Professor Peter C. Moskos
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Department of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration

Here is an incomplete list of selected police-related readings. Many of these are classics and must-reads that you should know. Others are lesser-known books that I feel have particular worth. Last updated: 2007.

Banton, Michael. 1964. The Policeman in the Community. New York: Basic Books.

One of the early books that began the movement of Community Policing.

Bittner, Egon, 1967. “The Police on Skid Row.” American Sociological Review. Vol. 32(5): 699-715.

A great piece describing (and not condemning) police discretion.

Bittner, Egon. 1970. The Functions of the Police in Modern Society (National Institute of Mental Health, Crime and Delinquency Issues Series). Rockville, MD: Center for Studies of Crime and Delinquency.

A classic text. Describes how the capacity to use force is the core of the police role.

The Bill of Rights. 1791.

The first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution. Policing and the criminal justice system are based on the 4th, 5th,  6th, 7th, 8th, and 10th amendments. When is the last time you right your rights? My favorite amendment is the 4th. Doesn't everybody have a favorite amendment? Remember, the purpose of the Bill of Rights is to give rights to the people by limiting government.

Gladwell, Malcolm. 1996. "The Tipping Point: Why is the city suddenly so much safer -- could it be that crime really is an epidemic?" The New Yorker. June 3.

Gladwell is one smart cookie. And he makes a lot of sense.

Goldstein, Herman. 1990. Problem-Oriented Policing. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Very influential book building on Banton and Jane Jacobs. This sets the groundwork for putting Broken Windows into action and the idea that police can actually do something to prevent crime.

Jacobs, Bruce A. 1999. Dealing Crack: the Social World of Streetcorner Selling. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

A good 'how-to' book. Actually much more than that.

Jacobs, Jane. 1961. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House. Chapter 2

Maybe the best book of all time. A classic. Jacobs describes how cities function. There is a good chapter on public safety. Inspiring.

Kappeler, Victor R. (ed.) 2006. The Police and Society, 3rd edition. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

The amazing selection of great police articles. The best compilation you could buy. And saves hours tracking down articles in the library... if anybody goes to those any more.

Karmen, Andrew. 2000. New York Murder Mystery: The True Story Behind the Crime Crash of the 1990s. New York: New York University Press. Excerpt

An excellent book focusing on the crime drop in New York City. Just how did murders drop 75%? John Jay Professor Karmen explains the mystery.

Kelling, George L. and Catherine M. Coles. 1996. Fixing Broken Windows. New York: The Free Press.

Effectively put the police back in the job of reducing disorder and preventing crime. Builds on Wilson and Kelling's 1980 "Broken Windows" Atlantic Monthly article. Very influential in the policing in New York in the 1990s. Yet disparaged by many academics who subscribe to a Root Causes theory of crime. See Wilson and Kelling (1982) below.

Kelling, George L. and Mark H. Moore. 1988. "The Evolving Strategy of Policing." National Institute of Justice.

The political, reform, and problem-solving eras of policing. A great short introduction to the history of American policing.

King, Martin Luther Jr. 1963. "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

When is it OK to break the law? "Just following orders"? Read this classic of the civil-rights movement. Just because it's legal doesn't make it right.

Klinger, David A. 2004. Into the Kill Zone. Except

Ever killed a man? Professor Klinger has. Read about police-involved shootings from the police officers' perseptive.

Lane, Roger. 1980. “Urban Police and Crime in Nineteenth-Century America.” In N. Morris and M. Tonry (eds.), Crime and Justice. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

A good introduction to police history.

Levitt, Steven D. 2004. "Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Sic that Do Not." Journal of Economic Perspectives. Vol. 18 (1). Winter.

The abortion part is questionable and somewhat debunked, but it's still an important piece.

MacCoun, Robert and P. Reuter. 2001. Drug War Heresies: Learning From Other Vices, Times, and Places. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Good book on the war on drugs.

Manning, Peter K. 1997. Police Work: the Social Organization of Policing (2nd edition). Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc.

Second edition of Manning's influential 1977 Police Work. Great for its theory.

Newman, Oscar. 1973. Defensible Space: Crime Prevention Through urban Design. New York: Macmillan.

