All too often in police research what the police actually do to achieve their intended outcomes is quite opaque. Moreover, how the police feel about these ‘new programmes’ particularly as they upset traditional police interpretations about crime and communities has the potential for workgroup cultures to undermine these initiatives. To get the police agency to change requires that rank-and-file officers change routines, supervisors change how work is defined and supervised, and how the upper echelons of police agencies interact with any number of public and private agencies that constitute the ‘web of policing’ (Brodeur 2010) found in most major urban cities.
Turning police actions in to safer neighbourhoods, while a goal of many COP programmes in the 1990s, generally speaking did not pay much attention to how such transformations were to take place. Skogan’s research here is extremely helpful in trying to see how community policing is actually produced – not the slogans and images that often accompanied such efforts but how these new ideas were operationalised in Chicago. To be sure changing police organisations and their routines is a tedious long-term effort. Skogan devotes four chapters to questions of implementation; they range from considerations of how to re-engineer the Chicago Police Department in light of union 4 Book review Downloaded by [University of Cambridge] at 01:25 23 October 2015 contracts and ward politicians; to questions of whether communities could be successfully engaged in open and collaborative approaches with the police and if so how to engage and successfully involve them; to concerns for shifting the police operational paradigm from reactive responses to calls for assistance, to problem-solving; and how to engage with other city agencies to address intransigent community problems.
These chapters are a rich account of organisational competition and political turf, institutional lethargy and motivation, uncertainty about community problems and community capacity for engagement, the difficulties in revising police practices steeped in over 150 years of tradition, and concern about how the Chicago Police could engage other public and private agencies in a more coordinated and focused effort to revitalise neighbourhoods. A big agenda to operationalise in a big and complicated city. One size would surely not fit all, and of course one size did not. What is particularly interesting across these chapters was the willingness of Chicago to walk slowly into these emerging ideas, experimenting in a few districts, learning from successes and failures and then transporting some ideas on to other districts.
Testing the ‘proof of concept’ provided Chicago with a clearer path to scale change across neighbourhoods and with some confidence in how such application might work. Chapters 3 through 6 illuminate the ‘black box’ of police institutional change in one city. They report the often competing expectations for the police, the labyrinth of structures, processes and understandings that must accommodate change efforts, the pace of change (often the futility of this pace), and the difficulties in sustaining changes across communities, which have differing visions and experiences of Chicago life. While community policing has often had a ‘Zen’ like appeal, in that doing the right thing seems more than appropriate, making that aspiration actually happen – the motorcycle maintenance part according to Robert Pirsig (1974) – is complex; keeping one’s eye on the prize while tinkering with the values and practices of municipal governance is a difficult proposition, as Skogan’s work reveals. Such revelations come in his analysis of trends and changes in neighbourhood problems, crime and fear of crime. Lastly, all too often criminal justice processes are not well accounted for in evaluation designs. Rather, many approaches to assessing the police have been outcome focused – generally the rise or decline of crime and/or disorder in a city and/or the number of arrests made. While arrests and incarceration for crime increased dramatically from the mid- 1980s and into the 1990s, crime was unabated.
1. Policing and Society. An International Journal of Research and Policy. Jack R. Greene. Police and community in Chicago: a tale of three cities.
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.
3. Politics: Chicago model. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Lemann, Nicholas, 1991.
4. The promised land: the great black migration and how it changed America. New York: Random House. Pirsig, Robert M., 1974.