Written in an accessible style, this book provides a historically grounded critique of American policing and offers implementable solutions, providing students a comprehensive understanding of modern policing.
Contemporary policing is in crisis, a situation that has led to persistent calls to reform it. Unfortunately, many proposed solutions focus on piecemeal changes that ignore a fundamental problem—policing relies on a largely reactive approach that does not in any systematic or comprehensive way focus on crime prevention. Most of what the police do, such as responding to 911 calls for service and employing directed patrols or hot spots policing, fails to address the causes of crime. Compounding this problem is the absence of any institution or agency charged with prioritizing the prevention of crime and for ensuring that police efforts support this goal.
A central distinguishing feature of this book is its comprehensive approach and the emphasis on policing as part of a much broader set of changes that must occur both to improve policing and to improve public safety and justice. This approach includes retaining what works, eliminating what does not, drawing on evidence-based policy from around the world, and creating systemic changes that institutionalize better policing, accountability, and evaluation processes for ensuring that the police are effective.
The Reinvention of Policing can be used in courses focused on policing policy and practice, specifically when discussing the nature of policing, how policing may reflect and contribute to inequality and injustice, or how it might improve these social problems.
William R. Kelly is professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Kelly is the author of and contributor to several books and articles on criminal justice, law, and policy, including Criminal Justice at the Crossroads (2015), Confronting Underground Justice (2018), and The Crisis in the American Courts (2021).
Daniel P. Mears is distinguished research professor in the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University. A fellow of the American Society of Criminology and recipient of the Bruce Smith Sr. award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, Mears conducts research on crime and policy. His work appears in journal articles and books, including the award-winning American Criminal Justice Policy (2010) and Out-of-Control Criminal Justice (2017).
About the Authors
1. Our Broken Criminal Justice System and the Failure to Put Public Safety First
The Costly Failure of American Criminal Justice
Fundamentally Misunderstanding Public Safety
Why Focus on Policing?
Improving Policing and Public Safety
Structure of this Book
2. American Policing: A Litany of Problems
Critical Problems in Policing—Design Flaws
Problem 1: Society Thinks that They Have a Crime Prevention Agency—They Do Not
Problem 2: The Police Do Little to Address Known Causes of Offending or Crime
Problem 3: Goals and Mission Creep
Problem 4: Lack of Clarity about How Large Police Departments Should Be
Problem 5: Increasingly Militarized Police
Problem 6: Lack of Coordination with Courts and Resistance to Reform
Critical Problems in Policing—Harmful Impacts
Problem 7: Failure to Prevent or Reduce Crime
Problem 8: Use of Force: Problems, Effectiveness, and the Ridiculous
Problem 9: Racism, Ethnic Bias, and Profiling
Problem 10: Police Accountability, Citizen Oversight, and Qualified Immunity
Critical Problems in Policing—Operational Issues
Problem 11: Inadequate Officer Training
Problem 12: Police Discretion and Officer Supervision
Problem 13: The 911 System
Problem 14: Police Use of Time
Problem 15: Police Ill-Equipped to Manage the Consequences of Mass Reentry
Problem 16: Police Officers’ Attitudes about Their Jobs
Problem 17: Public Attitudes about Policing
Critical Problems in Policing—Lack of Research, Monitoring, and Oversight
Problem 18: Little Systematic Reliance on Research
Problem 19: Accountability and the “Black Box” of Policing
3. How We Got Here: Policing that Does Not Prioritize Public Safety (Co-authored with Madalena Almanza)
Historical Origins of Policing
What Contributed to Expansion of Policing as a Reactive, Control-Oriented Institution
