A City Divided: Race, Fear and the Law in Police Confrontations

Anthem. Jan. 2020. 354p. ISBN 9781785271137. $49. LAW
Legal scholar Harris (chair, Univ. of Pittsburgh Sch. of Law; Failed Evidence) offers a timely and compelling close read of a single, and thankfully nonfatal, incident of police brutality that took place in Pittsburgh on January 12, 2010, when three police officers assaulted and arrested an 18-year-old Black high school senior as he walked to his grandmother’s house. While criminal charges against the teenager were quickly thrown out, government investigations into police conduct and civil lawsuits against the officers extended into 2016. Harris methodically analyzes how racial prejudice and institutional racism, Black citizens’ justified fear of police encounters, and the disturbingly central role fear has come to play in the training and culture of American law enforcement shaped the event itself, public reaction, and the legal proceedings that followed. Harris ends with 10 recommendations for preventing police brutality through reform, ranging from the demilitarization of the police and racial reconciliation to laws circumscribing police use of force and stronger commitments to accountability.
VERDICT Dense with legal detail, this work is legible to general readers with a strong interest in thinking critically about the violent intersection of racism and policing in American life.
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