In 'Police: A Field Guide' (Verso, 2017), David Correia and Tyler Wall provocatively argue for a "redefined language of policing" in order to get out of the trap of "copspeak", which typically legitimates police activity and provides few avenues for thinking critically about police practices. This forum collects and extends those commentaries, highlighting the book's challenges and contributions to debates over police power, incarceration, abolition, military and law enforcement technologies and black feminism.
Unlike most field guides, this one has main arguments: police are inherently problematic and have been since their inception, which can be traced to slave patrols and settler colonialism. Many phenomena which appear different—nightsticks and flashlights, public and private cops, community police and swat teams—are imbricated and symbiotic.
“The truth of police is obscured by the very vocabulary we use to talk about police.” So write David Correia and Tyler Wall in their new book "Police: A Field Guide". This impressively wide-ranging and comprehensive guide elaborates core concepts and categories for the study of policing. Entries include concepts like: check point, taser, gun, teargas, K-9, rape, and pacification.
Correia and Wall’s book deconstructs the language of policing—what they call cop-speak, or “a language that limits our ability to understand police as anything other than essential, anything other than the guarantor of civilization and the last line of defense against what police call savagery” (2018: 2).
This is an accessible and engaging book –a sort of chose-your-own adventure where each reader can wind their way through the text in ways which best suit their interests – which will be of use to seasoned police researchers as well as students new to the field. But the ways in which the book will be useful will also certainly ruffle feathers.
When we talk about police, in other words, we’re talking about order, and the ways order is produced and reproduced in highly unequal ways. Police is not some boring sideshow to more interesting and critical analyses of capitalism, patriarchy, racism, gender oppression, and settler colonialism.