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Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing Hardcover – April 29, 2005

68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Breaking Rank reveals an advocate for the kind of progressive social justice that Bobby Kennedy would have loved--a cop with guts enough to admit his own mistakes, learn from them, and remain a voice for changing the institution that both made and broke him." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Norm Stamper began his law enforcement career in San Diego in 1966 as a beat cop. In 1994, he was named chief of the Seattle Police Department, where he set about implementing many of the initiatives he writes about in Breaking Rank. Retiring in 2000, he now lives in a cabin on a mountain in the San Juan Islands in Washington State.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books (April 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560256931
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560256939
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 58 people found the following review helpful By John on September 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I met Mr. Stamper once briefly about 11 years ago in San Diego at a conference and decided to learn more about an interesting, knowledgeable, and experienced police professional. I'm glad he wrote this book and I recommend it.

Like Norm (I can't imagine anybody calling him anything else) I retired after three decades of professional policing. I began in 1970.

The three decades from 1970 to 2000 were tumultuously (yes, tumultuously) productive in the genuine professionalization of American policing. The profession is still blue collar shift work in many ways in most places, according to my own reading and experience, but it shouldn't be and seems to be heading in the right direction in many places. Myself, I am a proponent of the problem oriented approach. There are other approaches, and that is what makes for genuine professionalization -- vigorous (and tumultuous sometimes) effort.

Norm's personality is on display in his book, as well as his expertise. This is a warm book with plenty of humor, as well as a serious book with the kind of advocacy backed up by research and experience that we need from those of us who are serious about the improvement of American policing.

One big negative but constructive criticism: no index.

One lesser criticism: the chapter on "Undercover." Norm tells a compelling and true story in that chapter, however, having some experience in "UC" work myself, I would have written from the point of view of management analysis of cost-benefit. Most undercover work is very expensive and produces not very much genuine product. I distinguish here between process and product. UC might produce lots of arrests, but it seldom solves any problems. Process vs. permanent results.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By David Cameron on July 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Police officers do a job that I'm not willing to do. Yet when my car broke down on the highway or we heard noises that convinced us a burglar was breaking into our home, I had no hesitation in calling 9-11 for help. I can't imagine life in these United States without the service of police officers.

Most of my experiences with cops so far have been positive, but not all. I have friends and family who work in law enforcement and I've heard some pretty unbelievable stories from behind the "thin blue line." Breaking Rank validates those stories (and more) and gives the reader an appreciation for all aspects of law enforcement: the nobility of police work, the dangerous work that cops do every day to keep our streets safe, and the problems inherent in every profession-and the big, big difference when problems occur in a profession where the employees have guns and badges and can choose to use them as deadly force against any person. I can't imagine life in these United States without constitutional restrictions on that choice especially now with even more power for local law enforcement granted under the Patriot Act.

In Breaking Rank, Stamper blows the smoke out of our eyes so we can see both the humanity and humanness behind the mystique of a respected and reviled profession. I found myself pensive and then concerned over issues that once seemed far removed from my corner of the world-violence in the home, capital punishment, the war on drugs to name a few. And, rather than getting one narrow opinion on these issues, I appreciated the research that was cited to back up Stamper's thinking.

What this former chief can expect is a steady stream of vitriol aimed his way as a result of authoring this book, although it sounds like he's no stranger to it.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Scott on August 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Stamper offers an honest and personal view of policing in America. His first-hand account of police culture makes for excellent reading. Oddly, this self-proclaimed progressive offers many conservative approaches to tackle crime in our country including the decriminalization of drugs, a stance supported by Friedman, Buckley, and Shultz. Breaking Rank proved to be balanced and pragmatic. As a conservative, I was surprised to find how often I agreed with Stamper's recommendations.

Breaking Rank is a must read for all police and public administration courses that tackle the subject of crime prevention.

As a native San Diegan, I'm proud of Stamper's accomplishments and his contribution to police reform.

Kevin Scott
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Charles J. Dunsire on August 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Stamper's book should be required reading for all young law enforcement officers who, in particular, aspire to positions of future leadership of America's police forces. It offers guidelines for progressive changes, including greater emphasis on community policing, the rampant crime of domestic violence, and less militaristic models of police department organization. Stamper also makes persuasive arguments for such controversial policies as the elimination of capital punishment and the decriminalization of drugs. The author was a working cop and police administrator in San Diego and Seattle, where he was chief of police. This reviewer had the opportunity, as a newspaper editorial page editor, to observe Stamper's outstanding performance in the latter role. His account of his personal experiences is arresting - no pun intended - and often very entertaining.
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