The Use and Abuse of Police Power in America
Historical Milestones and Current Controversies
by Gina Robertiello, Editor
May 2017, 370pp, 7 x 10
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-4372-3
$108, £84, 94€, A148
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-4373-0
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Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Freddie Gray. Tamir Rice. Were the unfortunate deaths of these African American males the direct result of law enforcement officers abusing their power?

Providing a timely and much-needed investigation of how U.S. law enforcement carries out its public safety and crime fighting mandates, this book is an invaluable resource for students, educators, and concerned citizens.

Does America face an epidemic of police officers abusing their powers and disregarding constitutional rights, especially in communities of color? Or are such accusations unfair, especially given the enormous challenges of enforcing the law in 21st-century America? This book provides a unique frame of reference for understanding how some of the issues between the police and the public emerged, identifying events that have shaped current relationships between the police and the public, as well as the public’s expectations and perceptions of the police.

An authoritative resource for understanding modern law enforcement and its relationship with American communities, this volume addresses subjects including the legal underpinnings of various law enforcement actions and practices; the so-called militarization of police departments; the increased use of force and surveillance to combat crime and terrorism, and to generally “keep the peace”; and the perspectives of Black Lives Matter activists and other critics of American law enforcement. The entries provide readers with expert analysis of current topics related to the intensifying debate about the American police state; examine the scope of law enforcement issues that have existed for centuries, and explain why they continue to exist; and cover new mandates for exercising police power, enabling readers to critically analyze what is presented to them in the media. Included throughout the book are excerpts from important laws, speeches, reports, and studies pertaining to the subject of the use and abuse of police power in the United States


  • Provides a single-volume, go-to source for insight into police-citizen relations in the United States, from the 17th century through to today
  • Documents major turning points and historical events influencing the evolution of police power
  • Provides both supportive and critical perspectives on contemporary trends in law enforcement activities, attitudes, and practices
  • Enables a fuller comprehension of law enforcement in an era of significant political and social upheaval, much of which is tied to racial, ethnic, or economic factors
Gina Robertiello, PhD, is full professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Felician University in Lodi, NJ. She is the author of more than 30 publications in the areas of policing, domestic violence, restorative justice, and crisis intervention. Her first book, Police and Citizen Perceptions of Police Power, focused on developing a definitive picture of how police and citizens view the typical street encounter and determining how contextual variables such as demographic and situational characteristics are expected to influence the outcomes of encounters. She continues to work in this area and to examine perceptions of the police by the public. Robertiello received her bachelor’s degree in administration of justice from Rutgers University–New Brunswick and her master’s and doctoral degrees from Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice, Newark, NJ. She is a textbook reviewer, a manuscript reviewer, a member of a number of advisory boards, and a volunteer for many organizations.


"Robertiello provides a basic, solid introduction to the history of relations between the public and the police, thereby helping readers better understand people's range of reactions to the use of force—whether approved or judged excessive—by police and other authorities. Summing Up: Recommended. High school through undergraduate students; general readers."—Choice, November 1, 2017

"This easy-to-use, accurate, and up-to-date encyclopedia covers past issues and current controversies involving relationships between the police and the public. . . . A wide variety of users will find this accessible, balanced compilation an excellent place to start their reading and research on the topic. VERDICT A strong beginning reference on historical and modern-day policing. For nonspecialist readers as well as undergraduate and graduate students."—Library Journal, January 1, 2018

"With an in-depth history of policing in America and police/public relationships, The Use and Abuse of Police Power in America provides a effective and complete understanding of police use of force in modern times."—ARBAonline, December 6, 2017

"In addressing police-citizen relations, the editor's choice of topics is critical to understanding their evolution. Robertiello successfully selected diverse, significant, and pressing issues that have shaped Americans’ views of law enforcement. Recommended."—School Library Connection, January 1, 2018
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