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Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American…

Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City (edition 2021)

by Rosa Brooks (Author)

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513411,126 (4.13)4
Title:Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City
Authors:Rosa Brooks (Author)
Info:Penguin Press (2021), 384 pages
Collections:Your library

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Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City by Rosa Brooks


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I found out Rosa Brooks is the daughter of Barbara Ehrenreich. Brooks is a law professor at Georgetown University, an international consultant on foreign policy, and a journalist. In her spare time, she decided the best way to understand what is going wrong with policing in America was to join the force, so she became a reserve officer in Washington DC (against her mother's wishes). She talks about the difficulties of police training and the emphasis on officer safety. The emphasis is on the fact that every situation and every person could pose a threat to the officer, so the officer should treat every situation and people they encounter accordingly. We see the results of that training. She talks about the mounds of paperwork for everything they do which results in their often ignoring situations they could help. She talks about the damage done by well-meaning mandatory sentencing. And she emphasizes how many actions have become criminalized and how the overabundance of very detailed laws affects regular people. ( )
  Citizenjoyce | Nov 16, 2021 |
Brooks tries to humanize police in this memoir of training and working as a volunteer reserve police officer in Washington, DC. Despite the job and the memoir's episodic nature, Brooks does a good job organizing the stories to keep a thematic momentum going. There is more personal backstory than I wanted, but after the first few chapters I couldn't stop reading. The stories have both humor and compassion.

Brooks approached the police from a very liberal viewpoint, and I think that she must have planned to write a timely and complicated book about American police. In this, I think she largely fails. Her day-to-day patrols are disconnected from conversations about police violence, race, or even drugs or guns, except, perhaps, urban poverty. That itself could be the point. But I think that in "The Second Chance Club," Jason Hardy more successfully combines a memoir about his experience as a parole officer with a social and political discussion of parole and sentencing.

It is still a good book.

> Patrol has no plot. I learned this very quickly. This is why there are thousands of books and movies about detectives, but not many about patrol officers. The work of detectives comes with built-in narratives.

> The medic tried again. “Listen, man. What’s your name?” Nothing, just a blank look. “Buddy,” said the medic. “You know what day it is?” A light went on inside the dull brown eyes. “Hey, yeah, man, it’s like, I think it’s like … it’s … Sunday, right, man? Sunday.” “You know who the president is?” The medic was running through the standard mental status checklist. The guy paused, looking puzzled and, for the first time, a little alarmed. “Is Donald Trump the president?” “Sorry, man, yeah.” “ Shee-it.” He closed his eyes again, this time with some determination.

> For a police officer, having three or four firmly attached belt keepers is a very good thing if you happen to be breaking up a fight or running up five flights of stairs to respond to an urgent assault-in-progress call, since the duty belt holds your radio, gun, handcuffs, flashlight, pepper spray, baton, tourniquet, and various other vital odds and ends. You really want it to stay on your waist and not go flying off as you run—or, worse, fall down around your ankles, snaring your legs in a lasso of your own creation. But if you happen to be a woman and you happen to need to pee, belt keepers are not your friends. … I fumble around in the tiny stall, groping blindly for the lost belt keeper. The stiff leather duty belt, almost but not quite freed from its underbelt, swings around wildly, and my holstered gun hits the toilet tank with a loud smack. By now I’ve twisted my whole body around so I’m facing away from the stall door. I’m practically straddling the toilet, bracing my legs to try to keep my radio, which now dangles from its holder, from sliding away.

> We were stopped at a red light when I noticed that the woman in the car next to us was screaming. I rolled down my window. “Oh my God oh my God!” shrieked the woman. She lifted both hands off the steering wheel. “Oh God oh God!” “Ma’am,” I called. “What’s wrong?” “Oh God oh God there’s a spider in my car. Oh God help me.” She was hyperventilating. Ben and I looked at each other. Then Ben hit the blue lights and we both jumped out of the car. “Ma’am, just come on out of your car,” I said. “My partner here is going to take care of that spider.”

> “Ms. Watkins,” I said dutifully, “I just wanted to let you know that we don’t have any additional information yet, but we’re looking all over, and the minute we find out anything, we’ll let you know.” “Oh, she’s back!” “She’s back?” “I’m sorry, officer, I meant to call you, but I got so busy yelling at her, I forgot. She come back about an hour ago.” She gestured at a sulky-looking teen sitting on the sofa. “You gonna arrest her now? I’m sick and tired of this. She won’t mind me. Night in jail would do her a world of good.”

