Monday, May 18, 2015

Some do good, and some do well

Not the time for wit. No need for interpretation. The facts:

Dr. Matthew C. Whitaker has parlayed his standing as ASU Foundation Professor of History into a $268,800 no-bid contract -- with the possibility for a $96,000 extension -- with the City of Phoenix.

 Professor Whitaker will provide 448 hours of training in procedural justice, police legitimacy, and cultural competency, and an additional 448 hours of evaluation in those matters, to Phoenix' 2900 police officers.  He will do this between July of 2015 and April of 2016, through his consulting firm, while he continues to collect his salary as a full-time professor of history at Arizona State University (whose rules state that employees may do no more than 384 hours per year of outside work).

Professor Whitaker will "plan and execute" this training despite the fact that he does not even pretend to do research into procedural justice or police legitimacy training. He will do this despite the fact that he does pretend to do research into African-American history, a pretense that has been repeatedly  pulled aside: even his reluctant university deems his work to fall "below the standard of the profession," Dr. Whitaker himself admits that the books he has published with ABC-CLIO contain extensive plagiarism, and  the publisher of his most recent volume has issued a statement that the book would not be sold in its current form because of errors of attribution. The Press, it added, "maintains no inventory."  But there is more.

Despite City of Phoenix rules, Dr. Whitaker will collect his hundreds of thousands of dollars without having been put through a competitive bid process. (Justice, it seems, always  requires that Dr. Whitaker be exempted from the rules.)   He will collect the money without demonstrating that his company has sufficient experience, personnel, and infrastructure to do nearly 1000 hours of work in one year. He will do so despite the fact that his claim that his "company" has done similar training of police in England, seems to hinge on having given some speeches to a local university and community group there. And he will do so without enlisting the knowledge and support of the many people at his own university who actually do do research in the field of criminal justice.  The demand for a "sole source exception" -- meaning that Dr. Whitaker's company is the only possible source of cultural competency, police legitimacy, and procedural justice training -- was made despite the fact that 1) there are indeed other sources of such training available and 2) there's no evidence that the Whitaker Group is itself a source of such training.
How is this possible?

Arizona State University, which prides itself on its service to the community, has made it possible. Good, well-meaning people assume that Arizona State University would not knowingly perpetrate a fraud on its community by continuing to credential and promote someone its administration knows to be unworthy. (The City Council deliberations explicitly, painfully cited the university's backing of Whitaker as evidence of his worthiness to be exempted from  normal vetting.) The cozy Phoenix world of fundraisers, awards banquets, and utility company sponsorship through which Dr. Whitaker has assiduously circulated, has made it possible: familiarity, it appears, breeds contracts. And of course, Professor Whitaker himself has made it possible. Good, well-meaning people assume that someone who claims to run a company that knows how to train and evaluate police in procedural justice, someone who points to the enormous stakes of that enterprise given the country's tragic racialized past and present, must in fact run a company that knows how to train and evaluate police in procedural justice. To believe otherwise, is to belive that a university and a professor have betrayed the public trust in stunning fashion.

1 comment:

  1. Any chance you will do anything to publicize this further?