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Street Stories

Street Stories

The World of Police Detectives

Robert Jackall

ISBN 9780674039018

Publication date: 07/01/2009

Detectives work the streets--an arena of action, vice, lust, greed, aggression, and violence--to gather shards of information about who did what to whom. They also work the cumbersome machinery of the justice system--semi-military police hierarchies with their endless jockeying for prestige, procedure-driven district attorney offices, and backlogged courts--transforming hard-won street knowledge into public narratives of responsibility for crime. Street Stories, based on years of fieldwork with the New York City Police Department and the District Attorney of New York, examines the moral ambiguities of the detectives' world as they shuttle between the streets and a bureaucratic behemoth.

In piecing together street stories to solve intriguing puzzles of agency and motive, detectives crisscross the checkerboard of urban life. Their interactions in social strata high and low foster cosmopolitan habits of mind and easy conversational skills. And they become incomparable storytellers. This book brims with the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction violence of the underworld and tells about a justice apparatus that splinters knowledge, reduces life-and-death issues to arcane hair-splitting, and makes rationality a bedfellow of absurdity.

Detectives' stories lay bare their occupational consciousness--the cunning and trickery of their investigative craft, their self-images, moral rules-in-use, and judgments about the players in their world--as well as their personal ambitions, sensibilities, resentments, hopes, and fears. When detectives do make cases, they take satisfaction in removing predators from the streets and helping to ensure public safety. But their stories also illuminate dark corners of a troubled social order.

Praise

  • [An] engaging study of New York City detectives...Well-told tales of true crime, buttressed by clearly wrought descriptions of life on the street, turn it into something rarer: a fascinating peek into a world most of us would not want to inhabit--but can't resist wanting to hear about.

    —Mark Kamine, Times Literary Supplement

Author

  • Robert Jackall has done several years of fieldwork with New York City police detectives and prosecutors, among whom he is known as “The Professor.” He is Class of 1956 Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Williams College.

Book Details

  • Harvard University Press

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