Civil Disorder and the Johnson Presidency
Tough on Crime
The 1994 Crime Bill
The War on Drugs
Mission Creep: Dumping More and More Responsibilities on Police
911 and Reactive Policing
The Warrior Cop
4. A Clean Slate: What Would an Effective Public Safety Approach Look Like?
Establish Clear Goals: Crime Prevention and Public Safety
Identify and Monitor the Level and Distribution of Recidivism and Crime
Identify and Monitor the Causes of Recidivism and Crime
Use Evidence-Based Strategies to Prevent Offending and Reduce Recidivism (Individuals)
Address Known Causes of Offending and Recidivism
Focus on Three Levels of Prevention
Rely on a Comprehensive Approach
Use Evidence-Based Strategies to Prevent and Reduce Crime (Communities)
Address Known Causes of Crime
Coordinate All Efforts
Rely on Continuous Research and Assessment
Assess and Improve Policy Design
Assess and Improve Policy Implementation
Assess Policy Impact and Cost-Efficiency
Assess Citizen Views and Experiences
5. Reforming Traditional Policing—Eliminating What Doesn’t Work and Keeping and Improving What Does Work to Promote Crime Prevention and Public Safety
Improve Traditional Policing—What to Eliminate
Random, Preventive Patrol, Especially in Large Geographic Areas
Aggressive Policing, Zero Tolerance Policing, and Broken Windows Policing
Mental Health Calls
Police in Schools
Improve Traditional Policing—What the Police Should Do, Do More, and Do Better
Hot Spots Policing
Police Recruiting and Training
Police Culture: Transitioning from Warrior to Guardian
6. Reinventing Policing within a System that Prioritizes Crime Prevention and Public Safety
Contemporary and Proposed Police Reforms
Reinventing American Policing to Accomplish Public Safety
Defining Crime Prevention
The Case for Crime Prevention
Crime Prevention Strategies by Law Enforcement in the U.S.
Crime Prevention Strategies by Law Enforcement in Other Countries
A New Model for American Policing
1. A Lead Agency Charged with Promoting Public Safety
2. Research Guidance on Crime and Its Causes
3. Multi-Agency Policing
4. Addressing Crime through Police Specialization and Improved Training
5. Crime Prevention through Collective Efficacy and Informal Social Control
6. Crime Prevention through Alternatives to the Police
7. Crime Prevention through a Systematic Approach
8. Crime Prevention through Improvement of 911 Call Systems
9. Leverage Public Support for Reinventing and Evaluating Policing
10. Research Evaluation of Implementation, Effectiveness, and Cost-Efficiency
What Has to Happen for the Reinvention of Policing to Be Successful
Address Barriers to Reinventing Policing
Create Incentives for Reinventing Policing
Reality: Pragmatic Considerations and Reinvention of American Policing
7. Better Policing and Public Safety Means More Justice
What Is Justice?
What Do Police Reforms and the Reinvention of Policing Mean for Justice?
8. Conclusion: Public Safety First
A Litany of Problems (Key Points from Chapter 2)
Why Policing Is Broken and Needs to Be Reinvented (Key Points from Chapter 3)
A Clean-Slate View of How to Improve Public Safety (Key Points from Chapter 4)
Reforming Policing (Key Points from Chapter 5)
Reinventing Policing (Key Points from Chapter 6)
Improved Public Safety Means More Justice (Key Points from Chapter 7)
Every so often a book on policing comes along that shakes the field of criminology to its core. By calling out the moral and system failures, marshaling the research evidence of the gains made, and charting a path for real reform and social justice, The Reinvention of Policing, by Kelly and Mears, is that book. It is what we need now. It is what we will need for the years ahead.
The Reinvention of Policing fills a critical void in our knowledge of policing in the U.S. The book offers a comprehensive account of the failures of American policing, as well as a model for reforming traditional policing. The authors draw from historical events, federal policies and practices, and the latest policing research to illustrate what works and what doesn’t in crime prevention and public safety. This is a must read for policy makers and justice officials striving for an effective and cost-efficient justice system.
Kelly and Mears bring their decades of experience studying the criminal justice system to the crucial question of how to improve modern policing. This book clearly and comprehensively identifies not just the challenges in how policing currently operates, but also bold, realistic solutions to change practice. Centering crime prevention and public safety in efforts to transform police work offers great promise for fairer and more effective policing in the future. This book should be read by students, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers interested in seriously engaging with what works (and what does not) in improving public safety and applying these ideas to concrete strategies to enhance twenty-first century policing.
In The Reinvention of Policing, Kelly and Mears provide a highly critical but simultaneously constructive account of the crises in policing today. They situate their critique of modern policing in the broader context of a failing criminal justice system, provide a detailed account how we got here, and offer a clear and convincing path towards a model of policing that truly prioritizes public safety through crime prevention. Truly a remarkable accomplishment and a must read for all those who seek transformational reforms in policing.