Controversial Police Developments: Examining the Police Using Penological Lenses

Peter B. Kraska, Eastern Kentucky University
Matthew T. DeMichele, Western Michigan University

Documenting macro-shifts in crime control and making sense of them theoretically should be a major preoccupation of the discipline. Unfortunately the bulk of attention in police scholarship has been devoted to promoting a community policing reform agenda along with a quest for determining "what works." In the meantime there is growing, albeit undeveloped evidence, that emerging police practices are more controversial than the academic field acknowledges. This paper takes as its object of controversial police developments (CPD). Using survey and in-depth interview data, this research documents four CPDs: 1) the use of civil asset forfeiture; 2) police practices in public housing; 3) drug and crime enforcement in public schools; and 4) the use of video-surveillance systems in public places. These findings are filtered through the growng literature in penology which takes the task of theorizing crime control as seriously as the rest of the discipline theorizes crime itself. Our conclusion emphasizes how our findings coincide with several key features of late modern society--including, risk minimization and aversion, high rationality, and incoherent state policies.

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Updated 05/20/2006