Policing since Ferguson

Examining law enforcement since the death of Michael Brown.

Balto, Simon. Occupied territory: policing black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power. North Carolina, 2019. 343p bibl index ISBN 9781469649597, $37.50; ISBN 9781469649603 ebook, $26.99.
Reviewed in CHOICE September 2019

Using Chicago as a quintessential case study of black versus police relationships, Balto (Univ. of Iowa) unfolds the grisly saga of police repression, one that the author uniquely dates back to the early 20th century. Focused on Chicago’s Police Department (CPD), Balto’s well-written, highly convincing, and richly documented monograph (his first book) shows how an endemically racist, politically compromised, and corrupt CPD gratuitously employed “stop and frisk,” torture and even “shoot to kill” tactics between 1919 and 1970 to systematically occupy and punitively repress Chicago’s impoverished black community.  Following the FBI-abetted 1969 assassination of Black Panther Fred Hampton, according to Balto, the Panthers joined with the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League and the Urban League, to aggressively, but vainly, push for community control in Chicago. Several historians have investigated America’s carceral society; however, Balto’s rigid focus on Chicago’s police department is unique. Heather Thompson’s excellent Whose Detroit: Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern City (CH, Sep’02, 40-0505) covers similar terrain. This book appeals to a general audience and would prove very useful in urban and black studies classes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —J. F. Bauman, emeritus, University of Southern Maine

Baumgartner, Frank R. Suspect citizens: what 20 million traffic stops tell us about policing and race, by Frank R. Baumgartner, Derek A. Epp, and Kelsey Shoub. Cambridge, 2018. 277p bibl index ISBN 9781108429313, $99.99; ISBN 9781108454049 pbk, $24.99.
Reviewed in CHOICE January 2019

Traffic stops are the most frequent means of contact between law enforcement officers and the general public, and routine traffic stops are often used as a pretext to search vehicles for contraband such as illegal weapons or drugs. The authors, all scholars of criminal justice or government, provide a thorough examination of traffic stops that adds to the breadth of research already in existence, combining a literature review with their own groundbreaking work studying routine traffic stops in North Carolina. The authors clearly outline what differentiates racial disparities from racial profiling and provide clear examples for what constitutes biased policing and differential policing. The biggest contribution the authors make is how they examine well over a decade of traffic stops. Their study of over 20 million traffic stops provides a clear picture of policing during traffic stops in North Carolina. The book contains a complete list of references, notes for further details on claims and statements made throughout the text, and a comprehensive index, providing excellent source material for readers studying this topic in depth. This informative and well-written book will be a valued addition to many library collections, especially those supporting sociology or criminal justice programs. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic levels. —D. R. Kavish, Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Boyles, Andrea S. Race, place, and suburban policing: too close for comfort. California, 2015. 245p bibl index afp ISBN 9780520282384, $65.00; ISBN 9780520282391 pbk, $29.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE February 2016

This work is an excellent addition to the groundswell of police-citizen relations-based research that has come forth following a multitude of nationwide, police-involved, fatal shooting incidents.  Boyles (Lindenwood Univ., Missouri) has produced a well-written, qualitative text in a case study format regarding the critical variables of policing in adjacent urban and suburban areas.  Her text exposes the fallout resulting from white suburban land annexation of formerly black urban neighborhoods, which ultimately created a clash between white and minority expectations and conflicting policing ideology.  Boyles appropriately focuses on the interplay of race, place, and suburban policing in areas of differentiated social expectations.  More specifically, she addresses how the proximity of urban and suburban standards and expectations throws black males and law enforcement into a state of conflict and confrontation.  The author identifies and necessitates the utilization and greater deployment of such concepts as political sensitivity, political inclusion, a greater attention to diversity, and an imperative focus on relations between the police and minority communities.  For upper-level undergraduate social-science courses. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —R. M. Seklecki, Minot State University

The Ferguson report: Department of Justice investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, by the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division; introd. by Theodore M. Shaw. New Press, 2015. 174p ISBN 9781620971604 pbk, $10.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE January 2016

The Ferguson Report is a riveting account of the abusive policing and governing practices of the city of Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, MO.  The report was commissioned by the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division after Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager, was fatally shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.  The event captured the attention of the nation.  It also reignited an enduring social movement known as “Black Lives Matter” for civil rights and equality for socially and economically disenfranchised people.  Shaw (Univ. of North Carolina School of Law), former president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, provides a poignant introduction to the report.  Shaw eloquently frames the historical context of urban uprisings by arguing that the events of Ferguson represent a broader struggle to end institutional discrimination and racism.  The book is organized into six chapters.  The socioeconomic conditions are presented, and the findings of the report demonstrate that the police regularly violated various constitutional rights of citizens.  It concludes with 26 recommendations to reform the city’s public services and governing practices.  This is an important, compelling report that all Americans should read. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. —T. J. Vicino, Northeastern University

