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The biggest gang in Oakland: re-thinking police legitimacy
Contemporary Justice Review: Issues in Criminal, Social, and restorative Justice (2014)
  • William T Armaline, San Jose State University
  • Claudio G. Vera Sanchez, San Jose State University
  • Mark Correia, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Literature defining ‘police legitimacy’ lacks qualitative research on those populations most often targeted by law enforcement agencies, including people of color in urban areas. This same literature defines police legitimacy as something unquestionable and automatic. Exploration of this concept is limited to strategies to increase public ‘trust’ in police, and public compliance to their authority. We address these limitations in the available scholarship through an analysis of interviews with a diverse sample of Oakland (CA) residents on their experiences with the Oakland Police Department (OPD). Their narratives are presented in the historical context of controversy, budget problems, federal investigations, and racialized violence that help to define the relationship between OPD and Oakland communities. Those interviewed, universally observed OPD’s failure to address the most common crime problems in the city, while others, particularly people of color, found them to be a personal or public threat to safety. Their narratives fly in the face of the manifest functions of municipal police forces, are fully supported by the contemporary empirical history of the OPD, and suggest the illegitimate authority – including the monopoly on the use of force – of organizations like OPD in a democratic society.
  • police,
  • policing,
  • Oscar Grant,
  • gangs,
  • Oakland,
  • police shootings,
  • police legitimacy,
  • racism
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Citation Information
William T Armaline, Claudio G. Vera Sanchez and Mark Correia. "The biggest gang in Oakland: re-thinking police legitimacy" Contemporary Justice Review: Issues in Criminal, Social, and restorative Justice Vol. 17 Iss. 3 (2014)
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