Sunday, March 25, 2007

Reviewed: Skogan, Police and Community in Chicago, and other books on Chicago History

Something interesting is happening at The Chicago Tribune, which again features history books in its Sunday book section. One thing I like about the Trib is that, rather than reviewing the same books as everyone else, the paper does an especially good job of identifying less high-profile books that will nevertheless be of interest to general readers, including works published by university presses. They also feature interesting pairings of books, and they identify academics who write in a particular area but may not have published breakthrough bestsellers to write reviews. Someone is running a thoughtful operation.

Today's review brings together five books on Chicago. By examining Chicago, the books, and the review, give us a window on 20th century America. The author is Aaron Max Berkowitz, a Univ. of Illinois graduate student in history. The books reviewed are: Chicago in the Sixties: Remembering a Time of Change, by Neal Samors (Chicago's Books); Police and Community in Chicago: A Tale of Three Cities by Wesley G. Skogan (Oxford University Press); Governor Henry Horner, Chicago Politics, and the Great Depression by Charles J. Masters (Southern Illinois University Press); Freedom From Advertising: E.W. Scripps's Chicago Experiment by Duane C.S. Stoltzfus (University of Illinois Press); and Black Writing From Chicago: In the World, Not of It?, edited by Richard R. Guzman (Southern Illinois University Press). Perhaps because of the short space provided, Berkowitz unfortunately does not synthesize these works.

Of particular interest to legal historians is Skogan's book. Berkowitz writes, in part:
In 1993, Chicago began to implement an ambitious new community policing program known as CAPS, the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy. Today, CAPS has revolutionized policing in the city by refocusing officers onto small beats and by creating new institutions that allow for a greater community voice in setting the priorities of the Police Department.
Even before the CAPS program started, Wesley Skogan and his team of researchers from Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Research began to collect data on Chicago's community policing experiment. Drawing on those 13 years of research, Skogan has produced "Police and Community in Chicago," a detailed and generally positive account of the CAPS program's sometimes surprising successes as well as its failure to effectively reach out to all of Chicago's communities.
The study's subtitle, "A Tale of Three Cities," refers to the three main racial groupings in the city: white, black and Latino. The prevailing wisdom when CAPS began was that it might "be a hard sell in Chicago's predominantly African American neighborhoods." Despite widespread dissatisfaction with the police in these areas, however, Skogan's surprising conclusion was that CAPS was actually most successful in black neighborhoods. Unfortunately, those successes can be sharply contrasted with the program's failures in Latino neighborhoods, largely due to their linguistic isolation and fears of deportation within the largely immigrant community.

Of particular interest to historians of the 1960s is Samors, Chicago in the Sixties. As Berkowitz describes:

The book collects interviews and photographs that highlight the memories of 80 Chicago residents from the '60s....One of the highlights of the book is Samors' balanced look at the political protests and violence of the late '60s, which includes not only interviews with radicals and anti-war activists but also people like Richard Elrod, then an assistant corporation counsel for the city whose neck was broken during the Weathermen's "Days of Rage" and who went on to become Cook County sheriff and a circuit judge.

For the rest, click here.

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