Professor Peter C. Moskos
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Department of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration
Scroll down for op-eds, articles, and other publications. See the CV for a complete list of publications and interviews.
Greek Americans: Struggle and Success (3rd edition). Transactions, 2013.
In Defense of Flogging. Basic Books, 2011.
Cop in the Hood. Princeton University Press, 2008.
Cop in the Hood (Princeton University Press)
• Winner of the 2008 PROSE Award
for Best Book in Sociology.
• "Perhaps the best sociological account on what it means to police a modern ghetto." —American Journal of Sociology
• "Hard-edged sociological analysis." —Harvard University Professor Orlando Patterson
• "Leads to a rethinking of some important ideas in the sociology of deviance." —Professor Howard Becker
• "The best recent study in the field of urban ethnography.... An exemplar for the field of sociology." —Yale University Professor Elijah Anderson
• "Moving description of big city policing." —Northeastern University Professor Peter K. Manning
• "Congratulations!!!" —MIT Professor John Van Maanen
• "A must read." —Columbia University Professor Sudhir Venkatesh
• "Truly excellent." —George Mason University Professor Tyler Cowen
• "A masterpiece of the participant observation genre." —Princeton University Professor Mitchell Duneier
• "Never mind 'The Wire.' Here is the real thing." —The Wall Street Journal
• "Riveting." —The Atlantic
• "Engaging as well as persuasive." —Baltimore Sun
• "An adrenaline-accelerating night ride." —Publishers Weekly
• "Genuinely eye-opening." —Times Higher Education
• "Should be made mandatory reading for every recruit in the Balto. City Police Academy. ... I am so proud that you were a Baltimore Police Officer and a good one." —Baltimore City Colonel (ret.) Margaret Patton,
• "Just garbage!" —My former boss, convicted felon Ed Norris
• Buy from Princeton University Press or Amazon.com Read full reviews here.
In Defense of Flogging (Basic Books)
• You rascal, I thought. Moskos ... knows how to catch our attention.
—Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune
• Moskos presents us with a true dilemma.... He compels us to rethink our ideas.... It is invariably jarring to overcome a prejudice or abandon a dearly held belief—I try to avoid doing either—but Moskos makes it an intriguing, if unsettling, experience. —“The Ethicist” Randy Cohen
• Don’t laugh: He makes a convincing case.... Clear, smart and highly readable prose.... Let the debate begin. —Craig Seligman, Bloomberg
• Peter Moskos’ In Defense of Flogging might seem like a satire — akin to Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal,"... but it is as serious as a wooden stick lashing into a blood-splattered back. —Adam Cohen, Time.com
• Forces the reader to confront issues surrounding incarceration that most Americans would prefer not to think about. —Mansfield Frazier, The Daily Beast
• Moskos’s argument is unconventional and convincing. Those interested in prison reform will find much to contemplate here. —Library Journal
• A brilliant piece of work.... Witty, entertaining, and creative. —Professor Wendell Bell, Yale University
• “An elegant polemic.” —Maclean’s
• Moskos’s argument is moral, deeply felt, and deeply affecting.... There is a deeper, righteous anger here at that species of denial that allows for a population of 2.3 million Americans to be written off as disposable.... After reading Moskos’s necessary book, it is hard to view such ignorance, such denial, as anything less than ethically repugnant, a violation of our responsibilities as citizens. —Rain Taxi Review of Books
• [Moskos's] provocative book makes many sanely provocative points; it is one I’ve urged on those who want to do more reading on the subject, and I’d urge it again now. —Adam Gopnik, New Yorker
• By the end... Moskos might just have you convinced. —Salon.com
• Read the first part of In Defense of Flogging for free. Or better yet, buy In Defense of Flogging
Greek Americans: Stuggle and Success (3rd edition) (Transaction Publishers)
• Who were the Greeks? How did they make their way in this new and strange world of America? How is it that they have achieved so much and still maintain strong ties with their heritage?
It's all here in this wonderful book.
• This book enhanced my understanding of the Greek American experience. Moskos's odyssey from migration to assimilation is a compelling one. The book is well researched. I recommend it." —Nicholas Sofios, Contemporary Sociology
• The best modern history of the Greek immigrants and their progeny. Moskos gives us an incisive analysis of why Greek Americans have come so far so quickly. —Nicholas Gage, author, Eleni
• A comprehensive overview and personal assessment. —Eva E. Sandis, International Migration Review
• Buy Greek Americans from Transaction or Amazon.com
See the CV for a complete list of publications.
• Moskos, Peter. 2015. "Observations on the Making of a Police Officer" in Envisioning Criminology: Researchers on Research as a Process of Discovery. Michael D. Maltz and Stephen K. Rice (eds.) Springer.
