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The Police as Place-Consolidators: The Organizational Amplification of Urban Inequality

  • Daanika Gordon

Abstract

Efforts to understand racial inequality in policing often focus on the micro-level, examining the situational dynamics of police-citizen encounters. This Article explores racial inequality in policing from another angle: it asks how the police organization responds to and further constructs the surrounding urban environment. I examine a police department’s move toward local and decentralized approaches, captured in a redistricting reform and subsequent district-level strategies and initiatives. I draw on several sources of data, including public documents, in-depth interviews with decision makers and stakeholders, a year of ethnographic observation of police work in two districts, and data on calls for police service. I find that the police drew upon symbolic ideas that emphasized the violence of black neighborhoods and the economic value of white neighborhoods in developing local strategies. As they acted in relation to these distinctions, the police amplified disparities in service provision and social control, consolidating the character of an already segregated and unequal landscape

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