To understand police related deaths in the US, we need to understand the structures and systems that enable police to operate in the way they do. Giving voice to a previously unheard group in society, this book articulates the experiences of the families of those who died after police contact. David Baker considers the disproportionate number of deaths in marginalized communities, for example: people of color, people who are mentally unwell, and LGBTQ people. Each chapter begins with a short case study drawn from this qualitative research to humanize the story of the person who died and put the key issues into context. By examining these deaths and the investigatory processes that follow, Baker argues that an increasingly aggressive police mindset allied with relatively toothless regulatory frameworks effectively lead to police being enabled by the criminal justice system to use lethal force with relative impunity. Baker combines his qualitative research with the wide base of existing literature on police use of force in the US and maintains that the effects of these deaths go beyond merely policing and criminal justice but are corroding the core fabric of American society.
David Baker is lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology at the University of Liverpool, UK.
Chapter 1: ‘Comply or Die’
Chapter 2: Suspect Populations
Chapter 3: They Musta Done Somethin’
Chapter 4: Move On, Nothing to See Here
Chapter 5: Blue Codes and Bad Apples
Chapter 6: Walk in My Shoes
Chapter 7: Business as Usual?
David Baker's rich qualitative analysis deeply provokes any reader interested in the intersections of policing and justice, governance and equality. The voices of surviving family members find full expression in this path-breaking volume.
An authoritative and extremely well researched volume that asks some questions about which we should all be concerned. There is a compelling and yet well balanced debate throughout the book that draws upon individual tragedies to highlight the structural issues of violence, poverty, race and inequalities. One of its central themes, the accountability of the police and their occupational culture, is set against some of the powerfully evocative accounts of the loved ones of the people the author interviewed in the aftermath of their loss, and subsequent fight for justice.
Using powerful vignettes that explore the lived experiences of those whose loved ones have died at the end of a police officer’s gun, Baker argues that ‘more people need to ask more questions’ about police related deaths in the US. Baker’s work dispels a number of myths around what we think we know about these all too frequent occurrences.