LEGAL STUDIES 491F: Policing the Americas

Academic Year:
Fall 2013
Day and Time:
Mondays, 4:40 pm – 7:10 pm

The Western Hemisphere is a violent place: drug wars in Mexico, street gangs in Central America, mass killings in the United States, and everywhere soaring rates of violent crime. What kinds of responses are emerging to problems of law, order, and public security in the Americas? How are these responses reshaping our societies? To what extent is the current situation the legacy of failed security policies? What is the role of the police and policing in all of this? This class looks at policing as the production of law and order—not just by local cops on the beat but also by actors involved in national and international security. It focuses on the Western Hemisphere and the influence of the United States on the ideals, institutions, and practices of policing. Key topics include: immigration, incarceration, deportation, frontiers, the movement of licit and illicit goods, democratic rights, and the regional impact of U.S. security initiatives including the Cold War, the War on Drugs, and the War on Terrorism. These topics will be grounded in studies of policing and police reform in the United States, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico. By the end of the semester, students will have a working knowledge of critical issues in contemporary policing as well as the legal, social, and economic factors behind the emerging models of police in the Americas. The semester will be divided into six, two-week units. The first unit familiarizes students with key concepts and basic theories of policing. We will be paying particular attention to three different scales of analysis—the local, the national, and the international. Unit Two is devoted to Cold War policing and the legacies of imperialism in the Americas. Unit Three examines the War on Drugs and the emergence of zero-tolerance policing in the United States. Unit Four shifts the focus to Latin America and attempts at police reform in Brazil and Colombia. Unit Five looks at policing of the U. S. – Mexico border. Finally, Unit Six takes a look at the impact of the War on Terror and the future of policing.

Percentage of Latin American, Caribbean, or Latino Content: