Tangled up in blue Policing the American city

Rosa Brooks

Book - 2021

"Journalist and law professor Rosa Brooks goes beyond the "blue wall of silence" in this radical inside examination of American policing" -- Amazon.com.

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New York : Penguin Press 2021.
Physical Description
367 pages : 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 355-367).
Main Author
Rosa Brooks (author)
  • Because it was there
  • The Academy
  • The street
  • Epilogue
  • Appendix A: What happened next?
  • Appendix B: Police for tomorrow.
Review by Booklist Review

Brooks was well-established in her career as a law professor and policy expert when she heard of the Washington, D.C. police reserve corps program. To the confusion of her family and friends, she decided to join up as a volunteer officer. This memoir examines her time in the police academy and on patrol, seeking to complicate narratives of officers as either oppressors or martyrs. Through evocative storytelling coupled with research and analysis, she explores what on-the-ground policing in a low-income neighborhood looked like for her. She discusses how her own childhood was shaped by her mother's political activism and writing, and how her decision to become a cop strained their relationship. Brooks discusses the complex intersections of race and socioeconomic status in interactions between civilians and police while highlighting the often blunt enforcement of laws. A thoughtful, piercing read, Tangled Up in Blue creates nuanced portrayals of her fellow officers, the members of the community they served, and the people affected by the criminal justice system in the United States.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Brooks (How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything), a journalist and Georgetown University law professor, delivers a nuanced and revealing chronicle of her experiences training to be a reserve police officer in Washington, D.C. Over the objections of her husband, mother (the writer Barbara Ehrenreich), and law school colleagues, Brooks took a sabbatical and entered the police academy in 2016. She and her fellow recruits--most of whom came from military backgrounds--did push-ups, underwent firearms training, and learned the academy's central lesson: "Anyone can kill you at any time." After graduation, Brooks worked 24 hours a month as a patrol officer, mainly in D.C.'s Seventh Police District, "the poorest, saddest, most crime-ridden part of the nation's capital." An observant writer with a sharp sense of humor, Brooks vividly sketches her patrol partners and the D.C. residents they encounter, and highlights problems caused by mass incarceration, racial discrimination, and lawmakers turning "trivial forms of misbehavior" into jailable offenses. After completing her training, Brooks helped launch a fellowship program for new recruits to learn about these and other issues. This immersive, illuminating, and timely account takes a meaningful step toward bridging the gap between what American society asks of police and what they're trained to deliver. Agent: Kris Dahl, ICM Partners (Feb.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Law professor and journalist Brooks shocked her colleagues and her family when she decided to become a reserve officer within Washington DC's Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), but she knew it was the only way to understand the incredibly complicated issue of police violence. Working part-time as a patrol officer in the poorest district in DC, the author observed firsthand that, in the absence of neighborhood social services, the police became the default solution to many community problems. Her sorrow, empathy, and frustration are evident as she describes routine police calls where she and her partners tried to mediate family disputes, serving not only as law enforcers but also as default social workers. Brooks's legal background led her to propose and create a program within MPD that gave space and resources to officers to explore the causes of racism, poverty, and hopelessness, rather than simply focusing on what was in front of them. VERDICT Blending memoir with sharp commentary on social justice issues, Brooks's empathetic work is ideal for readers curious about policing and police reform in the United States.--Amelia Osterud, Milwaukee P.L.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A provocative account of a tour of duty with the Washington, D.C., police force. "These fucking people." So says a weary cop, pointing out to Brooks a particularly crime-prone denizen of the streets. Though she was in her 40s, "with two children, a spouse, a dog, a mortgage, and a fulltime job as a tenured law professor" (and the daughter of a disapproving Barbara Ehrenreich), the author decided to become a police officer, following the participant observation model to "understand cultures that might otherwise appear alien and incomprehensible." The D.C. metro force has an unusual program that allows volunteers to serve, carry a weapon, and make arrests. To satisfy her interest in violence and its constraints, she enrolled in and passed the training course. "By any measure, policing in the United States is a breathtakingly violent enterprise," she writes, particularly in a city like D.C., where so much of the business of crime and punishment is racially charged. The political left, she notes, holds that Black men are so often killed by police or hauled off to jail because the police are racist while the right contends that young Black men are inclined to crime. Brooks ably shows how the truth is much more complex, and the anecdotes she offers along her beat demonstrate the complicated relationships among authority, violence, gender, race, and other elements. Some of the officers she portrays are noble civil servants, others dead weight, others just this side of psychotic--very much like the people they both serve and combat. The author's look at the Dickensian "secret city" is both revealing and appalling, and she delivers sometimes-surprising news along the way about racism, the harms of mandatory arrest, and the "overcriminalization" of everyday life in a thoroughly dysfunctional society. A thoughtful book that offers abundant material to rile up--and edify--Blue Lives Matter and Defund the Police advocates alike. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.