The Best Histories of U.S. Policing, According to Experts

Historians in the News
tags: racism, urban history, policing

If the current protests against police brutality and the chorus of calls to defund police departments across the country have led you to even scratch the surface of those issues, you may have realized just how little you know — or were taught — about the history of organized police forces in the United States. To help those who want to further understand why so many are calling for radical change to U.S. policing, we asked 13 experts — including professors, activists, authors, editors, Pulitzer Prize finalists, and historians — about the books they’d recommend to anyone who wants to develop a more complete knowledge. Those experts include author and law professor Angela J. Davis; academic, writer, and activist Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor; author and professor Alex Vitale; historian Simon E. Balto; author and professor Ersula Ore; historian Max Felker-Kantor; journalist and author Jill Leovy; Truthout editor-in-chief Maya Schenwar; historian Carl Suddler; activist, writer, and photographer Victoria Law; author and professor Clarence Taylor; academic and author Stuart Schrader; and professor Melanie Newport.

Like in our other reading lists, the 15 books below come suggested by at least two of our experts, with some titles garnering as many as five (or more) recommendations. A few books were even written by some of the experts we consulted, but no authors recommended their own work. The list leads with the most recommended books, but since all cover different — yet equally important — perspectives on the topic, we’ve refrained from further categorizing them, because the more you read, the deeper your understanding will be. All of them will likely force readers to confront uncomfortable truths, but according to Leovy, that’s the point: “The thing about this topic is that one cannot cut corners — it takes all the research one can do, and then some, and with an open mind, too. Every time I think I know something about policing, I start digging and the truth turns out to be completely different than I thought. The more I learn, the less I know.”


The recommended titles include: 

‘Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color,’ by Andrea Ritchie

‘From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America,’ by Elizabeth Hinton

‘The End of Policing,’ by Alex Vitale

‘Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD,’ by Max Felker-Kantor

‘Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago From Red Summer to Black Power,’ by Simon Balto

‘Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter,’ by Jordan T. Camp and Christina Heatherton

‘Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,’ by James Forman Jr.

‘The Condemnation of Blackness,’ by Khalil Gibran Muhammad

‘Policing Life and Death,’ by Marisol LeBrón

‘Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed U.S. Policing, by Stuart Schrader

‘Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America,’ by Kristian Williams

‘Policing a Class Society,’ by Sidney L. Harring

‘The Men of Mobtown,’ by Adam Malka

‘Violence Work,’ by Micol Seigel

‘Chokehold: Policing Black Men,’ by Paul Butler


Read entire article at New York Magazine

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