Book Review: Depolicing: When officers disengage

AuthorThaddeus L. Johnson,Natasha N. Johnson
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/0734016819871609
Published date01 March 2023
Date01 March 2023
Subject MatterBook Reviews
now expose police abuse with vary, the message and their later criminalization has been quite similar.
The portrayal of activists whose mission involves uncovering police brutality as criminals is not a
new concept. This, along with rekindled fears about other minorities, has led to another era
focused on get-tough policies that further contribute to institutional racism and perpetuate the us
versus themdivide. Evidently, Felkor-Kantors discussion about race and the rise of social move-
ments in Los Angeles at the time continue to reect current debates about inclusion and citizenship.
Overall, Policing Los Angeles is an eloquently written book that provides evidence to showcase
how a politicized department can alienate and destroy trust and legitimacy by enforcing a racial hier-
archy under a para-militaristic and punitive model. This book should be a must read for all college
students to help contribute to their understanding of law and society. Particularly, it is recommended
for those interested in discussions revolving around race, justice, and politics. Felkor-Kantors book
is a somber reminder that people of color, especially Black individuals, cannot back down in the ght
against abuse and systemic racism. In fact, all Americans need to come together to confront the past,
support strong social justice movements, and advocate for criminal justice reform.
Oliver, W. M. (2019). Depolicing: When ofcers disengage. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner. 185 pp. $69.95. ISBN
978-1-6263-7755-4.
Reviewed by: Thaddeus L. Johnson and Natasha N. Johnson, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0734016819871609
A recent spate of controversial police killings of unarmed Black males (e.g., Michael Brown, Eric
Garner, and Tamir Rice) has reignited the historical discourse surrounding the disproportionate
use of police force against minority citizens. Some commentators have suggested that the Michael
Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO, 5 years ago marked a new era of policecitizen conict. Since
then, there has been an increasing number of felonious attacks against ofcers and unprecedented
levels of news media scrutiny of the police.
Given the current state of affairs, it has been widely speculated that ofcers are reluctant to
perform their jobs. Although not a new allegation just the possibility of depolicing”—or disengage-
ment from proactive police activities (such as trafc stops) in response to real or perceived external
factors (e.g., politics and personal safety concerns)has raised public safety concerns. Whether
depolicing is a real thing, however, has been speculative. To gain insights into the realities of depo-
licing, Willard M. OliversDepolicing: When Ofcers Disengage, as the title suggests, provides a
critical evaluation of depolicing through original qualitative research.
Oliver interviewed 60 police ofcers and sheriffs deputies across the nation between 2014 and
2016. Representing a diverse sample, about 20% of the respondents were female, 24% were
non-White, and 15% worked for a sheriffs department. The average of age and law enforcement
experience was 40 and 14.2 years, respectively.
Broken up into seven chapters (plus an appendix), Olivers study centers on three primary ques-
tions: (1) Is depolicing real, and if yes, how pervasive is it? (2) What causes depolicing? (3) And, how
should depolicing be handled? After orienting the reader on the historical and empirical background
of depolicing (Chapters 1 and 2), the relevant concepts and theory are covered in Chapter 3. Apart
from a summary of the ndings presented in Chapter 7, the three middle chapters focus on the
research questions at hand.
Chapter 4 considers the ofcersviews and beliefs about depolicing. Olivers conversations with
participants revealed that for the most part, depolicing is very real.In response to the question, Do
Book Reviews 131

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