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Hunting for “Dirtbags”

Why Cops Over-Police the Poor and Racial Minorities

Lori Beth Way

Publication Year: 2013

This ethnographic study, which includes participant observation research and in-depth interviews with police officers in a major California city and a large East Coast city, explores how police officers use their discretionary time on the job--and the consequences. Providing highly textured insights into police discretion, the authors show that America's "tough on crime" approach to justice has too often proved to be a smoke screen for controlling people deemed undesirable, rather than a genuinely effective strategy for reducing crime.

Published by: Northeastern University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-5


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pp. v-vi

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1 | The Undiagnosed Problem: Discretionary Proactive Policing

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pp. 1-20

What role should the police serve in a democratic society? Should police departments work to reduce crime and catch lawbreakers, or should their focus primarily be on responding to citizen calls for service or assistance? Of course, these strategies are not mutually exclusive, ...

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2 | Setting the Stage: Stonesville and Seaside

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pp. 21-48

In this chapter we describe how our study was conducted and provide relevant contextual information for the following chapters.1 The primary data sources for this research are observations and interviews with “Stonesville” and “Seaside” police officers. We do not to use the names of the actual cities ...

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3 | Shaken or Stirred? Choosing Your Policing Style and Level of Proactivity

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pp. 49-82

With the advent of the 9-1-1 system, researchers concluded that patrol officers continue to spend a greater proportion of their time responding to citizen calls for service than proactively fighting crime (Black 1980; Garland 2001: Smith, Novak, and Frank 2001). Dispatchers prioritize calls and send officers to respond based on the immediacy of need. ...

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4 | Hunting Grounds: And May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

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pp. 83-116

The previous chapter described officers’ policing styles and the crimes they hunt. This chapter examines where and who officers hunt. The push to contain and control undesirable populations occurs in a variety of ways. The police contribute to that process through discretionary proactive policing in minority neighborhoods, ...

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5 | A Vicious Cycle: Re-Policing the Poor and the Effects of Probation and Parole Status

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pp. 117-134

This chapter describes how the institution of policing supports the modern desire for continual criminal justice supervision of the underclasses by encouraging officers to hunt for people who are on probation or parole. According to Feeley and Simon (1992), a new penology has been created in which individuals are cycled ...

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6 | The Future: Service-Oriented Policing

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pp. 135-158

The trend in the criminal justice system has been to continue to put greater numbers of poor individuals under its jurisdiction often through drug laws.1 This trend has been given many different names: “the criminal justice juggernaut” (Websdale 2001), “the culture of control” (Garland 2001), ...


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pp. 159-168


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pp. 169-196


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pp. 197-200

E-ISBN-13: 9781555538149
E-ISBN-10: 1555538142
Print-ISBN-13: 9781555538125

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 867740036
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Hunting for “Dirtbags”

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Police discretion.
  • Police-community relations.
  • Poor.
  • Minorities.
  • Police -- United States -- Case studies.
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