Police Officer: ‘Policing Mostly Became a Response to the 911 Call Machine’

For three years in the early 1970s, journalist Studs Terkel gathered stories from a variety of American workers. He then compiled them into Working, an oral-history collection that went on to become a classic. Four decades after its publication, Working is more relevant than ever. Terkel, who regularly contributed to In These Times, once wrote, “I know the good fight—the fight for democracy, for civil rights, for the rights of workers has a future, for these values will live on in the pages of In These Times.” In honor of that sentiment and of Working’s 40th anniversary, ITT writers have invited a broad range of American workers to describe what they do, in their own words. More "Working at 40" stories can be found here.
In Working, Terkel interviewed two Chicago police officers, Vincent Maher and Renault Robinson, both of whom were dissatisfied with their jobs. Maher, a white cop, complained, “We have lost complete contact with the people. They get the assumption that we’re gonna be called to the scene for one purpose—to become violent to make an arrest.” Meanwhile, Robinson, a black cop, was sharply critical of the Chicago Police Department’s emphasis on arresting its way out of crime. Robinson organized the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League “to improve relationships between the black community and the police” because "as policeman, we were the only organized group that could do something about it.”

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