The Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove


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Tony Platt et al. (2nd printing, 1977). 232 pp., paper, ISBN 0-935206-02-07. $19.95

“To round out the list of books that influenced my own development … I must mention the 1977 edition of an important work on the American policing, The Iron Fist and Velvet Glove: An Analysis of the U. S. Police.  First published by radical criminologists associated with the Center for Research on Criminal Justice, this book helped to create the foundation of what is now a thriving movement against over-incarceration, one which seeks to dismantle the prison-industrial complex.” — Angela Davis

“…highly recommended for it provides a valuable overview of the police and their role in society.” — National Lawyers Guild Newsletter

A highly informative history and now classic analysis of the U.S. police from a critical perspective. Addresses all aspects of the subject, from special weapons teams and political surveillance to pacification programs and women on patrol. Excellent for study groups, community organizations, and classroom use in political science, history, sociology, and criminology. Includes chapters on: The Police and the Crisis of the 1960s, Contemporary Strategies, Military-Corporate Model (Technology, SWAT, Women on Patrol, Team Policing), LEAA, Guidelines for the Future, Police and the Empire, Rent-A-Cop: The Private Police Industry, Controlling the Police: Liberal Reforms Organizing the Police Popular Struggles, Political Surveillance. Also: Annotated Bibliography & Research Guide.

Available in print and Acrobat pdf format.

Written by: Lynn Cooper, Elliott Currie, Jon Frappier, Tony Platt, Betty Ryan, Richard Schauffler, Joy Scruggs, and Larry Trujillo, with Contributions by: Bill Bigelow, Michael Klare, Nancy Stein, and Millie Thayer


I. Introduction

II. Origins and Development of the Police
1. The First Police
2. Growth of Police

III. Professionalizing the Police
3. The Police and the Progressive Movement
4. World War II to the 1960s
5. The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration
6. Police Militancy

IV. The Iron Fist
7. The Military-Corporate Model
8. Technology
10. Political Surveillance

V. The Velvet Glove
11. The Pacification Model
12. Women on Patrol
13. Team Policing

VI. Expanding for Business
14. Rent-a-Cop: The Private Security Industry
15. Policing the Empire

VII. Conclusion
16. Police in the 1970s
17. Summarizing Experience
18. Implications for Organizing

VIII. Resources
19. Bibliography
20. Research Guide
21. Documents


“A landmark text in the political analysis of the police.” Ian Taylor, University of Sheffield, England; co-author, The New Criminology

“In addition to providing a useful guide to further research, it represents a necessary and provocative alternative to the conventional view of the American police and their function.” Critical Sociologist

“A succinct analysis that reveals the real relationships in U.S. society.” Mike Brake

“A major contribution to our understanding of the history, development and functions of the U.S. police.” Paul Takagi