BLACK POLICE IN AMERICA by W. Marvin Dulaney

BLACK POLICE IN AMERICA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A dry but insightful history of black police officers' long struggle against racism. Dulaney (African-American Studies/Coll. of Charleston) culls most of his information from previous academic studies and from black newspapers, which gave substantial coverage to issues largely ignored by the mainstream press until the 1950s. He tracks the distinctive development of black police in the South, where they initially were hired for their inside knowledge of the former slave population, and in the North, where the first black cops were tokens intended to draw black voters to urban political machines. The rise of civil service reform and police professionalism lowered the numbers of black officers in the North for many years because of blacks' educational disadvantages and the resistance of white police administrations. Dulaney details the indignities to which black officers were long subjected, such as being prohibited from arresting whites. While black cops benefited from the broader civil rights movement, they also had to use their own professional organizations and litigation against their departments in order to gain equal status with white police. Only with the election of black mayors starting in the late '60s, and the consequent increase in the number of black police chiefs and administrators, did most police forces become truly integrated. One section of the book focuses on the specific problems that African-American policewomen have confronted. Dulaney's prose lacks verve but not clarity, and he leaves outrage to the reader's discretion. The book would have benefited from a greater sense of how black officers felt about the changing but always difficult circumstances in which they have found themselves, but it contains some illuminating career stories, such as that of Ira L. Cooper, who joined the St. Louis police department in 1906 and became its leading detective. A balanced, perceptive, and readable study.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0253210402
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Indiana Univ.