Book review: The End of Policing

The End of Policing Cover ImageIf like me, policing is your career, perhaps even your purpose, the title alone activates a whole range of almost overwhelming reactions, driven by decades of experience and no doubt some biases both conscious and unconscious.

Alex Vitale’s, End of Policing is highly critical of policing practice in the United States but unlike many, Vitale’s criticisms are built upon a more meaningful understanding of the broader systems in which policing operates.  Vitale does not excuse police for our failings but recognises that we are an organisational product of our environment and that we operate within a much broader system.

“….even racially neutral enforcement of traffic laws will invariably punish poorer residents who are least able to maintain their vehicles and pay fines. Well-trained police following proper procedure are still going to be arresting people for mostly low-level offenses, and the burden will continue to fall primarily on communities of colour because that is how the system is designed to operate—not because of the biases or misunderstandings of officers.”

 

A very similar argument could be mounted about Police Bail in Australia which disproportionately impacts on “poorer residents” because often, they do not have a stable address or steady employment or have a history of criminal offending driven in part by social disadvantage.  Invariably, these police bail decisions are supported by the Courts.  This is how our system is designed to operate.

Vitale is deservedly critical but understands police are a blunt instrument being used to stabilise, or not, some of society’s most complex problems. Vitale, does not argue for an end of policing but for a narrowing of our remit. Vitale also acknowledges the narrowing remit alone would not be effective.

“We don’t need empty police reforms; we need a robust democracy that gives people the capacity to demand of their government and themselves real, nonpunitive solutions to their problems.”

 

For many years I have been present at organisational briefings that include warnings of “an approaching cliff” because of events in other countries.  Rarely, have we in Australia experienced the “edge of the cliff” perhaps “defunding the police” and “black lives matter” will be different.

If police in Australia are to be proactive and not wait for others, without genuine context, to impose solutions on policing, perhaps reading Vitale’s End of Policing would be a good way to begin the conversation.

Review by Bob Fauser, AIPM Director – Graduate Programs, 2020. 

(published on 01/07/2020)

Book Review: Talking to Strangers

Cover imageI love to read; I have for many years. One of the challenges I currently experience is falling asleep by about the third page. Perhaps this is more about my age! I have read many good books recently but Gladwell’s “Talking to Strangers” is the first book I have read for many years where falling asleep was not an option or even a temptation.  For those of you who have read some of Gladwell’s other books or perhaps listened to his TED talks you know Gladwell is engaging and accessible. Perhaps not always evidence based but always thought provoking. Talking to Strangers is not only very easy to read it is very relevant to police officers. 

Gladwell, through a series of historical and contemporary case studies, many of which are police related, builds to his proposition that we are inept at judging the motives of strangers.  Gladwell concludes, “We think we can transform the stranger, without cost or sacrifice, into the familiar and the known, and we can't.”

 

Perhaps in our professional world, Gladwell’s final conclusion is most challenging,

 

“To assume the best about another (trust) is the trait that has created modern society. Those occasions when our trusting nature gets violated are tragic.  But the alternative – to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception-is worse.” 

Review by Bob Fauser, AIPM Director of Education, 2020. 

(published on 18/05/2020)
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