A Georgetown University law professor chronicles her time as a volunteer police officer in Washington, D.C., where she witnessed both embedded systemic racism and a genuine desire to do good among officers who are hemmed in by problematic laws and training.
... fascinating ... Brooks recounts with vivid detail her experiences in the police academy and as an officer on patrol. She writes with the ease of a novelist rather than the characteristic precision of a legal scholar. To be clear, this is a good thing. Through her stories, Brooks avoids a didactic, finger-waving lecture on the virtues or failings of the criminal justice system. Instead, she paints word pictures of the tensions that bedevil urban policing. She allows the reader to reach conclusions about the state of policing, how race and class intersect with criminality, and whether the tools of policing address the needs of citizens ... While Tangled Up in Blue does not, by any means, operate as an apologia for police, it at times elides the responsibility of officers in creating a 'Dickensian' narrative that Brooks abhors ... a wonderfully insightful book that provides a lens to critically analyze urban policing and a road map for how our most dispossessed citizens may better relate to those sworn to protect and serve.
Brooks has an anthropologist’s ear for the language of policing, jumping from the reports full of passive-voice bureaucratese to the darkly humorous, profanity-laden shoptalk. She zips from hilarious descriptions of going to the bathroom while overloaded with clunky gear to bone-dry observations ... Anecdote by anecdote, she builds to a cautious analysis of how 'even normal, careful, lawful policing often ends up compounding devastating social inequalities,' even if few officers display overt racism. Her style recalls the work of immersion journalists like George Plimpton, Ted Conover and Barbara Ehrenreich—who happens to be Brooks’s mother. Brooks makes this part of the story, nesting in a book on policing a beautifully written mini-memoir about growing up the daughter of a famous activist and writer ... her self-awareness gives her insight into the practical, adrenaline-hungry tendencies that may attract people to police work ... It’s easy to imagine the criticism she’ll get, but her calm, considered tone, grounded in experience, is itself an achievement.
... revealing and well-written ... Brooks manages to see all this clearly ... Tangled Up in Blue helps us see the deep complexities of policing and their effects on men and women in uniform ... Provocative, intelligent, and useful, Tangled Up in Blue will help many readers understand the nuances shaping the present crisis in American policing.