Books are often described as "groundbreaking," but this one really is. Perhaps best read in as a series starting with Jane Jacobs's Death and Life and moving on to Goldstein's Problem-Solving Policing and finally Kelling and Coles Fixing Broken Windows.

Patterson, Orlando. 2006. "A Poverty of the Mind." New York Times op-ed. March 26, 2006.

Why culture matters. Specifically with regards to the "tragic disconnection of millions of black youths from the American mainstream." Professor Patterson was my PhD dissertation advisor at Harvard.

Peel, Robert. 1829. "Peel's Principles of Policing."

This was part of the training manual given to the first police officers. It's timeless, even if what people think are 'Peel's Principles" were never written by Peel..

Poss, M. Joseph and Henry R. Schlesinger. 1994. Brooklyn Bounce: The True-Life Adventures of a Good Cop in a Bad Precinct. New York: Avon. Excerpt

Pulp non-fiction. A great read. Great description of the “ghetto cop.” Good and realistic stories. Tells it like it is.

Punch, Maurice. 1979. Policing the Inner City: A Study of Amsterdam’s Warmoesstraat. London: Macmillan.

Describes policing in Amsterdam. Based on his 1974 field work. Very well written. Now a good description of a different era of policing the city. Inspired me into the whole field.

Reith, Charles. 1948. A Short History of the British Police. London: Oxford University Press.

Not really short. But an excellent history. And the source for what became widely (and inaccurately) known as Peel's Principles of Policing.

Reuss-Ianni, Elizabeth. 1983. Two Cultures of Policing. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books. Excerpt.

Describes the difference between management and street cops. Includes the excellent "Cops' Code."

Reinarman, Craig and Harry G. Levine (eds.). 1997. Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Excellent compilation of articles of crack. More about crack than police, certainly. But how can you understand one without the other? Some of it you may feel like you already know, but that's just because it's true.

Rubinstein, Jonathan. 1973. City Police. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Classic 1st-hand account of policing in Philadelphia. Nobody knows whatever happened to Mr. Rubinstein.

Schlosser, Eric. 1998. “The Prison-Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic Monthly. December.

Like the military industrial complex. But this time with prisons. An excellent article describing the growth of the prison industry in the US.

Skogan, Wesley G. 1990. Disorder and Decline: Crime and Spiral of Decay in America. New York: The Free Press.

Good book related to Broken Windows and Community Policing.

Tonry, Michael. 1995. Malign Neglect. New York: Oxford University Press.

A passionate attack on the War on Drugs.

Van Maanen, John. 1978. "The Asshole." Chapter 18 in Policing: A View from the Street. Peter K. Manning and John Van Maanen (eds), pp. 221-238. Santa Monica, CA: Goodyear Publishing.

Police Typifications. Or how to get on the bad side of police in one easy lesson. M.I.T. Professor Van Maanen was on my PhD dissertation committee. His research in the Seattle Police Academy inspired me on my career.

Vollmer, August. 1936. The Police and Modern Society: Plain Talk Based on Practical Experience. Berkley, California: University of California Press.

Little-read classic by the father of American Policing. Worth reading if you can get your hands on it.

Wilson, James Q. 1968. Varieties of Police Behavior. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Articulates the oft-quoted distinction between ‘watchman’, ‘legalistic’, and ‘service’ styles of policing.  Written when legalistic, centralized movements were all the rage.

Wilson, James Q. and George L. Kelling. 1982. "Broken Windows." The Atlantic. March.

The article that revolutionized policing? Former New York City and current L.A. Police Chief William Bratton says it's the only piece written by an academic that matters. Period. Many academics beg to differ.

Wilson, Orlando W. and R. McLaren. 1972. Police Administration. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Not what I would call a good read, but it's still an important book. O.W. Wilson was chief of police in Chicago. He wrote the book on implementing "professional" policing. His ideas are an example of good intentions gone wrong. This is useful for its details and as a historical document. Many of its ideas are still practiced today.

Young, Malcolm. 1991. An Inside Job: Policing and Police Culture in Britain. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Great book written about police culture in Britain. Particularly good chapter on the ease at which statistics can be manipulated. Surprisingly little known on this side of the pond.

Young, Malcolm. 1993. In the Sticks: Cultural Identity in a Rural Police Force. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Haven't read this one yet, but I bet it's good.