A conclusion drawn from these seemingly unrelated patterns (increased arrests and increased crime) was that the police could not simply arrest their way out of crime. While many police agencies implemented aggressive police tactics, thereby supposedly increasing the consequences for criminal activity, Chicago did not. Instead the city working through the office of the Mayor and other city agencies including the police, focused on improving communities on any number of dimensions. Skogan’s work takes us inside the clock, examining how big cities, like battleships, make precarious turns. The chapters are police and community sensitive, grounding the analysis in the experiences of the police and neighbourhood residents, each with differing views of process and outcome. So how did Chicago do? This is the subject of the final chapter in Police and Community in Chicago, but is also reflected in previous analyses of trends in neighbourhood problems, implemented police practices and crime and fear of crime. In some broad ways Skogan’s entire book is about what Chicago did to reshape its police and if, how and where those efforts mattered. As Skogan concludes there is good and bad news to be gleaned from the Chicago experience.
The good news includes the idea that Chicago actually mounted a credible programme; yes it had fits and starts, was pronounced ‘dead in the water’ on a few occasions, but nevertheless rose to overcome structural and cultural resistance from within the Chicago PD. These are impressive achievements yet they are always tenuous. The continuing ascendance of the CompStat ideology, ‘hot spots’ and ‘putting cops on dots’ in many places, what has become a numerical reliance on understanding community dynamics and the problems they produce is always in tension with life in neighbourhoods – highly contextualised, dynamic and variant. Such numerical approaches breath little life into understanding varying locales of crime and insecurity – they may point to problem areas, but they do not explain or understand them particularly well. As for the Chicago Police it appears from Skogan’s assessment that institutional partnerships for improving community ‘quality of life’ were more strongly developed than were on-the-ground police problem-solving efforts which tended to fall back on traditional police responses. As to crime, fear and public acceptance of the police, Police and Community in Chicago is a cautious tale. The CAPS program in Chicago is reported to have accounted for some decline in crime, although throughout the 1990s crime declined across the Western world as well. CAPS did produce greater levels of community involvement and positive increases in positive public attitudes towards the police. Those increases were most registered for African Americans, as compared to Whites and Latinos, where white neighbourhoods encountered less serious crime/disorder problems and where police acceptance was already well established, as opposed to Latino communities which were underrepresented in beat meetings and experienced increasing gang and drug crime. As Skogan notes, the demographics of a vastly expanding Latino community in Chicago are a major challenge to twenty-first-century policing in the USA. These individuals and communities were less engaged, less institutionally supported, and younger, less educated, renters as opposed to homeowners, often at the bottom of the work scale. Coupled with language and cultural barriers towards government and the police they represent a major challenge to policing the metropolis.
Epilogue Westley. Skogan’s Police and Community in Chicago is a detailed account and analysis of a decade’s efforts to improve public safety in America’s third largest city; the complexity of such an undertaking and the results achieved. Students of policing and police change have much to learn from this work. It is a tale of trial and error, patience and frustration, and most especially hopefulness for the future of ‘The City of Big Shoulders’. At the end of A Tale of Two Cities, through a twist of fate, Dickens redeems one of his protagonists Sydney Carton, a rather indolent and alcoholic British attorney who is disassociated from his own circumstance, yet sacrifices himself at the guillotine for his beloved Lucie. In a final soliloquy Dickens’ narrator says for Carton, I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out…. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known. In places Skogan cautions us that this decade of effort could fall victim to city politics, police managerialism pressures for top-down decision-making and rising insecurity about crime in the city. Yet the Chicago revolution is the core of this story and as is the case with all revolutions what follows is uncertain.
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2. Police and community in Chicago: a tale of three cities, by Westley G. Skogan, New York, Oxford University Press, 2006, 344 pp., US$41.95 (hardcover), ISBN 9780195 154580.
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4. The promised land: the great black migration and how it changed America. New York: Random House. Pirsig, Robert M., 1974.