The Policing Machine: Enforcement, Endorsements, and the Illusion of Public Input (Paperback)

The Policing Machine: Enforcement, Endorsements, and the Illusion of Public Input By Tony Cheng Cover Image

The Policing Machine: Enforcement, Endorsements, and the Illusion of Public Input (Paperback)


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A revelatory look at how the NYPD has resisted change through strategic and selective community engagement.
The past few years have seen Americans express passionate demands for police transformation. But even as discussion of no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and body cameras has exploded, any changes to police procedures have only led to the same outcomes. Despite calls for increased accountability, police departments have successfully stonewalled change.  
In The Policing Machine, Tony Cheng reveals the stages of that resistance, offering a close look at the deep engagement strategies that NYPD precincts have developed with only subsets of the community in order to counter any truly meaningful, democratic oversight. Cheng spent nearly two years in an unprecedented effort to understand the who and how of police-community relationship building in New York City, documenting the many ways the police strategically distributed power and privilege within the community to increase their own public legitimacy without sacrificing their organizational independence. By setting up community councils that are conveniently run by police allies, handing out favors to local churches that will promote the police to their parishioners, and offering additional support to institutions friendly to the police, the NYPD, like police departments all over the country, cultivates political capital through a strategic politics that involves distributing public resources, offering regulatory leniency, and deploying coercive force. The fundamental challenge with police-community relationships, Cheng shows, is not to build them. It is that they already exist and are motivated by a machinery designed to stymie reform.
Tony Cheng is assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Duke University. 
Product Details ISBN: 9780226830650
ISBN-10: 0226830659
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: December 13th, 2023
Pages: 240
Language: English
“A brilliant analysis of the mechanisms the NYPD uses to cultivate political power. If Skogan and Hartnett’s Community Policing, Chicago Style was the must-read book on neighborhood policing of the twentieth century, I predict Cheng’s contribution will be the must-read book on the topic of the twenty-first." 
— Tracey Meares, Yale University

The Policing Machine shows that the public acceptance of police is not an inevitability created by lack of alternatives for public safety, but the product of a complex apparatus of consent and coercion that helps constitute the very public police purport to serve and protect.”
— Jonathan Simon, UC Berkeley

"The Policing Machine is the most important study of policing I’ve ever read. It applies a crucial relational and institutional analysis of community policing in New York City from an independent perspective. Cheng’s emphasis on de-monopolizing policing’s role in public safety offers a useful way forward for anyone seeking to bring serious change to city approaches to public safety."
— Robert Vargas, University of Chicago

"This title about police departments will appeal to concerned citizens and policy makers."
— Library Journal

"A hard-hitting exposé of the organizational structures and political maneuvering that thwart police reform."
— Kirkus Reviews