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Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America (Third Edition) Revised Edition Edition

15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0896087712
ISBN-10: 0896087719
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sweeping generalizations and little nuance make self-described anarchist Williams's first book likely to appeal only to a preselected readership who will not be put off by the title and the oversimplified theme that police officers are inherently aggressive, racist and brutal tools of the powers that be. Williams, who has written for Dissent and the Progressive, traces the development of the American police from colonial times and Southern efforts to keep slaves in check. He's strongest in delineating the unintended consequences of well-intentioned efforts to reduce police corruption and brutality, but barely a page goes by without the voicing of extremist views (e.g., a New York PBA rally that became a riot against then-mayor David Dinkins, followed by the election of the police-friendly Rudolph Giuliani, is called a "municipal-level coup"). While the litany of police misdeeds—ranging from collusion with the Klan to the shooting of unarmed Amadou Diallo—makes plain that there has always been unjustified behavior by police, it doesn't prove his argument that nothing can be done to reform the force. His alternate proposal—replacing a government force with a voluntary community patrol—will strike many as naïve in a post-9/11 world, and too rigid when he dismisses, as a form of co-optation, community policing, which has enabled officers to rely less on force.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Beginning with its provocative title, Williams' account of contemporary law enforcement argues that instances of police brutality in the U.S. are not aberrations but, instead, reflect the long, symbiotic relationship between those in power and the police hired to protect that power, a relationship formalized by Tammany Hall in the mid-1800s but that also developed simultaneously in other American cities. Williams--who writes for Dissent, the Progressive, and Labor Notes and is a member of Rose City Copwatch in Portland, Oregon--traces the roots of policing in the U.S. back to the British system of sheriffs and constables, to the colonies, through the slave-holding South, industrialization, the civil rights era, and such mass protests as the 1999 Seattle WTO demonstrations. "If we accept that police forces arose at a particular point in history, to address specific social conditions," Williams writes, "then it follows that social change could also eliminate the institution." Specific remedies are wanting here, but so is a body of literature on this important topic, which makes Williams' book that much more crucial to the discussion. Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: South End Press; Revised Edition edition (August 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0896087719
  • ISBN-13: 978-0896087712
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #301,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Zen Prole on February 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
Williams' book is a grown-up's antidote to the standard histories of policing. Criticism of this well-researched book *must* rely on shrill misdirection, i.e. "he's an anarchist," because there is really no other avenue. There is no slack in this work and it is a fine companion piece to Katya Komisaruk's "Beat The Heat: How To Handle Encounters With Law Enforcement." Five Stars, no hesitation.
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64 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Adam L. Lobaugh on June 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book will appeal to those of you who are already educated to the reality that police exist for one reason and one reason alone : To maintain the current class order and hierarchies of society.

Let's be honest here. Poor people go to jail. Not the rich.

The idea that this book is filled with "distortions, lies, urban myths, twisted logic,absurd claims and bizare conlusions" (as one reviewer wrote) is certainly true if you've spent your life living in those wonderful, white, suburban hoods. If, however, you grew up in the neighborhoods consisting primarily of poor, black folk, you'll have no trouble seeing where the author is coming from. The fact that people either love or hate this book speaks volumes in and of itself. It proves many of the points the writer is trying to make. The police no longer 'protect and serve' the citizens of this country. If they ever did. They protect and serve the masters of America. The rich policy makers. The ruling white class.

You may not believe this, but that does not make it any less true.
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38 of 46 people found the following review helpful By John M. Dailey on July 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
Mr Williams exposes not only the extreme ignorance among the general population (as evidenced by the one-star reviews) of the United States regarding police abuse and corruption, but the institutions that benifit from the existance of a police force. It's no accident that those in positions of power rely on brute force to keep the "rabble" in line. Since 9/11 the violations into people's lives in the form of "sneak-n-peek searches", the TIPS program, spying into library reacords - and then threatening the librarians with prosecution if they inform anyone of this activity - is completely outrageous. The increasing number of unjustifiable searches and seizures, arrests and killings by the police in their "War on Drugs" fiasco has led to the biggest increases in prison populations and deaths. A greater increase in law enforcement does not mean a more protected populace; on the contrary, the more cops you have on the streets the more crime there is. Remember, police forces don't want to eliminate crime all together, because then there would be no reason for a police force, and all the graft and corruption that exists within them. Also, the culture of the police acts as a safe haven for those who have an authoritarian mentality. So, when the powers-that-be want your head clubbed by a cop, he shouldn't be that sympathetic towards your condition.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Somerset Stevens on October 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
*Our Enemies in Blue* is a fantastic analysis of the systemic nature of bolice corruption and brutality. Williams brilliantly takes on the major myths about police - that they have the most dangerous job there is, that brutality is rare, that corruption and violence are the fault of a few bad apples, and that they do good for communities. Williams charts the history of the modern police state from its British and American roots. This book is of urgent necessity for anyone that opposes racism and dreams of a better world.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By phillip king on April 21, 2014
Format: Paperback
We're all conditioned from movies and television to think the police exist to protect and serve the public, but the more you study history and follow the news, the more it becomes clear their sole purpose is the control the underclass in society. The evolution of policing from watchmen to slave patrols to the KKK to modern policing is thoroughly examined in this book, as well as the distinct purposes of each institution. People in a position of authority and power who use their power to prey on the vulnerable should always be a greater concern than poor people who commit crimes. In a capitalist system, there will always be poor people, but corruption and terrorism at the hands of authority figures should not be tolerated (yet it is). Violent crimes are not responsible for the majority of the deaths in this country and yet police always claim that crime is the biggest problem. This further emphasizes that they exist not to save lives, but to control, repress, intimidate and/or terrorize poor people and non-whites. The police have an overtly white supremacist agenda, but as history will tell you, if non-whites didn't exist, the police would simply alternate to do the bidding of rich whites to control the poor whites. This book points out how all organizations that claim to defend America's interests such as the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the D.E.A., and the A.T.F., have all had connections to the KKK and other white terrorist organizations. White supremacy is the dominate political ideology in white society and the police are devoted to preserving this system, even if it overrides all other systems that Americans claim to value.Read more ›
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