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by Peter Moskos

August 1, 2008

"Gives great insight..."

This just came flying over the transom from a police officer:
I just wanted to let you know I finished Cop in the Hood last night at work (Don't tell the chief . . . it was a slow night for a change). I must say it was quite different than I expected, mainly because it was more analytical than I thought it would be. Your book certainly gives great insight for an outsider into what police work is all about, particularly relating to street-level drug dealing.

I also found it interesting that your perceptions of law enforcement are quite similar those of myself and my co-workers, despite the fact you spent a relatively short time on the streets. I guess it doesn't take long to figure it all out, does it? I was also happy to hear that you view law enforcement officers as largely non-corrupt. That gives me hope that the public perception, at large, is not as bad as I may think. Overall, I found your book to be a very informative read.

I have a couple questions

1.) You're an obviously well-educated person. I am curious how different police work was to experience than what you expected it might be?

2.) Were you on the streets long enough to develop the raw cynicism which is so ingrained in most urban cops?

1) I really didn't have many expectations, strange as that sounds. Yeah, I went to good colleges, but it's not like I was a stranger to work. I think the biggest surprise was the that the standards of integrity and professionalism in the Baltimore City Police Department were much higher than I expected (and, I can't help but noting, higher than I find in the academic world). I think TV and movies are to blame for people assuming police culture is corrupt.

2) I've always been both a cynic and also an optimist. I think it's being the former that lets me remain being the latter. I don't think I was there long enough to get that really hard core raw cynicism. Maybe I never would have. But if that hard core cynicism is related to burn out (and I suspect it is), then yes, if I had to patrol the same streets for another 18 years, I would have been as cynical and burned out as any cop could be.

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