- Expected Feb 9, 2021
Journalist and law professor Rosa Brooks goes beyond the "blue wall of silence" in this radical inside examination of American policing
In her forties, with two children, a spouse, a dog, a mortgage, and a full-time job as a tenured law professor at Georgetown University, Rosa Brooks decided to become a cop. A liberal academic and journalist with an enduring interest in law's troubled relationship with violence, Brooks wanted the kind of insider experience that would help her understand how police officers make sense of their world--and whether that world can be changed. In 2015, against the advice of everyone she knew, she applied to become a sworn, armed reserve police officer with the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department.
Then as now, police violence was constantly in the news. The Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum, protests wracked America's cities, and each day brought more stories of cruel, corrupt cops, police violence, and the racial disparities that mar our criminal justice system. Lines were being drawn, and people were taking sides. But as Brooks made her way through the police academy and began work as a patrol officer in the poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods of the nation's capital, she found a reality far more complex than the headlines suggested.
In Tangled Up in Blue, Brooks recounts her experiences inside the usually closed world of policing. From street shootings and domestic violence calls to the behind-the-scenes police work during Donald Trump's 2016 presidential inauguration, Brooks presents a revelatory account of what it's like inside the "blue wall of silence." She issues an urgent call for new laws and institutions, and argues that in a nation increasingly divided by race, class, ethnicity, geography, and ideology, a truly transformative approach to policing requires us to move beyond sound bites, slogans, and stereotypes. An explosive and groundbreaking investigation, Tangled Up in Blue complicates matters rather than simplifies them, and gives pause both to those who think police can do no wrong--and those who think they can do no right.
Brooks (How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything), a journalist and Georgetown University law professor, delivers a nuanced and revealing chronicle of her experiences training to be a reserve police officer in Washington, D.C. Over the objections of her husband, mother (the writer Barbara Ehrenreich), and law school colleagues, Brooks took a sabbatical and entered the police academy in 2016. She and her fellow recruits most of whom came from military backgrounds did push-ups, underwent firearms training, and learned the academy's central lesson: "Anyone can kill you at any time." After graduation, Brooks worked 24 hours a month as a patrol officer, mainly in D.C.'s Seventh Police District, "the poorest, saddest, most crime-ridden part of the nation's capital." An observant writer with a sharp sense of humor, Brooks vividly sketches her patrol partners and the D.C. residents they encounter, and highlights problems caused by mass incarceration, racial discrimination, and lawmakers turning "trivial forms of misbehavior" into jailable offenses. After completing her training, Brooks helped launch a fellowship program for new recruits to learn about these and other issues. This immersive, illuminating, and timely account takes a meaningful step toward bridging the gap between what American society asks of police and what they're trained to deliver.