about, we could start with the reparations that Britain could pay to every single indigenous group that it destroyed, uprooted, displaced, and massacred in its global campaign for power and wealth.

We could start with a discussion about police brutality, militarization and police accountability in the Isle.

We could start with acknowledging the British "legislation that enables the government to conduct phone and internet surveillance on a mass scale."

In fact, I could go on listing things that Kazakhstan could consider before it engages in trade with Britain. There are many things as indicated here that Kazakhstan would either be directly or indirectly contributing to by engaging in trade with Britain.

Mihra's blog post does not acknowledge these realities. Whether intended or not, turning a blind eye to Britain's own contributions to human rights violations is a part of exceptionalism that consitently looks to other countries without critically considering its own contribtutions to human rights violations.

As long as we continue to look to other's wrong doings we will continue in our own wrong doing. As a member of the European Union, I say that if we genuinely are to care about human rights, we need to be more intentional about how we frame discussions on human rights. We need to care about human rights everywhere, not just when others are violating them. We need to care about human rights everywhere, especially where we have the most influence, at home.


  • Accountability


  • Global


  • Kazakhstan
  • Nursultan Nazarbayev
  • David Cameron
  • United Kingdom


  • Freedom of Expression, of the Press

A Look into Russia's Involvement in Syria

Since much of rhetoric justifying military incursion into local conflicts involves human rights, it us useful to get context on issues to see how the rhetoric of human rights justifies war.

 Follow this link to listen to a podcast discussing Russia's involvement in Syria.


  • Syria


  • Middle East


The Dangerous Lives of Colombian Mangrove Clam Collectors

(picture description: two members of the Piangueras community in the tree roots taking a break from arduous work.)

I wanted to share the following interview from Vice news because of the situation it describes. Some questions that went through my mind are "how do we begin to discuss human rights we are blind to?", "how does neglect or lack of resources reinforce and perpetuate the lack of distribution of human rights?", and "how can we move beyond our lack of resources and knowledge to support folks who are marginalized?"

I labelled this blog post as human trafficking, but to be honest its just an approximation. I still feel that it is accurate given the conditions are strikingly similar: very little to no choice with regard to economic advancement. That said, the interview follows:

"The Piangueras are a remote Colombian community who make a living collecting and selling clams found at the bottom of mangroves in the country's Pacific coast. The clams, which are a popular food in Ecuador, form the bulk of their income. Their work is dangerous, unregulated, and the constant wetness and mosquito population means disease is a massive issue. Because of the agility needed to get the clams, much of it is carried out by kids. But with few other income sources in the area and a lack of government presence and assistance, it's the only option many have.

German photographer Jonas Wresch came across this mangrove economy while living and working in Colombia. He spoke to VICE about his experience in the region, and how he tries to document poverty without being predatory.

VICE: Hi, Jonas. What took you to the Pacific coast?
Jonas Wresch: It was part of a bigger report on the life of a municipality called El Charco in Nariño. That's an area that has been heavily stricken by conflict, 85 percent of the population has been displaced for some period of time. I went there to document the effects of the conflict and different parts of life, like where people get their food from and that is how I came across the Piangueras.

How did you get access to the community?
It was pretty funny because these are ladies that have worked their whole life in the mangroves and I just asked if I could go with them. Their response was, "No! You can't go with us, you won't survive an hour!" They really painted a picture of a place full of malaria, where you have to rub your skin with gasoline so you don't get bitten by mosquitoes. In the end they were satisfied that I went there and survived. They were really friendly and open people.

What does a working day look like for the Piangueras?
It is a pretty interesting world. You go in this canoe and everyone is eating and having cigarettes. The clams sit right next to the roots of the trees so they dig 10 to 20 centimeters into the mud and check if there is one. The clams are not just lying around, so you really need to search.

What are some of the health risks they face, apart from malaria?
They have skin issues as they believe they need to rub petrol on their skin to keep the mosquitoes away. Also, they suffer snakes and other animal bites.

There are lots of kids in your photos. Why is that?
There are many kids involved, especially because they have small hands and small bodies so they can move efficiently. A lot of them don't go to school or just go in the afternoon. The work is really tough and they are all very competitive, so they really have to focus on the job for hours. That is the only option they have, the older ones did say that they were tired of the job.

Are there other options of income in the area?
Not many. They either go to the military, that is a chance to get out, or there is also wood production, fishing, and banana plantations—but that's pretty much it.

You mentioned some of the older kids saying they were tired. Was that the general mood in the community?
They are aware it is tough, but it's a job with a lot of history and they are really proud. You talk to older women in the town and you can tell if they were piangueras, as they smoke in a certain way. It has a trajectory and it gives the community a sense of unity.

This area is also known for the lack of government presence and assistance, isn't it?
They feel totally abandoned. I have been in other areas of Colombia like the south of Bogotá, where life is very rough as well, but it is still more accessible. More NGOs go there, so people get a feeling they are being attended. This place is so far away and it is expensive to travel to by water because of the price of petrol. Not many people go there.

How do you photograph inequality with dignity, and not slip into "poverty porn"?
I'm always trying to find a balance between the victims and the actual resistance that people have. People aren't just suffering, nameless, they always organize themselves and they are very strong. I didn't want to portray this place as the worst on Earth, but that there is hope and that people have power. I felt really well in these Afro-Colombian communities because they are really welcoming and friendly and I tried to include that in my work."


  • neglect


  • Latin America


  • neglect


  • Human Trafficking


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