• Washington Post. "The complexities of traffic stops, from a police officer’s perspective." July 29, 2015.
• The New York Times. "Crime in Baltimore Rises as Support for Police Declines. June 5, 2015.
• CNN.com. "The right way for cops to retakes streets" June 5, 2015
• CNN.com. "Why just blaming cops won't help Baltimore." April 30, 2014.
• CNN.com. "Who gave this reserve cop a gun?" April 14, 2014.
• Washington Post. "Think Walter Scott’s death is ‘another Ferguson’? Cops don’t." April 10, 2015.
• CNN.com. "Why would you want to be a cop?" March 16, 2015.
• CNN.com. "The problem with 'The Thin Blue Line.'' December 22, 2014.
• New York Daily News. "When Should Cops Use Force?" August 6, 2014.
Review: Rise of the Warrior Cop, by Radley Balko. PDF
Lockdown Nation: How military-style policing became America's new normal.
Pacific Standard. July/August 2013.
Paramilitary police tactics were designed, Balko writes, “to stop snipers and rioters-people already committing violent crimes.” Today, however, SWAT teams are used mostly “to serve warrants on people suspected of nonviolent crimes.” Paramilitary raids on American homes, which just four decades ago seemed extraordinary, have become common, as has legal forgiveness for any “collateral damage.” The Supreme Court has by and large acquiesced, creating a string of drug-related exceptions to the Fourth Amendment.
Occupy and Police. Full Text
Slate.com. "Which Side Are They On: How cops really feel about the Occupy Wall Street protests." November 14, 2011.
Occupy is supposed to be about economic injustice, not the police. The majority of protesters are peaceful and mean well; the majority of the public respect, if not the substance of the protesters, the right to protest; and the majority of police officers—who, unlike the protesters, would certainly prefer to be elsewhere—do not want to become the focal point of protesters’ fury. And yet there the police are, center stage, day in and day out. Wherever the protests go, police have to come reluctantly along for the ride, stuck in the middle, like poor Unlucky Pierre.
Collars for Dollars. Full Text
Reason. July, 2011.
In the police world, there are good arrests and better arrests, but there is no such thing as a bad arrest. In recent years, measures of “productivity” have achieved an almost totemic significance. And because they are so easy to count, arrests have come to outweigh more important but harder-to-quantify variables such as crimes prevented, fights mitigated, or public fears assuaged
In Lieu of Prison, Bring Back the Lash. Full Text
Washington Post. June 15, 2011.
Suggest adding the whipping post to America’s system of criminal justice and most people recoil in horror. But offer a choice between five years in prison or 10 lashes and almost everybody picks the lash. What does that say about prison?
In Defense of Doing Nothing: The Methodological Utility of Introversion. PDF
Ieva Zake and Michael DeCesare (eds.). New Directions in Sociology: Essays on Theory and Methodology in the 21st Century. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. 2011.
My goal is modest: to introduce a psychological concept—introversion—into the sociological world. A greater awareness and understanding of introversion could help current and future ethnographers appreciate and exploit natural skills beneficial to qualitative fieldwork, particularly the difficult and overlooked early stage of participant-observation research.
See the CV for a complete list of publications.
In Defense of Flogging. Full Text
Chronicle of Higher Education. April 24, 2011.
A crazy idea came from a dinner in New Orleans. I had cold-called (or whatever the e-mail equivalent is) a writer and his wife because I was a fan of his work and thought we had much in common. They were gracious enough to arrange a meal and treat me, without much justification, as a professional equal more than a stalker. The conversation turned to corporal punishment in public schools. They were amazed not that such a peculiarity existed in a city ripe with oddities, but that such illegal punishments were administered at the urging of and with the full consent of the students' parents. "Fascinating," I drolly replied, but I wasn't shocked.
Review: Seven Shots: An NYPD Raid on a Terrorist Cell and Its Aftermath by Jennifer Hunt. PDF
Journal of Police Crisis Negotiations. Vol. 11(1): 90-92, 2011.
Groundbreaking in academic research, revealing deep levels of understanding of police at the human, institutional, and cultural levels, Hunt demonstrates how sociology in general and ethnography in particular can and should reclaim their rightful place at the forefront of public awareness, policy decisions, and intellectual discussion.
My father ... came up with the concept and coined the phrase ["don't ask don't tell"]. He had lots of crazy ideas. But this one, I declared, was "the stupidest idea you've ever come up with."
A few months later ... "don't ask, don't tell" was the law of the land.
Today ... I am convinced that my father would support the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell.
