Alex S. Vitale, The End of Policing.

AuthorSeigel, Micol
PositionBook review

Alex S. Vitale, The End of Policing (Verso, 2017)

A NUMBER OF ACADEMIC CROSSOVER BOOKS NOW OFFER NONSPECIALIZED readers key takeaways from the enormous scholarly corpus addressing criminal justice questions. Marie Gottschalk's encyclopedic Caught develops a precise picture of a broad range of prison-related issues, a resource for the scholar seeking context, research leads, or lecture content. Michelle Alexander's accessible The New Jim Crow translates activist insight to a tremendous popular audience. Combining elements of both, Alex Vitale's The End of Policing mines both recent and classic scholarship for a sweeping critique of police practice and reform. This grand synthesis will be particularly useful to activists seeking material for self-edification, reading groups, or popular education campaigns. Feeding the growing hunger for abolitionist analyses of policing, Vitale arms the reader with usable pasts and compelling insights, ably contributing to popular mobilization against police.

The End of Policing begins by explaining why current reforms, such as improved training, greater diversity in police ranks, accountability via prosecutorial independence, federal investigations, or that latest vogue, body cameras, are unlikely to diminish police violence and abuse. Perhaps disarming the police, as many other nations have, might help, Vitale offers, but what he really seeks to provoke is a metascale, transformative rethinking of the role of police in society. That role, at present, Vitale argues--and the rest of the book goes on to show--involves managing race and class inequality, waging a war on the poor, containing and punishing Black and Brown people, and feeding the revenge factory that is our criminal justice system. Joining the prison abolitionist chorus denouncing the use of criminal justice solutions for social problems of all sorts, Vitale weighs in with a rousing call for a robust and genuine democracy.

In the body of the book, Vitale delves into a series of issues police are called to address. He begins with the question of crime, reminding readers that police deal only rarely with this phenomenon. Despite its common understanding as the police's exclusive focus and reason for being, crime is actually but a very small part of any officer's day. Instead, police engage in a whole host of seemingly extraneous activities: They patrol schools, intervene with people facing mental health challenges, remove poverty from public view...

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