This book is important—not as a study of the American police—as for projecting the bias inherent in police-acade¬mic collaboration. Public criticism of police harassment of minorities and dissidents, the failure to con¬trol rising crime, in countered by a better appreciation of police work through research programmes into police per-formance. The influx of uni¬versity graduates into the American police has not changed police behaviour, but made police personnel and their functioning more acces¬sible to academicians. The wide access to official data enjoyed by the authors is mar¬red by an uncritical acceptance of police sources. More seriously, there is a consistent attempt to depoliticize a highly political Institution by the nature of questions asked and the way they are treated.
Race and police shooting is the issue which has raised the maximum controversy in America. While Blacks constituted 46 per cent of police shooting victims in 1975, they constituted only 11.5 per cent of the total population. This dispropor¬tionately high Black death-rate has been previously explained by Takagi in American Journal of Radical Criminology (1974) and others, as police killings which were a ‘manifestation of racism’.
This argument is countered by James Fyfe (Towards a Typology of Police Shootings, pp. 136-151) by inverting it, namely it is not that the police pick on the Blacks but that the Blacks are involved in violent crime arrests leading to shootings. Fyfe reports that the rate at which Black males became New York City police shooting opponents during 1971-75 was more than six times greater than that for White and Hispanic males, (p. 141). By emphasizing police hazards, Fyfe pleads that emphasis be shifted from the racial make¬up of the victims to the degree of police justification for shooting (p. 149).
To explain racially disproportionate shootings in terms of ‘police justification’ is to elevate police reports to the gospel truth. Fyfe ignores the differential policing within the American society, the doubtful validity of arrest statistics as an indicator of the extent to which the Blacks commit crimes, and shootings arising from police provocations.
Fyfe’s logic is unintentionally contradicted by Mark Blumberg, who analyses race and police shootings in Kansas City and Atlanta between 1969 and 1978 in terms of ‘police justifiability’. His conclusion, that ‘the situational characteristics of incidents in which the police shoot the Blacks are not very different from incidents in which the police … shoot whites’, (p. 163) render inexplicable how 78 per cent of victims of police shoot¬ings in Atlanta and 62 per cent in Kansas City are Blacks, (p. 156).
A second set of issues recom¬mend a realignment of police priorities ‘in these neo-conservative and fiscally control¬led times’. (Gary Cordner, p. 37). Shrinking police budgets and the better management of personnel and financial re¬sources, suggest a redefinition of the police role whereby the responsibility for ‘unproduc¬tive duties’ is shifted from the police to the public. Pope and Conley’s analysis of the low clearance rate of burglary incidents in California reveal no connection between the characteristics of the incidents and eventual clearance (only 18 per cent) by the police. Burglary is, therefore, seen as ‘a rather unstructured event that evidence little patterning or planning: the potential for the police to directly affect the clearance rate appears limited.’ (p. 35). The impli¬cation, therefore, is that the police withdraw from directly combating burglary to back¬ing citizen prevention-and-arrest programmes (p. 35).
Pope and Conley’s argument is riven by serious flaws. First, their conclusion that burglary is an unplanned event is contradicted by their own data, which reveals that most burglaries are preceded by careful surveillance of the target building: 69 per cent of the entry points were not lighted and 70 per cent were not visible, 93 per cent of the premises were not alarmed, in 88 per cent no security inspection had taken place, in 91 per cent no dogs were present on the premises. (Table I.1, p. 24).
Second, an exclusive reliance on police burglary statistics is unaccompanied by any study of police deployment and investigative techniques. The entire presentation is lopsided and incomplete as we do not know what the police did or did not do to solve a burglary case.
Under fiscal constraints the new police strategy such as ‘Directed Patrol’ mark a shift from community directed programmes to management directed ones. Directed Patrol entails that, unlike random patrols, officers are assigned to specific areas with instructions to check specific offences. Specificity means that stations become more selective in their patrol—car responses to citizen distress calls. Ernie Hernandez ‘The Influence of Tight Budgets on Proactive Law Enforcement’ suggests that since most burglaries are unsolved it might be deemed inefficient and unproductive to dispatch a patrol car to a report of a past burglary (p. 61). Here ‘productivity’ camouflages police load-shedding as burglary, constituting 18 per cent of total offences, is the single largest offence committed.
