Race and the New Policing

Jeffrey Fagan

Isidor & Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law
Professor of Epidemiology, Columbia University
Reforming Criminal Justice Vol. 2

Several observers credit nearly 25 years of declining crime rates to the “New Policing” and its emphasis on advanced statistical metrics, new forms of organizational accountability, and aggressive tactical enforcement of minor crimes. This model has been adopted in large and small cities, and has been institutionalized in everyday police-citizen interactions, especially among residents of poorer, often minority, and higher crime areas. Citizens exposed to these regimes have frequent contact with police through investigative stops, arrests for minor misdemeanors, and non-custody citations or summons for code violations or vehicle infractions. Two case studies show surprising and troubling similarities in the racial disparities in the new policing in vastly different areas, including more frequent police contact and new forms of monetary punishment. Low-level “public order” crimes and misdemeanors are the starting point for legal proceedings that over time evolve into punishments leading to criminal records with lasting consequences. In these regimes, warrants provide the entry point for processes that move from civil fines to criminal punishment. The chapter concludes with a menu of reforms to disincentivize the new policing while creating new forms of accountability to mitigate its harms.