The End of Policing by Alex Vitale
A look into the failures and corruption of policing, examining its history and the ways in which it exacerbates inequality and crime in the areas of mental illness, sex work, homelessness, gangs, and other criminal behavior.
Non-fiction, sociology, antiracism social justice,
This book attempts to spark public discussion by revealing the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. It shows how the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice— even public safety. Drawing on groundbreaking research from across the world, and covering virtually every area in the increasingly broad range of police work, Alex Vitale demonstrates how law enforcement has come to exacerbate the very problems it is supposed to solve.
In contrast, there are places where the robust implementation of policing alternatives—such as legalization, restorative justice, and harm reduction—has led to a decrease in crime, spending, and injustice. The best solution to bad policing may be an end to policing.
A good introduction into the issue of policing. This is not a great book to look toward if you're looking for specific policy alternatives, but rather it is good for understanding the corruption and failure of policing. The book has ten chapters, covering why reforms fail, the corrupt history of policing, and why policing fails in areas such as homelessness, gang prevention, mental illness, and sex work. In this respect, it works very nicely. The book is data-driven, with clear, numerical data to support Vitale's thesis. Vitale has compiled extensive research, and his explorations of the failures of policing offer a persuasive argument. We take it for granted that police are necessary to deal with everything from minor traffic violations, to mental health crises, homelessness, drug addiction, burglary, and murder. This is an excellent text for showing why police and criminalization shouldn't be our go-to for social problems.
However, the book is entirely focused on America at the expense of other countries' policing problems. While no book could acknowledge all the problems with every country's police, the book does seem to handwave troubles in British policing, holding it up as a superior standard. It's true that British policing is better in that police carry lethal weapons less often, but it still has problems, and Vitale fails to acknowledge that. It doesn't provide good information for someone looking to advocate for anti-policing in a country outside the U.S. If you live in America, though, the book is rife with information on the failures of policing.
The alternatives sections were scant. Vitale spends the majority of each chapter talking about policy failures, then has a brief section on alternative policies. He does provide some data on these alternatives and their successes, but he largely skims over them and never goes into detail. Of course, no book can cover everything, but seeing as the book is called "The End of Policing," I would have expected the book to spend more time showing what the alternatives to policing look like. It does great at explaining the "why" of anti-policing, but not the "how."
This is not to make it sound like this book isn't worthwhile. It absolutely is, and I would recommend it to Americans. It is essential to understand the failures of policing and how to articulate the anti-policing argument if we are to maintain a cohesive movement. The data provided is an excellent resource for this.
If you are new to the concept of defunding police, this is a great book to read, as it offers the "why" of defunding. It is an introductory text for explaining the flaws of policing and working to undo the conditioning we receive to view police as the automatic answer to every crime. But for people who are looking to delve deeper into the movement and solutions to policing, additional resources must be sought out.