Walk the Walk: How Three Police Chiefs Defied the Odds and Changed Cop Culture (Hardcover)
From “one of the most interesting sociologists of his generation” and a former cop, the story of three departments and their struggle to change aggressive police culture and achieve what Americans want: fair, humane, and effective policing.
What should we do about the police? After the murder of George Floyd, there’s no institution more controversial: only 14 percent of Americans believe that “policing works pretty well as it is” (CNN, April 27, 2021). We’re swimming in proposals for reform, but most do not tackle the aggressive culture of the profession, which prioritizes locking up bad guys at any cost, loyalty to other cops, and not taking flak from anyone on the street. Far from improving public safety, this culture, in fact, poses a danger to citizens and cops alike.
Walk the Walk brings readers deep inside three unusual departments—in Stockton, California; Longmont, Colorado; and LaGrange, Georgia—whose chiefs signed on to replace that aggressive culture with something better: with models focused on equity before the law, social responsibility, racial reconciliation, and the preservation of life. Informed by research, unflinching and by turns gripping, tragic, and inspirational, this book follows the chiefs—and their officers and detectives—as they conjured a new spirit of policing. While every community faces unique challenges with police reform, Walk the Walk opens a window onto what the police could be, if we took seriously the charge of creating a more just America.
About the Author
A former patrol officer in the police department in Berkeley, California, Neil Gross is a professor of sociology at Colby College. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, he is the author of two previous books and has also taught at Harvard and Princeton. He lives in Maine.
“Informed and impassioned... thoughtful and important. Gross’s optimism about police reform offers an antidote to the cynicism and gloom that pervade most such discussions. His book is replete with both empathy and pragmatism."
—The New York Times
"A vital contribution to the debate over policing and the possibility of reform."
"Excellent... Gross cuts through hyperbole and ideology to examine the realities of crime and law enforcement, presenting strong evidence that change is possible and the police can and should do better in our democratic society."
"Tightly focused and consistently persuasive, this is a crucial guide to solving a pressing social issue."
“This book shows what policing could be.”
—Library Journal, starred review
"A conversation-provoking look at the real world of police work and ways to make it better for all concerned."
“A crucial and timely read.”
—Jonathan Lemire, “Way Too Early,” MSNBC
“Walk the Walk is something that everyone needs to read, conservative, progressive and everything in between."
—John Fugelsang, “Tell Me Everything,” Sirius FM
“An illuminating look at the possibilities of policing, Neil Gross’s book should be required reading for every precinct across the country. Walk the Walk is infused with hope and wisdom, and offers a new vision of what law enforcement could be.”
—Rachel Louise Snyder, author of No Visible Bruises
“Walk the Walk is mandatory reading and truly a roadmap to success in police reform.”
—Art Acevedo, former chief of the Austin, Houston, and Miami police departments and past president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association
“A must-read for anyone who believes the time for change in policing is long overdue. As a former cop and distinguished sociologist, Neil Gross brings unique insight and empathy to this vexing subject. He knows how hard it is to achieve meaningful reform, yet he makes a convincing case: change is possible.”
—Eyal Press, author of Dirty Work
"A great strength of the book is the close rendering of individual officers' experiences... Gross humanizes and complicates a profession that is easy to stereotype."
—National Civic Review
“A refreshing break from our hyper-polarized debate over public safety and criminal justice reform, Walk the Walk shows that better policing is possible.”
—Matthew Yglesias, author of One Billion Americans
“Neil Gross brings the debate on police reform to life with this nuanced and highly readable account of how three very different police agencies managed to change their culture and behavior. Walk the Walk is a crucial and timely contribution to our understanding of the state of American policing and its prospects for change.”
—Elliott Currie, author of A Curious Indifference