But, as always at USIH, when things seem bleak we try to look at problems historically. What does historical thinking bring to the table when the public discussion feels inadequate? With this post I want to open a forum on intellectual history and policing.
My professional experience with this topic is limited. In my work on Adler, I found that he attempted—with this colleagues with the Institute for Philosophical Research—to look into the history of policing. This occurred around 1970, in the context of police disorder and “police riots,” the latter phrase made popular coordinate with events at the 1968 Democratic Convention. I still own photocopies of what the Institute produced, but never found the time to study it. I think I’ll look for it tonight.
In the meantime, let’s talk. Some thoughts and questions:
1. What have intellectual historians done on the “broken windows” theory of policing? What still must be done?
2. How much work has been done on the thought of James Q. Wilson, or George L. Kelling?
3. What has been done on police riots?
4. What have legal-USIH historians done on use of lethal force by law enforcement? How does this differ state-by-state?
5. What have political-USIH historians done on the “get tough” politics of the 1970s and 1980s?
6. Surely there are Progressive Era roots in all of this. What do the SGAPE people have to say about the professionalization of law enforcement? Was it all about Taylorized efficiency, or were there substantial differences in administrative theories?
7. Apart from the work of historians like Robin Kelley on policing and blackness, what other interesting stories have turned up in histories of ethnicity, gender, and sexuality?
8. How have the ideas of tolerance and diversity affected the history of police work?
9. Have USIH’ers explored the work of Oscar Newman, particularly his 1972 book, Defensible Space, and “defensible space theory”?
10. As always I’m thinking about anti-intellectualism. Since the events in Ferguson, however, I’ve been thinking about popular anti-intellectualism in relation to police expectations. I mean, safety is more of a sensibility involving emotions and reason rather than reason alone. So how does anti-intellectualism figure into what we want and expect from policing?
11. What of police training and education levels? Some early research demonstrates that a college education provides police persons with the equivalent of nearly ten years of learning by experience. What is the history of police training?
That’s all I have for now. Let’s dive in together. The historical thinking will be therapeutic for me, and maybe for you too. – TL