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Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District Hardcover – June 22, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2008 PROSE Award in Sociology and Social Work, Association of American Publishers

"Remarkable. . . . In Cop in the Hood, Mr. Moskos manages to capture a world that most people know only through the distorting prism of television and film, where police officers are usually portrayed as quixotically heroic or contemptibly corrupt. For all the book's detail, Mr. Moskos reserves his most passionate writing for a call to abandon the war on drugs. He claims that the drug war--with its violent turf battles and revolving-door cycles of arrest--has caused more social devastation the drugs themselves."--Daniel Horan, Wall Street Journal

"Moskos frankly records his experiences with poverty, violence, drugs and despair in the gritty ghetto. Moskos's overview of policing problems covers everything from arrest quotas, corrupt cops and excess paperwork to the reliance on patrolling in cars, responding to a barrage of 911 calls, rather than patrolling on foot to prevent crimes. Moskos blends narrative and analysis, adding an authoritative tone to this adrenaline-accelerating night ride that reveals the stark realities of law enforcement while illuminating little-known aspects of police procedures."--Publishers Weekly

"[G]enuinely eye-opening...Moskos offers a compelling account of why a uniformed police patrol 'does little but temporarily disrupt public drug-dealing'--and hence why the 'war on drugs' is so helplessly self-defeating."--Times Higher Education

"Truly excellent. This is one of the two or three best conceptual analyses of "cops and robbers" I have read. It is mandatory reading for all fans of The Wire and recommended for everyone else."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

"Riveting . . . an unsparing boys-in-blue procedural that succeeds on its own plentiful--and wonderfully sympathetic--merits. Moskos . . . intermingles cops-and-robbers verisimilitude and progressive social science, yet keeps his reportage clear-eyed, his conclusions pathos-free. What results is a thoughtful, measured critique--of the failed drug war, its discontents, and the self-defeating criminal-justice system looming just behind."--The Atlantic

"[An] objective, incisive and intelligent account of police work. Moskos's graphic descriptions of the drug culture in Baltimore's Eastern District are the most detailed and analytical to be found anywhere. What distinguishes Moskos's book...is the author's plea for greater flexibility in addressing the rampant drug crisis."--Arnold Ages, Indiana Jewish Post & Opinion

"About halfway through Cop in the Hood, a new book about policing Baltimore, author Peter Moskos hits upon an important theme: The Police Department ought to do more to prevent crime, instead of simply reacting to it. Unlike the typical academic, Moskos makes these observations with an air of authenticity because of the 14 months he worked as a patrol officer in the Eastern District."--Annie Linskey, Baltimore Sun

"Highly readable"--Dolan Cummings, Culture Wars

"Moskos takes a long, hard look at the drug war and pronounces it a failure. The most encouraging aspect of this book is its portrait of the police officers themselves. Readers of Cop in the Hood are left with a renewed appreciation for the men in blue."--Rachel DiCarlo Currie, The American

From the Back Cover

"A devastating critique of America's failed war on drugs. Cop in the Hood is a powerful and truly unique document in the sociology of criminal justice. Using an original blend of personal experience, adroit cultural interpretation, and hard-edged sociological analysis, Moskos sympathetically dissects the social context of the drug users' world, and shows us this tragedy close up from the police perspective."--Orlando Patterson, Harvard University

"Cop in the Hood is a thoughtful, highly entertaining record of a police officer's year spent patrolling one of the country's toughest urban districts, delivered by Moskos, who wore the uniform. For those who are interested in crime and how things work, and for readers seeking a reasoned look at the war on drugs and its implications, this is the handbook."--George Pelecanos, writer and producer for The Wire

"This riveting tale of policing begins honestly and continues with great sincerity and pathos. A sensitive and timely account of the daily trials of police work by someone who knows Baltimore's streets firsthand, Cop in the Hood challenges journalists, social scientists, and others who profess knowledge of the inner city to walk those streets before making bold declarations and righteous claims for policy and redress. A must-read."--Sudhir Venkatesh, author of Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

"Peter Moskos, a sociologist by training, somewhat inadvertently became a police officer. Cop in the Hood is the fortuitous and fascinating result. It gives the reader the real dope from someone with the training and ability to put the street into the larger context. Highly recommended."--Alex Tabarrok, George Mason University, cofounder of marginalrevolution.com