> In every district, the majority of calls for police service involve reports of disorderly conduct. This can mean anything: an aggressive panhandler, kids smoking weed in the park, a loud drunk staggering around in the middle of the road, someone peeing in an alley. But after the ubiquitous disorderly calls, the seven police districts diverge. In the wealthy Second District, the most common calls after disorderly conduct complaints involve burglar alarms and business alarms going off, followed by accidental property damage (usually minor fender benders) and traffic complaints. In 7D, after disorderly conduct calls, most calls for service involve “family disturbances,” assaults, and “other,” with burglar alarms coming in fifth

> MPD code words were more prosaic, and often silly: backpack, optional, happy, love, fun, rocket, urology, and waffle featured among recent entries. It was hard to imagine a desperate undercover officer trying to identify himself as a “friendly” during an armed police raid by yelling, “Waffle! Waffle!” and shouting “Rocket!” struck me as a recipe for dangerous misunderstandings. At one point, the police code word was police, which seemed both redundant and unpersuasive.

> only about 3 percent of DC residents suffer from schizophrenia or severe bipolar disorder. Within the city’s homeless population, 13 percent suffer from severe mental illness, and another 15 percent suffer from chronic substance abuse problems. Encounters with mental health consumers could be sad and frustrating, but they were also treasured by officers for their comic potential. Only with a mental health consumer, for instance, was an officer likely to encounter someone deploying a snapping turtle as a weapon.

> “He says he’s an alien. He’s waiting for the other aliens to pick him up.”

> All told, the average arrest costs the city several thousand dollars—even when arrestees are ultimately released without formal charges. Nearly a third of all DC arrests are “no-papered,” meaning they don’t lead to formal charges because prosecutors decide not to move forward with the case.

> the Police for Tomorrow initiative. We would invite applications from officers and MPD civilian employees with less than a year on the job, we decided. Those selected as fellows would participate in intensive monthly workshops on topics such as race and policing, implicit bias, poverty and crime, DC’s changing demographics and the impact of gentrification on policing, mental illness, adolescent brain development, police use of force, and innovative approaches to reducing violence, over-criminalization, and mass incarceration … Christy Lopez and I developed and co-taught a practicum course on innovative policing at the law school, and we trained our law students to serve as discussion facilitators at the police academy. MPD asked us to help rethink the entire academy curriculum, and a team of law students worked with academy staff to develop proposals for change. We put other student teams to work helping MPD rethink its performance evaluation system, develop new approaches to recruiting, and analyze the data on police stops to identify and address racial disparities. We expanded beyond MPD as well, helping a community activist in New Orleans launch a Police for Tomorrow–like program with the New Orleans Police Department

> I talked about my previous writing on war and the military, and the ways in which our tendency to view more and more global threats through the lens of war had undermined the rule of law even as it expanded the role of the military. When it came to domestic, US issues, I said, we were seeing a strikingly similar phenomenon: we were categorizing more and more behaviors as crimes, with devastating consequences for the most vulnerable Americans, and we were steadily expanding the role of police. … “We live in a world in which everything has become war and the military has become everything, everything is becoming crime and the police are becoming everything, and war and policing are becoming ever more intertwined, both on the level of law and the level of institutions. These trends remain invisible to most Americans—but they are having a devastating effect on human rights, democratic accountability, and the rule of law

> In the US, for instance, we consider it normal to have armed police officers enforce compliance with traffic regulations, even though most traffic violations don’t constitute criminal offenses. … American society asks police officers to use violence when needed to enforce the law, but we also ask them to serve as mediators, protectors, social workers, mentors, and medics.

> I found that mention of Donald Trump’s presidency offered a fairly reliable test of mental alertness. Otherwise-stuporous people could be jolted quickly back to consciousness—often irate consciousness—by mention of Trump’s name, and the test worked even if you didn’t name names … “Great, you’re doing great. Just one more question,” the medic told her. “You know who the president is?” For a moment, her eyes fogged over, but then they snapped back into focus and she jerked herself upright. “That . . . white . . . motherfucker!” “Yeah, she’s good,” said the medic, jotting a note on his tablet. “Fully oriented to time, place, and person.”

> ACCUNK stands for “Accident with Unknown Injuries,” for instance, while THRTPER stands for “Threat—In Person” and BERGMACHRPT stands for “Burglary of Machine, More than 30 Minutes Ago.”

> In Britain, there are only 6.6 guns per 100 people; in Germany and France, there are roughly 30 guns per 100 people. In the United States, there are somewhere between 88 and 112 guns per 100 people. The per capita US homicide rate also far outpaces other developed countries: it’s roughly three times higher than in France, four times higher than in Britain, five times higher than in Germany, and 13 times higher than in Japan. The United States’ violence problem has obvious implications for American police officers and how they think about their on-the-job encounters ( )
  breic | Feb 14, 2021 |
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