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The End of Policing

Narrated by: Michael Butler Murray
Length: 8 hrs and 17 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Politics
4.5 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Recent years have seen an explosion of protest against police brutality and repression. Among activists, journalists, and politicians, the conversation about how to respond and improve policing has focused on accountability, diversity, training, and community relations. Unfortunately, these reforms will not produce results, either alone or in combination. The core of the problem must be addressed: the nature of modern policing itself.  

This audiobook attempts to spark public discussion by revealing the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. It shows how the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice - even public safety. Drawing on groundbreaking research from across the world, and covering virtually every area in the increasingly broad range of police work, Alex Vitale demonstrates how law enforcement has come to exacerbate the very problems it is supposed to solve.  

In contrast, there are places where the robust implementation of policing alternatives - such as legalization, restorative justice, and harm reduction - has led to a decrease in crime, spending, and injustice. The best solution to bad policing may be an end to policing.

©2017 Alex S. Vitale (P)2019 Tantor
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Is it really the end?

The title of 'The End of Policing' poses quite a stark hypothetical. Is Vitale really suggesting that there should be no more police, that society would be better off if they weren't there at all? The actual argument isn't quite as radical as the provocative title, though it is still profound in its implications and sweeping in its scope. Vitale is not saying that there is no legitimate function whatsoever to the police, but instead that police have been asked to perform social functions far beyond the scope of their expertise and the suitability of their methods, filling the gaps left by neglect of non-punitive social programs, and resulting in profound systemic injustices. Vitale takes a very broad-ranging view of his subject, frequently indulging in what could uncharitably be called tangents, concerning matters that are not narrowly related to policing—homelessness, mental health, sex work, immigration policy, etc—but give some view of how policing influences and is influenced by larger societal structures. These things are all connected, and the argument is necessarily broad, so the eclecticism is arguably justified. Vitale's recommendations are as sweeping as his diagnosis, basically amounting to the pursuit of the progressive political project in all its various facets, in addition to the incremental reforms that are often proposed (which he views as insufficient on their own). There are some quick solutions offered, like the appointment of dedicated prosecutors for police abuses, but Vitale recognises that structural problems can only be solved with structural change, and that's no easy fix.

All of this will probably come without much surprise to anyone with more than a passing interest in the subject, so on that front this book probably serves more as a place to round up the various arguments for reference purposes rather than as a place to learn new arguments. What I found the most novel were the historical background sections, which were filled with jaw-dropping details about the founding and early histories of police forces like the London Metropolitan Police and the Pennsylvania State Police (the former seems to have had its roots in oppression of the Irish, while the latter was explicitly formed to break strikes). The revelations about early policing cast modern policing in a very harsh light and made me all the more receptive to Vitale's criticisms.

It is clear that there is a slant to this book, and it probably elides many rebuttals that would be offered by police apologists, but Vitale makes a very articulate and forceful case, and if he's in any way correct then the urgency of reform cannot be overstated.

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  • Daniel A. Boyd
  • 09-08-2019

Preaching to the choir

Full onslaught anti policing propaganda, no room for any counterpoints.

I agree with everything in the book accept 1 or two nitpicky points.

Basic idea is that we need a new socialworker job that we'd be able to call for various "trivial" domestic issues. Get rid of military hardware at local level.

I have so many personal anecdotes of police escalating problems that they were called into solve. In all 4 cities I've lived in.

The issue is, this book offers no way to talk to people on the other side. Nothing said would persuade a cop and is dissmisve of their fears, which while I agree, statisticaly speaking are overblown are psychologically significant.

There is a huge economic angle that seems obvious and I hope someone does that book, if we get rid of the police where does that money go?

Would have loved more stats on how innefective they are beyond no one gets caught after 48hrs.

Loved the totality of the book, looking at crime in various places and the major roles of drugs/sex work etc. Highly recommend you read/listen to it.

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  • Mark A. Jones
  • 20-06-2020

I believe the author got it half right.

The first few chapters were very informative and offered a nice history and perspective of the problem. However mid-way through the book the author suggests that more government and more government spending is the solution to this government problem... SMH No I don't believe raising the minimum wage , doing more government programs, and trying to control our economy is going to fix anything. Our problem IS government overreach. Not once did he mention Dispute-Resolution Organizations or other privatized solutions to a central planning problem.

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  • Leland
  • 13-06-2020

A critique which fails to examine its premises

Excels at identifying problems in policing, but fails to fully examine structural reasons these exist.

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  • Gargamont
  • 10-06-2020

In depth and well reasoned.

This book has become even more relevant in 2020 as protesters around the world collide with violent, racist police. The issues addressed have never been more salient and critical to our path forward.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-07-2020

Fails to make his case

As another reviewer said, I think most of what the author said is true. But he does not make his case in a way that would persuade anyone who does not already agree with him.

He lays out, chapter by chapter, various problems that the police are expected to solve, and then attempts to show why police either do not solve the problem or make the problem worse, either by escalating force or through corruption. And he suggests alternatives, usually in the form of deploying more social services and decriminalizing various nuisance crimes.

And all that is fine as hypotheses go, but he provides scarce data to back up his claim. Yes, he does cite some studies here and there, but he presents most of his solutions as true without studies or research. And maybe many of his proposals have not yet been studied, but every time it happens in the book, it lessens his ability to persuade those who are not already on the "defund the police" bandwagon.

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  • Scott
  • 07-07-2020

Brings substance to the way forward

As we - as a broader society - finally come to recognize the injustice and inequality that has always has been at the root of our police and punishment-oriented approach the security, this book provides an organized and comprehensive look at alternatives. It lays out in readable and clear terms what is possible and why moving to these programs and strategies is essential at this time.

Also addressed throughout the book is the vast array of responsibilities we expect police to assume without relevant training and in reality for which police are structurally not equipped. Police aren’t able to address the needs of people with mental health challenges, employment or housing challenges. As a result, the needs of these people - of our society - are not and can not be met.

This book is a must-read for anyone dissatisfied with the current cycle of discarded lives and the ineffectiveness and impunity of policing.

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  • James L Byrnes III
  • 06-07-2020

Rethinking what we think is normal

Alex Vitale breaks down the problems with policing as it is done in the U.S. today but also traces how that system developed and why. Placed in historical perspective the current situation’s untenable nature is even more apparent.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-07-2020

must read!

A very necessary text to understand current events. highly recommend as a starter for moving the conversation forward.

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  • Hol
  • 29-06-2020

FACTS

This book needs to be read by everyone. 10/10 would recommend. This book explains in detail how far our country has moved away from freedom for all into a fascist police state. It points out a lot of problems that often get overlooked. The book also expresses how if we were to do things differently, we can still win after being dealt an unjust hand of cards. Please read if you’re interested in expanding your world view.

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  • Gaya
  • 28-06-2020

Good start for the conversation

A very relevant and informative book. The author is a bit too simplistic on the details of his solutions sometimes, but the essence of his argument is convincingly made. The narrator was a bit too emotional for my taste. I prefer a narrator who reads more neutrally, I'll interpret the facts myself, thank you.

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  • G. Morgan
  • 09-06-2020

A must read if you’re interested in justice.

Abolish the police. Like seriously, they’re feral.

I picked this up because of the riots happening in the US and the protests happening world wide in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. I knew there was problems with policing but not exactly just how deep it is, this book lays it all out wonderfully.