"Cop in the Hood is an extremely valuable study centered on patrolling a drug-infested Baltimore police district. Readers interested in drug policy, criminology, or policing cannot help but to learn a lot from this book. I know that I did, and I am grateful to the author. Many of his insights are eye-opening. His voice is unique and essential in debates concerning drug-policy reforms."--Jim Leitzel, University of Chicago


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 245 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Revised edition (June 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691140081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691140087
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Despite the terrible cover (even by academic press standards), this looked right up my alley for a number of reasons: (1) a good friend just moved to Baltimore and I've been trying to read more about the city, (2) I know mainstream Baltimore pretty well and was interested in learning about a part of the city I've never ventured into, (3) I've been a big fan of The Wire since season one, and wanted to see how closely reality coincided with that drama, and (4) I've been on a bit of a "academic as participant/observer" reading binge lately, including books like Brothel, Rolling Nowhere, and Gang Leader for a Day, and wanted to compliment those with a inside look at policework.

Like those three books, this one was born from academic roots, as Moskos was scouting around for a project for his PhD dissertation. After approaching and being rejected by several city police forces, the Baltimore PD accepted his proposal to work as a cop for a year with the knowledge he would write about his experience. So, the good news is that his account of policing starts from day one at the academy and proceeds unbroken for twenty months, which is a marked contrast to some of the books mentioned above, in which the authors dip in and out of the culture/life they are exploring. The bad news is that everyone Moskos served with knew he was writing a book.
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Format: Hardcover
Moskos' book recounts his 14 months on the beat and his training as a Baltimore city police officer. The book is an abridged version of his doctoral dissertation. Turning a dissertation into popular reading is difficult and the book falls down in a number of places. A long history of Prohibition suddenly turns up at the end and is only partially well woven into the text. There are other drifts into facts and figures, as well, and the effect tends to be more didactic than illuminating. For example, there is a needless listing of arrest statistics for Moskos and his colleagues, where a sentence or two about the range of arrest records would have sufficed. Like many ethnographies, some of the most interesting details are in the footnotes (actually, endnotes here), often told more concisely and succinctly written than much of the main text. There also are longitudinal survey data that don't get discussed at all until the endnotes and would seem to have materially affected Moskos' relationship with other officers. He tends to minimize the impact of writing a book on his relationships and observations, beyond his introduction to the force and one wonders how well he actually monitored all of that. In addition, very routine, often difficult aspects of policing such as domestic violence (mentioned in passing) and dealing with the mentally ill (no mention at all) get little coverage here.

Despite the detail, the book really fails to get at a certain level of depth in terms of the relationships among cops and the motivations to join and remain on the force. Indeed, some interesting information on racial and gender differences in motivation to join the force turn up in the endnotes and apparently will be part of another publication.
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Format: Paperback
Cop in the Hood is an excellent book. The title is a bit misleading. I expected some wild stories from some naïve cop who somehow turned bad. What I got was excellent insights into the police subculture through the eyes of an educated person. The author actually became a Baltimore cop and worked a harsh beat for about a year.

This book is short on blood and guts and pursuits and car crashes. It's long on insights- insights into police, insights into communities and insights into how police and the community get along.

Though the author was a street cop, this is not about extra-legal, butt-kicking on street corners. Although the author is a PhD, this is not a condescending look treating police officers as Neanderthals. Although the author recognizes that much of police is boring, this book is not boring. It gives the reader true insights about the police. Most importantly, the author points how much of police work is not organized or systematic; more commonly, police work is just a bunch of good guys trying their best to do a good job (with mixed results).

I would not recommend this book to any casual reader looking for an action-thriller. This book should be assigned to police candidates as a pre-employment read.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in what policing is really about.

Reading "Cop in the Hood" is time well spent.
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Format: Hardcover
Peter Moskos presents himself as a reasonable and sensitive policeman who cares as much about the neighborhoods he's worked in as the other police officers he works with. His writing seems at once personal and well-researched. By giving us his first-hand account of how the war on drugs is damaging our inner cities and our police forces he makes a very convincing argument for real change in America's approach to the "drug problem." I found his writing engaging and persuasive and highly recommend this to anyone who still believes drugs are the cause of so many of our societal ills.
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