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.


Current Initiatives

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Animation Project: The Torture Letters  
This project renders ethnographic interviews into an animated series. The film series centers on focus groups and interviews conducted with teenagers in Chicago, and illustrates the power of research in the humanities by portraying a candid reflection of these teenagers’ thoughts, ideas and vulnerabilities. It will also offer 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 new initiatives within several Public-School systems across the United States, 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, and 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

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New Orleans Policing Project: “Tensions of Force: Policing, Security, and Governance in New Orleans”
This project seeks to explore 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. Current climate of heightened awareness around policing demands a comprehensive study of policing, rooted in rigorous, historical, ethnographic analysis. As the city with the highest rate of incarceration in the world, New Orleans is an ideal site to understand policing. The project began in September 2017 with funding from the National Science Foundation. Led by Professors Laurence Ralph and Aisha Beliso-De Jesús, the research team (including doctoral students and postdoctoral fellow) has conducted a mixed-method research including survey, participant observation, focus groups, in-depth interviews, and collaborative data sharing and coding.

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"Yasuda Auditorium @ The University of Tokyo" by Hyougushi

Princeton–University of Tokyo Strategic Partnership Project: “Policing, Public Space, and Democracy”
The Center for Transnational Policing (CTP) and The Center for Architecture, Urbanism, and Infrastructure (CAUI) at Princeton, in conjunction with The Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies (III) and The Department of Urban Engineering (DUE) at the University of Tokyo, have begun a joint project on law enforcement, public space, and democracy, supported by the University of Tokyo/Princeton University Strategic Partnership funds. This intellectual exchange will analyze 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 (or bōhan in Japanese) that minimize the use of force in everyday life. Students and faculty at Princeton and the University of Tokyo will engage in interdisciplinary workshops and conduct research projects in Japan and the US. Photograph credit: "Yasuda Auditorium @ The University of Tokyo" by Hyougushi.

Chicago Police Violence Project
Building on his research on police torture in Chicago (which culminated in his forthcoming book, The Torture Letters), Laurence Ralph has conducted focus groups and in-depth interviews on the topic of police violence with residents, students, and victims of police torture in Chicago. Materials from the focus groups and interviews will be used in coursework on policing at Princeton University, as well as in educational programs in Chicago public schools. (See Animation Project below.) Findings from this project will also be disseminated through academic papers and a forthcoming monograph. His new book project, “Black Cargo,” explores the ways in which descendants of enslaved people now feel their fate is bound up in a system of domination in which they carry with them the memory of the violence that has been inflicted on their race. Arguing that the conundrum of being unable to bear to think about something which is always present to the mind is precisely the legacy wrought by police violence, Ralph examines how incidents of police violence form the basis of group identification through and by the ways in which Black people in Chicago embody and then carry with them, stories of victimization.

Policing African Diaspora Religions Project
This project, carried out by professor Aisha Beliso-De Jesús, examines how policing of Afro-Latinx and Diaspora religions emerges from both historic and contemporary criminalization and laws. Examining practices such as Santería, Palo Monte, Vodou, Candomblé, and Islam, this project looks at how Black and immigrant religions are treated unfairly out of fear stoked historically in popular media and politics. Practitioners have been harassed, their rituals halted by police, demonized as evil, falsely accused of child endangerment or animal cruelty, and treated unfairly in different institutional settings and jobs. Through interviews with police and practitioners of these religions, participant observation of police trainings, as well as ride-alongs with police officers in the United States, this project explores issues of racism, racialization and religion in the policing of African Diaspora practices. The project will contribute to an understanding of how racialized policing, effects everyday life for these alternative religious subjects who occupy mainly marginalized locations.


"The Torture Letters" wins Best in Show
Nov. 18, 2020

Professor Laurence Ralph's film, The Torture Letters, won the “Best in Show” award in the Spark Animation Festival, which would qualify the film to be submitted to the Oscars.

Spark Animation Festival was also in partnership with Women in…

Laurence Ralph's "The Torture Letters" has been selected by American Film Institute FEST
Oct. 6, 2020

Laurence Ralph's The Torture Letters will showcase as part of “Meet the Press Film Festival at American Film Institute FEST” (October 15–22). A partnership with NBC’s Meet the Press, this showcase of short documentaries features a wide range of compelling stories, and highlights some of the most pressing issues facing…

ANIMATING THE TORTURE LETTERS: The Scars of Being Policed While Black
Sept. 8, 2020

Friday, September 11, 2020, New York University's Center for Media, Culture and History will host a virtual screening and discussion of Laurence Ralph's The Torture Letters (12:50 mins, New York Times Op-Doc). The film is based off of Ralph's book The Torture…

Much Bigger Than the Police
July 1, 2020

Conversation by Laurence Ralph (Princeton), Brandon Terry (Harvard), and Monica Bell (Yale), published in Harvard Magazine