From “one of the most interesting sociologists of his generation” and a former cop, the story of three departments and their struggle to change aggressive police culture and achieve what Americans want: fair, humane, and effective policing.
What should we do about the police? After the murder of George Floyd, there’s no institution more controversial: only 14 percent of Americans believe that “policing works pretty well as it is” (CNN, April 27, 2021). We’re swimming in proposals for reform, but most do not tackle the aggressive culture of the profession, which prioritizes locking up bad guys at any cost, loyalty to other cops, and not taking flak from anyone on the street. Far from improving public safety, this culture, in fact, poses a danger to citizens and cops alike.
Walk the Walk brings readers deep inside three unusual departments — in Stockton, California; Longmont, Colorado; and LaGrange, Georgia — whose chiefs signed on to replace that aggressive culture with something better: with models focused on equity before the law, social responsibility, racial reconciliation, and the preservation of life. Informed by research, unflinching and by turns gripping, tragic, and inspirational, this book follows the chiefs — and their officers and detectives — as they conjured a new spirit of policing. While every community faces unique challenges with police reform, Walk the Walk opens a window onto what the police could be, if we took seriously the charge of creating a more just America.
Neil Gross, a former patrol officer in the police department in Berkeley, California, is a professor of sociology at Colby College. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, he is the author of two previous books and has also taught at Harvard and Princeton. He lives in Maine.
Neil Gross photo courtesy of Erin Little