Center on Transnational Policing

Center on Transnational Policing

The Center on Transnational Policing (CTP) brings together scholars at different levels (undergraduate, graduate, and members of the professoriate) to understand policing in the U.S. and internationally. Through a complex social scientific research network, the Center’s mission is to explore policing from a transnational approach.



Documentary Project: Excited Delirium

In AY2024–2025, CTP Co-Director Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús will produce a short documentary film based on her forthcoming book to illuminate the origins of the fabricated medical diagnosis “excited delirium syndrome” and its role in the systemic mistreatment of Black and Brown communities by law enforcement. The film will uncover excited delirium syndrome’s flawed diagnostic criteria and reveal its inextricable ties to the criminalization of Afro-Latiné religions and aims to foster public discourse on the intersection of medicine, law, and the humanities by exposing the medicalization of police violence. Award-winning documentary filmmaker and Princeton faculty member, Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, will collaborate with Beliso-De Jesús on producing and editing the documentary. Innovative in its approach, the film will employ a combination of archival footage, narration, interviews, and animation. The project is funded by the Magic Grant for Innovation from Princeton University’s Humanities Council. 

DuSable student event panel on stage

Police Torture & Community Healing Project

Building on Laurence Ralph’s research on police torture in Chicago and his book and animated short film The Torture Letters (2020), CTP has organized a number of community engagement events focused on issues of policing and police violence in Chicago since 2022.

In collaboration with Chelsey Carter (Yale University, CTP Affiliated Scholar), and with funding from the Field Foundation of Illinois and in partnership with the Invisible Institute, Ralph has held a series of screenings of The Torture Letters and public conversations about the legacy of police violence in Chicago for public school students and the greater community in Chicago.

In February 2023, an event for middle school and high school students from Chicago Public Schools was held at the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center in Chicago. Another event for the greater Chicago community was held in the evening. Both the student event and the community event included a film screening and a panel discussion featuring local survivors of police torture, human rights attorneys, and activists from local organizations such as Chicago Torture Justice Center and Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Foundation. These events, and other community engagement events, have fostered conversations with local community members about the continuing reality of police violence and torture and ways that help communities heal and search for solutions to address police violence.
For the student-focused event, Ralph and Carter trained graduate and undergraduate from Princeton, Yale, The University of Chicago, and Northwestern to facilitate small-group discussions and led letter-writing activities for Chicago Public School (CPS) students. The event provided an opportunity for CPS students to learn and talk about the complex yet critical topic of police violence while learning anthropological methods, such as ethnographic lettering. It also offered university students a unique and valuable opportunity to learn from survivors and activists, collaborate with students across universities, and participate in civic engagement.

CTP aims to expand the initiative by developing courses that incorporate community engagement events, allowing students not only to learn about issues of policing, social justice, and community wellbeing through coursework, but also to engage in hands-on projects and meaningful civic engagement by taking part in community events that bring together police torture survivors, activists, residents, and local students.

*See the short video summary of the events at DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center.









Lecture at the University of Tokyo

Princeton–University of Tokyo Strategic Partnership Project: “Policing, Public Space, and Democracy”

A collaborative project by the Center for Transnational Policing, Princeton Urban Imagination Center, and the Effron Center for the Study of America at Princeton, and the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies (III) and the Department of Urban Engineering (DUE) at the University of Tokyo, “Policing, Public Space, and Democracy” analyzes policing as a component of democracy in both Japan and the United States in order to contemplate new approaches to public security, safety, and crime prevention that minimize the use of force in everyday life.

Supported by the University of Tokyo/Princeton University Strategic Partnership funds, this interdisciplinary project began in fall 2019. While the pandemic and related travel restrictions disrupted the plans involving international travel, project teams at Princeton University and the University of Tokyo have engaged in scholarly exchange.

In March 2023, a group of faculty members and students from the University of Tokyo visited Princeton University and offered three workshops on data visualizataion and data physicalization for the students enrolled in the “Policing and Militarization Today” course, co-taught by CTP co-directors Ralph and Beliso-De Jesús. Hidenori Watanave, professor in Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, lectured on digital data visualization, and his students shared their data-visualization projects created with the Re:Earth software developed by Watanave’s former student. Kimihiro Hino, associate professor in the Department of Urban Engineering, offered analog data visualization session in which Princeton students and University of Tokyo students worked together on hands-on data visualization activities. Yasuaki Kakehi, professor in Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, offered a lecture on data physicalization and a 3D-printer demonstration with support from his graduate student. After the University of Tokyo group’s visit, Princeton students worked on their own data visualization and physicalization projects.

In summer 2023, Princeton University’s project team and selected graduate and undergraduate students traveled to Japan. Faculty members offered lectures at the University of Tokyo, visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Police headquarters and the police academy, and participated in meeting with the University of Tokyo faculty and students. Princeton students also visited the University of Tokyo campus and traveled with the faculty members to Hiroshima, where data visualization exhibit organized by the University of Tokyo faculty and students was held. The students presented their projects in a workshop and had the opportunity to visit the Peace Memoriam Museum and listen to an atomic bomb survivor.

The project team plans to build on the partnership with the University of Tokyo by continuing to  teach courses collaboratively and organizing exhibits to showcase data visualization projects by students and faculty members.

The Torture Letters poster with laurels

Animation Project: The Torture Letters  

The animated short The Torture Letters is based on Laurence Ralph’s book of the same title and subsequent focus groups and interviews conducted with teenagers in Chicago. The film illustrates the power of research in the humanities by portraying a candid reflection of these teenagers’ thoughts, ideas, and vulnerabilities. It also offers a tool to visualize some of the latest data and scholarship on police violence. The film serves as a pedagogical material in Princeton courses and the initiatives within public-school systems, aimed at teaching the history of police violence to middle and high school students. Production of The Torture Letters was supported by the Magic Innovation Grant from the Princeton University’s Humanities Council. The film was released as part of the New York Times Op-Docs series in June 2020. The Torture Letters received the Best In Show award at the Spark Animation Festival and WIA Diversity Award Individual Achievement. It has also been official selections for numerous film festivals including AFI Fest, St. Louis International Film Festival, Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, Foyle Film Festival, Africa Rising International Film Festival, and Atlanta Film Festival.

See the film here      
See trailer here

police use of for study logo

New Orleans Policing Project: “Tensions of Force: Policing, Security, and Governance in New Orleans”

This project explores how different stakeholders grapple with national debates about community policing and enforcement by examining the problems articulated and the solutions proposed in New Orleans, Louisiana, a city with one the highest rates of incarceration in the world. The project was carried out from 2017 to 2021 with funding from the National Science Foundation. Led by CTP co-directors Laurence Ralph and Aisha Beliso-De Jesús, the research team that included doctoral students and postdoctoral fellow conducted a mixed-method research including survey, participant observation, focus groups, in-depth interviews, and collaborative data sharing and coding.