Who Are the Criminals? The Politics of Crime Policy from the Age of Roosevelt to the Age of Reagan

By John Hagan | Go to book overview

Prologue
Washington Crime Stories

It was more than “a beer at the White House” moment when President Barack Obama rolled up his sleeves and sat down with Henry “Skip” Gates and James Crowley in the back garden. Gates was the president's African American friend from Harvard arrested a few weeks earlier on his own front porch in Cambridge, and Crowley was the white arresting officer from the Cambridge Police Department. The White House invitation was atonement for the president, in a rare moment of recklessness, remarking to the press that the Cambridge police had behaved “stupidly.” The meticulously scripted and flawlessly staged photo opportunity, with its soothing message of reconciliation dubbed in advance the “beer summit,” displayed in a politely confected way just how highly politicized the joined issues of race, class, crime, and punishment have become in America. The parties agreed before meeting that the event would be entirely social, although Gates and Crowley promised there would be substantive conversations to follow. Their plan seemed worthy, perhaps even more so if going forward it had included the president. There is much yet to learn about the politics of crime. This book aspires to advance the way politicians engage with citizens, academics, and policymakers to shape our thoughts about crime and its control. In it I develop three thematic arguments about crime in America that will take more than a few shared beers to consider.

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