Pegues, Jeff. Black and blue: inside the divide between the police and black America. Prometheus Books, 2017. 279p index ISBN 9781633882577, $24.00; ISBN 9781633882584 ebook, $11.99.
Reviewed in CHOICE December 2017

A survey of police-related news stories over the past few years reveals that the rift between communities of color and the police has expanded rather than shrunk, as community policing advocates have predicted as far back as the early days of the Clinton administration. Pegues (CBS News) paints a portrait of this rift in the manner of a veteran news reporter, not through the dry, often disengaging theoretical lens of social science writers. Like scientific writers, Pegues is obviously dedicated to the idea of objectivity, and this dedication shines through in a surprisingly balanced treatment of the people on both sides of the chasm. Readers come to understand a little of how, simultaneously, police feel besieged and citizens of color feel rage and frustration. His treatment of the issue focuses on people rather than theories, structures, and processes. The humble, honest prose engages readers on both intellectual and visceral levels, making this approachable volume an ideal text for general policing collections as well as specialized collections in police community relations and community policing. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. —A. J. McKee, University of Arkansas Monticello

Policing the black man: arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment, ed. by Angela J. Davis. Pantheon Books, 2017. 321p bibl ISBN 9781101871270, $27.95; ISBN 9781101871287 ebook, $14,99.
Reviewed in CHOICE April 2018

Policing and race in the criminal justice system are important areas of research, discussion, and debate in schools across the US. Davis addresses these issues with this edited volume, which features the nation’s foremost scholars of policing, race, and the US criminal justice system. Esteemed scholars such as Katheryn Russell-Brown, Marc Mauer, Jeremy Travis, and Bruce Western join Davis in presenting the extent of knowledge as to how race in the US relates to police, prosecution, and judicial decision-making. This book specifically discusses racial profiling, implicit bias, police accountability, prosecutorial discretion, and poverty. The contributing authors examine the experiences of black men at every stage of the criminal justice system. The book is extremely well written and could easily be used as a resource for research or as assigned reading for a graduate seminar. Each chapter contains a full bibliography and a listing of notes for further details on claims and statements made throughout the text. A valued addition to any university library collection, especially if schools have a criminal justice or criminology program. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —D. R. Kavish, Lander University

Taylor, Clarence. Fight the power: African Americans and the long history of police brutality in New York City. New York University, 2018 (c2019). 309p index ISBN 9781479862450, $35.00; ISBN 9781479851591 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE July 2019

Can police brutality be separated from the institution of policing? This question arises from Taylor’s important study, which provides nuanced context for concerns about how race and power intersect in New York City. This history of police brutality looks at violence and resistance on the parts of those who fought against it and those who were victimized: Adam Clayton Powell, Malcolm X, Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo. Taylor (history, Baruch College, CUNY) resurrects the stories of African American men and women whose experiences at the hands of the New York Police Department (NYPD) were calls to action. Sadly, the 2014 murder of Eric Garner had significant historical precedent. In this detailed study, Taylor draws attention to strategies Powell and the Nation of Islam used in the first half of the 20th century to frame the NYPD as an institution incapable of justly policing NYC’s black communities. Later chapters provide a considered view of the limits of policies enacted by both Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his successor, Bill de Blasio, and the sustained work—on the parts of civil rights organizations, the civil review board, and community activists, among others—that informs decades of efforts to advance justice in NYC. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —A. B. Audant, CUNY Hostos Community College

Gascón, Luis Daniel. The limits of community policing: civilian power and police accountability in black and brown Los Angeles, by Luis Daniel Gascón and Aaron Roussell. New York University, 2019. 320p bibl index ISBN 9781479871209, $89.00; ISBN 9781479842254 pbk, $30.00; ISBN 9781479870318 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE January 2020

Community policing remains a popular topic among academics and practitioners, and now Gascón (Univ. of San Francisco) and Roussell (Portland State Univ.) address the interdisciplinary issues connected to the topic. They examine the ways that police tactics have historically exacerbated community issues, particularly those related to race. Drawing on history, law, sociology, and politics, the authors observe that scholars need to better understand the way that police-community partnerships impact attitudes and culture in the US. The book’s six chapters outline the history of, and current approaches to, issues connected to community policing, and together they reveal how police-civilian partnerships have become political footballs in US culture. The authors devote the bulk of the book to how police departments across the country have found themselves in situations that shed light on the divide between police and civilians. The authors conclude that true partnerships must be established in order for meaningful change to occur. There are many books on community policing, but this is the first to provide a detailed, reflective interdisciplinary approach to finding solutions in the 21st century. The Limits of Community Policing is an important book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. —A. R. S. Lorenz, Ramapo College