Why does it take six calls and 90 minutes for police to “handle” a call for drinking and disorderly people on a slow
Sunday morning? Because police are out of touch with the
areas they are meant to serve. There’re no cops walking the
The difference between a group of people quietly hanging out and the same group of people being disorderly or even threatening is too subtle for a police officer to determine if isolated in a squad car. Yet any pedestrian or foot officer can immediately tell when something is amiss.
On Academic Writing and Style: A sociologist’s response to an anthropological account. PDF
PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review. Vol. 33 (S1), May 2010.
The more jargon and sociobabble we anthropologists, sociologists, and ethnographers spew out--the more we strive to define ourselves as literate scribes in an academic temple--the more irrelevant we become.
Aping quantitative science is not the answer. Imagine if all poetry had to conform to the structure of a haiku. ... [Who] would remember "Casey at the Bat" if it were written like this: mighty casey swings – oh two two on down by two – no joy in Mudville.
I just wish more academics would worry about the Elements of Style as much as they obsess over the whims of anonymous reviewers and straitjacket themselves with journal orthodoxy.
Why You Never Chase. Full Text
West Side Spirit. February 26, 2010.
Karen Schmeer’s death is more than a simple tragedy. Karen wasn’t just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Karen might be alive if police did not bend or break the exact rules put in place to prevent this kind of senseless death.
The NYPD pursuit policy is based on the only effective way to reduce the danger of a car chase: don’t do it. For police, it's as simple as it is unsatisfying.
Sergeants, lieutenants, captains and inspectors feel intense pressure to produce ever better stats. To some extent this can be good. Police are paid to work. But the pressure to produce more with less is as overwhelming as it is unrealistic. Mind you, the orders never come from above to just make numbers up, but when commanding officers talk about “productivity,” the rank-and-file hear “quotas.”
In Amsterdam, the red-light district is the oldest and most notorious neighborhood. Two picturesque canals frame countless small pedestrian alleyways lined with legal prostitutes, bars, porn stores and coffee shops. In 2008, I visited the local police station and asked about the neighborhood's problems. I laughed when I heard that dealers of fake drugs were the biggest police issue -- but it's true.
Angels in Blue: The Virtues of Foot Patrol. PDF
The American Interest. Sep/Oct, 2009.
The pattern today is when police start driving, they never "walk foot" again. That represents a loss for community and police alike. Foot patrol officers knew their neighborhood because in a real sense they were part of it. Beat cops watched people grow up, get jobs, or get in trouble.
Just as overtime pay drives discretionary arrests, extra pocket money would change the very culture of patrol. Officers need to want to walk foot, and more money is a way to make them want it. Only with willing officers does foot patrol bring the best possible benefits.
Only after years of witnessing the ineffectiveness of drug policies ... have we and other police officers begun to question the system.
Drug manufacturing and distribution is too dangerous to remain in the hands of unregulated criminals. Drug distribution needs to be the combined responsbility of doctors, the government, and a legal and regulated free market. This simple step would quickly emiminate the greatest threat of violence: street-corner drug dealing.
Every police/public confrontation ends up in one of three ways: the suspect 1) leaves the scene, 2) defers to police authority, or 3) gets locked up. Mr. Gates couldn't do the first option, he refused to do the second, so he virtually begged for number three. It was certainly wrong, in this situation, to arrest Mr. Gates. But can it ever be right to cuff somebody for "contempt of cop"? The short answer is: yes.
Two Shades of Blue: Black and White in the Blue Brotherhood. PDF
Law Enforcement Executive Forum. Vol. 8(5). September 2008.
Black and white police officers have different attitudes towards the role of police in society, police department politics, and the minority community. A common ground of police identity is found in conservative social beliefs and opposition to “ghetto” culture. But attitudinal similarities do not negate differences between the races. Black and white police do not blend into the same shade of blue.
Drugs are bad. So let's legalize them.
It's not as crazy as it sounds. Legalization does not mean giving up. It means regulation and control. By contrast, criminalization means prohibition. But we can't regulate what we prohibit, and drugs are too dangerous to remain unregulated.
The Better Part of Valor:
Court-Overtime Pay as the Main Determinant for Discretionary Police Arrests. PDF
Law Enforcement Executive Forum. Vol. 8(3). May 2008.
Discretionary arrests are more influenced by officer-based variables than any suspect-based variable. The discretionary will—even whim—of individual police officers, the desire to make an arrest, is the best predictor of arrest numbers. Desire for court overtime pay is the single more important factor affecting the quantity of discretionary arrests. Age and morale are also significant causal variables.
Under the medieval system of tything, individuals could be held responsible for the misdeeds of others in their collective group. In the movie Minority Report, set in the near future, criminals are incarcerated before they commit their crimes. Our present system of justice, according to Bernard E. Harcourt’s Against Prediction, combines the worst of both worlds. “The quest for prediction,” Harcourt writes, “has distorted our conception of just policing by emphasizing efficiency over crime minimization. Profiling has become second nature because of our natural tendency to favor economic efficiency.”