Directed Patrol is also popular with police administrators for regaining some control over their patrol officers, especially in these days of growing police unionism. As a senior Delaware police officer remarked, ‘before, the men on the street were making all the decisions, which is not exactly the most efficient way to run a police— department.’ (Gary Cordner, The Effects of Directed Patrol—A Natural Quasi- Experiment in Pontiac’, p. 41). Directed Patrol, therefore promotes tighter internal controls within the police, making it a self-stimulating force re¬moved from the citizenry, which decides what calls it will/will not respond to.
The actual effectiveness of Directed Patrol in deterring crime is rather dubious. Gary Cordner states that the aggressive techniques of Directed Patrol, case arrests, vehicle stops and field interrogations, ‘can lead to decreases in at least some categories of reported crime’ (p. 52). He admits, however, that any effect of Directed Patrol may simply have been a displacement effect. Target crime decreases in target areas were largely offset by increases in other areas of the city (p. 53). Moreover, a nearly five-fold increase in Directed Patrol with attendant increases in other measures, had no additional effect on target crimes in target areas, (p. 48). He is forced to conclude that his study is an exercise in futility as it ‘does not truly provide an evaluation of Directed Patrol strategy … (nor) about its effectiveness vis-a-vis other patrol strategies’ (p. 53).
Hernandez argues that economic constraints on police activities will accomplish more reform than humanitarian, ideological arguments advanced by radical criminologists. The police may be forced to become more humane, ‘as it will have to concern itself with higher quality arrests and activities, and not so much with arresting for its own sake. It will do so because the poorer quality arrests and activities associated with (aggressive) law enforcement are simply too expensive for tight budgets to sustain’ (p. 60). (‘The Influence of Tight Budgets on Proactive Law Enforcement’). Nowhere is this lauded qualitative change established. Instead, to ascertain ‘arrest quality’, Hernandez applies the business management theory to police crime statistics. ‘Arrest quality’ is sought to be ascertained by linking offence gravity with cost factor co-efficients as average one/two man-patrol car per minute costs, average detective per minute cost, average overtime cost plus court disposition costs.
It is not clear from where these cost factor co-efficients (p. 66) are derived and how they are calculated. The use of a profit-oriented model to gauge the output and efficiency of a non-earning government agency holds no terrors for the author. All that Hernandez can establish from his mass of statistics is that arrests resulting from officer’s observations —or aggressive policing—cost more than those resulting from public calls, and are less likely to result in desirable court dispositions (p. 73). So much for fiscal determinism.
A refreshing departure from the general tenor of this anthology is Tony Poveda’s ‘Scandal and reform in the FBI’. The hidden nature of intelligence operations is partially overcome by ‘accident research methodology’. This involves taking advantage of ‘accidents’ and ‘scandals’ as research opportunities to discover the internal functioning of organizations, that are normally concealed by the contrived nature of routine news events and organized public relations. Poveda’s thesis is that public disclosures of FBI abuses in the 1970s masked a campaign by the executive to bring the Bureau to heel. Under Hoover, the FBI for five decades remained an extraordinarily independent agency, insulated from any significant legislative oversight, having autonomous status within the US Department of Justice (DOJ). In the post-Hoover era, a series of major public disclosures of FBI abuses by the DOJ were used to purge some 650 Hooverite veterans in the FBI, thereby allowing a restructured relationship between the FBI and the executive with the DOJ in the driving seat. The FBI budget, which remained constant at 45 per cent of the DOJ budget between 1948 and 1968 plum¬meted to 23.7 per cent between 1969 and 1980 (pp. 87-88). However, once the control by the DOJ was stabilized further public disclosures were actively discouraged. The new FBI Charter allows old abuses under new management. The failure to specifically prohibit past abusive techniques shows these have the backing of the major political elites. Thus, Poveda rightly concludes that the fundamental question of the FBI reform debate, the ‘invisible government’ and the limits of executive authority, remain unanswered.
Taken as a whole, these essays underline the fallacy of treating official statistics as objective truths. Computer usage has produced a mass of indigestible percentages and co-efficients, analysis being largely limited to verbalizing statistical tables. Field data is not enriched with interviews of police officers, offenders and victims. Thus, the peculiarities of particular crimes and criminals and of law enforcement at the street level remain obscure; the authors having missed the wood for the trees.