Sunday, June 8, 2008
An exhaustive study of the police response to gangs in four U.S. cities, co-authored by an ASU professor, has received international acclaim. The Academy of Criminal Justice Studies (ACJS) chose Policing Gangs in America (Cambridge University Press), co-authored by Charles Katz of ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, for its 2008 Outstanding Book Award.
Katz and Vincent Webb from Sam Houston State University received a grant from the National Institute of Justice to study gang units within the police departments of Phoenix, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, and Inglewood, Calif. “We looked at topics including why police gang units were created, how and why they respond in the ways they do to gang activity, and how effective they are,” Katz says.
Information-gathering techniques Katz and Webb employed in each of the four cities included observing officers in the field for periods of up to three months, interviewing officers and community leaders, and examining local news coverage of gangs.
The authors’ findings showed both positive and negative aspects of police gang units. “These units can become isolated from the public and other officers; they can turn into mini-departments within a police department,” Katz says. “This situation is problematic and runs in contrast to the trend in recent years for police operations to emphasize a freer communication flow within departments and with the public.” [Mark Godsey]