HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT by Jennifer E. Cobbina


Why the Protests in Ferguson and Baltimore Matter, and How They Changed America
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An academic study of the police killings of black citizens as “examples of racial hostility, racial bias [and] legalized racial subordination.”

Cobbina (Criminal Justice/Michigan State Univ.) builds her narrative from a mixture of her own observations, interviews with experts, and data gathered through carefully designed research. Throughout, the author emphasizes high-profile deaths caused by law enforcement personnel in Baltimore and suburban St. Louis. Cobbina, a black woman who worried about being the victim of police force during her research, focuses mostly on the police killings of black males, but she also looks at the use of deadly force against black women and men and women of other races. Beginning with an expansive history of racial inequality in America, the author posits that such racism has often led to excessive force used disproportionately against blacks by police. After summarizing the historical context, Cobbina explains how racism, as well as the unique aspects of a specific city, resulted in the Baltimore death of Freddie Gray and the Ferguson, Missouri, death of Michael Brown. The author devotes a chapter to an examination of whether black police officers are more or less likely than white officers to employ deadly force against black males. She concludes that the hiring of additional black police officers often leads to negligible positive impact because it is an overly simplified solution to a deeply complex problem involving poverty, lack of hope for meaningful employment, and other structural factors rarely solved by local governments. In the second part of the book, the author shifts focus from the use of force to protests by citizens in Baltimore and St. Louis. She tries to discern why some individuals join protests despite the risks of police force, why many of those protestors quickly drop active resistance while others persist, and why a portion of despairing citizens never become actively involved. For an academic monograph, the author mostly eschews scholarly jargon while also not relying exclusively on anecdotal accounts.

Though not groundbreaking, a useful reference on a topic that requires continued examination.

Pub Date: July 30th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-4798-7441-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: New York Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2019


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