Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District

Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District

Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District

Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District


Cop in the Hood is an explosive insider's story of what it is really like to be a police officer on the front lines of the war on drugs. Harvard-trained sociologist Peter Moskos became a cop in Baltimore's roughest neighborhood--the Eastern District, also the location for the first season of the critically acclaimed HBO drama The Wire --where he experienced real-life poverty and violent crime firsthand. This revised and corrected edition of Cop in the Hood provides an unforgettable window into the world that outsiders never see--the thriving drug corners, the nerve-rattling patrols, and the heartbreaking failure of 911.

Moskos reveals the truth about the drug war and why it is engineered to fail--a truth he learned on the midnight shift. He describes police academy graduates fully unprepared for the realities of the street. He tells of a criminal justice system that incarcerates poor black men on a mass scale--a self-defeating system that measures success by arrest quotas and fosters a street code at odds with the rest of society--and argues for drug legalization as the only realistic way to end drug violence and let cops once again protect and serve. Moskos shows how officers in the ghetto are less concerned with those policed than with self-preservation and maximizing overtime pay--yet how any one of them would give their life for a fellow officer. Cop in the Hood ventures deep behind the Thin Blue Line to disclose the inner workings of law enforcement in America's inner cities. Those who read it will never view the badge the same way again.


Just what I needed, is a college boy. … What’s your
degree? … Sociology? You’ll go far. That’s if you
live…. Just don’t let your college degree get you killed.

—Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan in

Dirty Harry, 1971

Most days I don’t miss being a cop; being a professor is a better job. But I do miss working with people willing to risk their life for me. And as a police officer, I would risk my life for others, even for those I didn’t know, and even those I knew I didn’t like. That’s part of the job. As a professor, my colleagues are great, but there’s not a single person at John Jay College of Criminal Justice I would die for. It’s not that I wish teaching were more dangerous, but there is something about danger and sweat that makes a beer after work particularly cold and refreshing. You can’t learn this in a book.

Danger creates a bond. Most police retire in one piece, and other jobs, at least statistically, are more dangerous. But policing is unique in that injury and death come not just from accidents but from job performance. When a police officer is killed, criminals don’t call time out. For police, the show must go on. At a police funeral, no one composes eulogizing platitudes of “never again.” It will happen again—just hopefully not to you or anybody you know and love.

The shared experiences of police work help overcome many differences, but the so-called Blue Brotherhood is not a monolithic entity as much as a tent under which a diverse . . .

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