A focused, emotionally devastating argument against aggressive policing.
Haldipur (Sociology/California State Univ., Long Beach) has the academic chops to deliver his argument, but it’s the three years of ethnographic fieldwork he conducted in New York City that will shock readers. The sociologist took a hard look at a “crime prevention program” known colloquially by the community simply as “stop and frisk,” a practice whereby American citizens could be rounded up and herded into the criminal justice system without warning. Spoiler alert: It happens a lot more to people of color. The author’s focused on four primary groups that strongly defy the clichéd portrayals of their community: achievement-oriented young adults, young adults involved in some way with the criminal justice system, local parents, and recent immigrants. Haldipur found the first group had become “invisible youths,” driven indoors by neighborhood violence and an aggressive police presence. The author also discovered that parents were experiencing an acute form of trauma vicariously through their children. Young people who were already known by the police and had experience with the criminal justice system were exposed to the harshest treatment and developed the most cynical attitudes, as voiced by one of Haldipur’s many subjects: “That beef ain’t ever gonna stop. It ain’t ever gonna stop…it’s just gonna continue.” Although the author offers plenty of smart policy recommendations involving the concept of “community policing,” the personal stories resonate most deeply. Even more remarkable are the many examples of young people who have developed a characteristic resilience to the stress that surrounds them on a daily basis. These individuals, writes Haldipur, display a “remarkable ability to compartmentalize troubling and even dangerous incidents and events in a way that prevents them from ‘contaminating’ other aspects of their social, educational, and work lives.”
A sharp portrait of one of the many seriously troubled areas of the American criminal justice system—and one without clear solutions.