Sociology of Guns Module 10: Police Use of Force

Questions and controversies around police use of force are not new, but have been animated by a spate of high profile cases in recent years resulting in the death of black Americans, including Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, and of course, George Floyd.

Although there is plenty of evidence of racism in our criminal justice system (as Radley Balko exhaustively documents, h/t Khal), and these cases are for many prima facie evidence of the same, as a sociologist I still cling to Peter Berger’s contention that “the first wisdom of sociology is this – things are not what they seem.” Of course, they may be what they seem, but our job is not to assume but rather to dig deeper.

This module tries to answer the question, What does the best contemporary scholarship tell us about police use of force, and especially racial disparities in use of force?

In addition to our reading (helpfully suggested by top policing scholars Justin Nix, Michael Sierra-Arevalo, and Kyle McLean), I am pleased to again welcome 21 year veteran of law enforcement, notably undercover narcotics work, and leading self-defense trainer Craig Douglas who will bring his Experiential Learning Lab to class.

Students role playing in a police use of force scenario created by trainer Craig Douglas, Sociology of Guns Seminar, Spring 2019.
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