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The Politics of Community Policing

Rearranging the Power to Punish

William Lyons

Publication Year: 1999

In this in-depth examination of community policing in Seattle, William T. Lyons, Jr. explores the complex issues associated with the establishment and operation of community policing, an increasingly popular method for organizing law enforcement in this country. Stories about community policing appeal to a nostalgic vision of traditional community life. Community policing carries with it the image of a safe community in which individual citizens and businesses are protected by police they know and who know them and their needs. However, it also carries an image of community based in partnerships that exclude the least advantaged, strengthen the police, and are limited to targeting those disorders feared by more powerful parts of the community and most amenable to intervention by professional law enforcement agencies. The author argues that the politics of community policing are found in the construction of competing and deeply contested stories about community and the police in environments characterized by power inbalances. Community policing, according to the author, colonizes community life, increasing the capacity of the police department to shield itself from criticism, while manifesting the potential for more democratic forms of social control as evidenced by police attention to individual rights and to impartial law enforcement. This book will be of interest to sociologists and political scientists interested in the study of community power and local politics as well as criminologists interested in the study of police. William T. Lyons, Jr. is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Akron. He previously worked for the Seattle Police Department.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Law, Meaning, and Violence

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

List of Tables

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

This study of community policing is motivated by my concern for American democracy. As the decline of community life and the concentration of power in state and corporate bureaucracies intersect with increasingly inescapable violence on urban streets and in our homes, it...

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1. Competing Stories about Community and Policing

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pp. 1-13

The beating of Rodney King by several officers from the Los Angeles Police Department drew national attention to the urban crime control problem. In an election year response, President George Bush offered the Justice Department's Weed and Seed Program. The mayor of Seattle saw this as an opportunity to be more responsive to community concerns....

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2. Community (Policing)

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pp. 14-33

There are two reasons to take a closer look at the stories about community in community policing. First, community revitalization is central to the logic of stories about community policing. Advocates assume that a more proactive policing of disorder, including fear reduction and problem solving partnerships, will revitalize communities and enable...

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3. (Community) Policing

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pp. 35-55

In their National Institute of Justice study, Skolnick and Bayley survey policing reform efforts around the world and conclude that the core of community policing is four general principles: community-based crime prevention, reorientation of patrol, increased police accountability, and decentralization of command.1 These principles are, however, more...

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4. Communities and Crime on the South Side of Skid Road

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pp. 57-75

Rainier Valley has had a sometimes difficult relationship with the rest of Seattle. This relationship has contributed to decline and a wide range of citizen activism in the valley around issues of crime and community revitalization-the community component of what the National Institute of Justice later called a model police-community partnership. In this...

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5. The Emergence of the South Seattle Crime Prevention Council

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pp. 77-104

The challenge to the possibility of community in modem society is posed starkly around questions of social order. The logic of community policing assumes that contemporary communities can still contribute to the provision of social order. But it is precisely on issues like social order that these modem community organizations have proven most difficult to sustain...

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6. Policing Reform in Southeast Seattle

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pp. 105-133

Community policing in Southeast Seattle is a meeting ground for at least two tracks of political reform, one in the police department and another within the communities of southeast Seattle. These two intersecting histories show a department that has always been a powerful local political institution and a long and checkered history of citizen...

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7. Reciprocity in Police-Community Partnerships

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pp. 135-162

State-centered stories about community policing can be traced through police failures in managing urban unrest in the 1960s, leading to a series of presidential commissions, each suggesting that poor police-community relations contributed to ineffective policing. The federally funded policing research that followed the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, taken together, challenged several basic...

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8. Getting Back to Mayberry

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pp. 163-185

In this final chapter, I summarize and examine the findings of this study. First, I organize this material around an image--Getting Back toy Mayberry--that captures the intersection of community activism and policing reform, state-centered and more decentered stories, and the dialectical relationship between democratic and disciplinary mechanisms of social control in this case. Getting Back to Mayberry is an...


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pp. 187-196


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pp. 197-225


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pp. 227-237


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pp. 239-241

E-ISBN-13: 9780472023868
E-ISBN-10: 0472023861
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472089017
Print-ISBN-10: 0472089013

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 5 drawings, 13 tables, 6 maps
Publication Year: 1999

Series Title: Law, Meaning, and Violence