911 and the Failure of
Police Rapid Response. PDF
Law Enforcement Executive Forum. 2007. vol. 7(4).
No police officer is ever promoted to beat cop. Foot patrol is most often a form of punishment. While the public generally favors increased foot patrol, the opposition to foot patrol in the police organization is strong. Recognizing the failures and limitations of the status quo is the first step to better patrol: 911 calls dominate police far more than rapid response impacts crime.
The police officer in me is suspicious of any effort to
quantify a job that is — or at least should be — qualitative.
But the professor in me loves police data on race.
Race is a factor in America and a factor in effective policing. Racism should never be.
Pity poor Norm Stamper. He would have liked nothing more
than to write a book extolling the virtues of community policing
and a greater police focus on domestic violence. A hard-working liberal police officer for 33 years, he rose from San
Diego beat cop to chief of the Seattle Police Department.
Then came the 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle. Massive protests and riots turned the city into chaos. Chief Stamper later resigned, admitting that he and his police were woefully unprepared for the scale of protests. Stamper’s name is now cursed by both ends of the political spectrum, albeit for different and often diametrically opposed reasons.
The only way to disarm the drug culture is to take the profit
out of street-level drug-dealing. Drug legalization and
regulation are the answer. Why leave the profits to those
who perpetuate violent culture?
Legalizing drugs would not be a silver bullet. But drug prohibition must be recognized as a good intention gone terribly wrong. The war on drugs destroys neighborhoods, enriches drug dealers and promotes a culture ruining the lives of our cities’ youths. Drug prohibition is a failure. It’s time to try something else.
The only way to prevent creeping use of implied consent is to
limit the doctrine of plain view. Before searching a person,
the government must choose either plain view or implied
If the government must search without probable cause, let it search, but only for illegal weapons or bombs. If security outweighs the Fourth Amendment, the scope of such searches must be limited to objects representing a clear and present danger to public safety. Any unrelated suspicious or illegal objects found must be ignored.
The best thing I've writen that I was never been able to get published. Not that long ago gay marrage wasn't even a concept, much less legal. Using 1990 data, I took a large sample of older educated white men who never married. I used never-married as a proxy measure for homosexuality. Certainly gay men would be less likley to marry women than straight men. In 1990 the very concept (much less the legality) of "gay marrage" did not yet exist.
Usuing never married as a proxy for gay in 1990 may not be a prefect measure, but it's probably better than you might think. And the smaller the the percentage of never-married men in a sample (4.2 percent), the better the validity of the proxy measure can be assumed to be.
Once there is a way to determine sexual orientation from marital status and age, one can use such data to determine demographic and occupational characterists of gay men, something which has still not been done with any scientific rigor. 1990 census data quantified where gays lived and how much they made in which occupations. The results often supported popular stereotypes regarding gay-friendly cities (such as San Francisco) and occupations (hairdresser, for instance). Interestingly, though, is that even within these occupation, gay men made significaly less than straight men.
An early version of this article won the Isadore Brown Thesis Award for Best Sociology Thesis at Princeton University in 1994.
One school of thought -- call it old school -- believes in the
moral righteousness of hitting back.
New-school police believe in cuffing suspects and writing solid reports.
Though we demand new school behavior from our police, most police officers are firmly old school. Old-school police believe that the disrespectful deserve a “good thumping.” It’s about respect.
If the war on drugs were winnable, we would already have
won it. Drug prohibition criminalizes large segments of the
population, even the majority in some areas.
Those at the receiving end of our drug policy know it simply doesn’t work. People will riot as long as police keep locking them up without anything getting better.
Separate the problems of drug use from the violence of the drug trade. Acknowledge that drugs are bad, but don’t frame drug policy as a moral war against evil.
Afro-Anglo: America’s Core Culture. PDF
National Journal of Sociology. 1995. vol. 9(2).
There exists a Core Culture in American which is shared by all people inasmuch as they are American. This Core Culture is a consolidation of Anglo-American and Afro-American culture. While many authors view the black experience as distinct and separate from the core American experience, this paper argues that American Core Culture is uniquely defined by its Afro-Anglo nature—a blend of both the Afro and the Anglo culture, history, and experience. That Afro-Anglo culture has not been recognized as America’s Core Culture is due both the Eurocentrism of the dominant paradigm of American culture, and the Afrocentrist competing paradigm of a separate black American culture. Afro-Anglo Core Culture recognized the oneness of whites and blacks together as part of the American experience.
See the CV for a complete list of publications.