Wednesday, April 29, 2015

breaking out of "broken windows" policing


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

April 29, 2015


                The following abstract has been accepted for presentation at the annual conference of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control in August.   In Baltimore, in Ferguson, in New York, in Cleveland…, police killings of unarmed people of color are a manifestation of the problem of “proactive” policing that has been made worse by the way police have come to measure their performance as crime fighters, by increasing public order and drug arrests while reporting fewer Index crimes (as monitored by the CompStat system originating in NYC), used as evidence that “broken windows” policing reduces crime—where police meet community members as criminal suspects and as suspect complainants, a threat at worst and a nuisance at worst.  It is a problem of police and community members knowing one another as stereotypes rather than for real, in their fuller humanity and individuality.  Hence, this abstract:



Hal Pepinsky,,

For presentation at European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control conference

Talinn, Estonia





                What in the sixties was called “pro-active policing” in the US has become institutionalized in policy as “broken windows” policing, supported by CompStat-inspired boosts in stops, frisks and arrests paired with pressure not to report Index offenses, touted as evidence that broken-windows policing works.  It is not only that police become more aggressive, more dangerous in action.  Simultaneously, they have become more prone to inaction when it comes to responding to calls for assistance, let alone to reporting crimes.

                Homicides are but a symptom of the primary source of excessive police violence in communities of color: the police don’t know the people they police other than as suspect and disorderly, while people of color know police as threats.  This is not a new problem; technology has reified police stereotypes on one hand and has brought police violence into public view on the other.

Here I explore ways in which community service and being hosted in community projects and at community events and meetings could be sought out by police forces, both in training and then interwoven into patrol hours, of how these activities could be recognized administratively, as a way of making police and community members feel safer together, and of police getting recognized for service greater than law enforcement, to relax the grip that broken-windows theory holds on policing in communities of color, that black and brown lives may matter more, and that making crime statistics look good may matter less.


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