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Hagan, J., McCarthy, B., & Herda, D. (2022). Chicago’s reckoning: Racism, politics, and the deep history of policing in an American city. New York: Oxford University Press.

A searing examination of the long history of police misconduct and political corruption in Chicago that produced the city’s current racial reckoning

Chicago faces a racial reckoning. For over 50 years, Chicago Mayors Richard J. and Richard M. Daley were at the helm of a law-and-order dynasty that disadvantaged predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods and covered up heinous crimes against Black men. During his 1980-2012 tenure as State’s Attorney and Mayor, Richard M. Daley (son of Richard J. Daley) led a law enforcement bureaucracy which permitted police detective John Burge to supervise the torture of over 100 Black men on Chicago’s South and West Sides. Misguided policies on “gangs, guns, and drugs,” support for a racialized code of silence and police misconduct, and a lack of meaningful punishment, have ensured that these leaders’ effects on Chicago are still sorely felt.

In this book, John Hagan, Bill McCarthy, and Daniel Herda confront the complicated history of race, politics, and policing in Chicago to explain how crime works from the top-down through urban political machines and the elite figures who dominate them. The authors argue that the Daleys’ law enforcement system worked largely to benefit and protect White residential areas and business districts while excluding Black and Brown Chicagoans and concentrating them in highly segregated neighborhoods. The stark contradiction between the promise “to serve and protect” and the realities of hyper-segregation and mass incarceration created widespread cynicism about policing that remains one of the most persistent problems of contemporary Chicago law enforcement.

By holding a sociological lens up to the history of this quintessential American city, Chicago’s Reckoning reveals new insights into the politics of crime and how, until we come to terms with our history and the racial and economic divisions it created, these dynamics will continue to shape our national life.