- American History, African American History, Urban History, Race and Ethnicity, Social Movements, Policing, and Crime and Mass Incarceration
My research interests focus on themes of power and resistance by exploring the ways police practices and crime policy reinforced systemic racial and ethnic inequality in the late-twentieth century. My book manuscript, Battle for the Streets: Policing, Politics, and Power in Los Angeles, which will be published by the University of North Carolina Press, is a history of policing, crime policy, and antipolice brutality activism in Los Angeles from the 1965 Watts uprising to the 1992 rebellion. It examines how local politicians and law enforcement officials came to rely on crime control as the primary means to address urban social problems after 1965. Even as the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) authority became more capacious, black and Latino residents and activists challenged the city’s reliance on policing and crime control. By providing alternatives to punitive policies and demanding accountability and civilian oversight of the LAPD, they shaped conceptions of justice, power, and politics in this period. Battle for the Streets reveals how struggles around policing and punitive War on Crime policies structured understandings of race, citizenship, criminality, and state power during an era of economic transformation, immigration and demographic change, and political realignment.
As a social and political history, Battle for the Streets argues that police power was not incidental or supplemental, but constitutive of postwar city politics. My book demonstrates how the growth of police departments and the expansion of police prerogatives was the product of a convergence of interests. Conservative and liberal officials were proactive in promoting asserting solutions to urban social problems that rested on the coercive power of the state. The reliance on police and criminal justice solutions to the urban crisis of the 1970s and 1980s, in other words, was a state-building project during an era often characterized by a dramatic retreat in government services in the city. Rather than displacing government, the post-1960s local war on crime produced a punishing local state that facilitated a reinterpretation of structural inequalities as the fault of individual behavior.
Battle for the Streets will be published as part of the Justice, Power, and Politics series at UNC Press.