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Connie Fletcher, What Cops Know (New York: Pocket Books, 1990), 336 pages.

This book is the result of 125 Chicago policemen sitting down with Prof. Connie Fletcher of Loyola University at Chicago. In order to give them the freedom to speak without fear of being transferred for political reasons, the names of the policemen interviewed are at the end of chapter, without identifying which policeman was responsible for each excerpt. This is not a book for the faint-hearted. It should transform the most hopeless pacifist into a gun owner, if there is any possibility at all. The chapter on home invasions, in particular, is terrifying in its descriptions of the sorts of sadistic brutality done to people inside their homes.

This is a book worth reading more for what it says about how Chicago police officers see the world, then for any sort of statistical evidence about crime. At times, we tend to forget that the police get a very jaundiced view of humanity, because what they spend most of their time doing is cleaning up the pathological part of our society. This is a book for reminding us how they see the world, and hopefully, it can make us a little more understanding as to why certain attitudes are so common among big city police officers.

The least gruesome chapter was the one on organized crime, and contains some very worrisome statements, that makes me suspect that we are fighting more than a totalitarian political ideology on the gun control struggle:

With an Outfit murder, the car can be seen; it doesn't make any difference. If they felt like it, they could throw the firearm down next to the body and walk away. They have a source for weapons, an illegal source that provides them with weapons that can't be traced.[p. 316] The Chicago Outfit controls the unions. Because of that, they're into everything. Chicago controls a big chunk of Hollywood. They don't control the corporations, they don't control the directors and the producers per se, they don't control the actors and actresses. But all the support -- all the catering, the lighting, fixtures -- the outfit that supplies stuff for the movies is not going to be an accidental supply house. The lighting and fixtures -- and everything that moves and walks and talks to cause that movie to be produced -- is probably going to be owned outright or by a fictiously formed blind trust by members of the Outfit.[p. 310]
Especially in light of the successful prosecutions of judges in Chicago several years ago, the following passage seems to be quite plausible:
Everybody can understand and get along quite well, it seems, knowing that our circuit court judges on the state and local levels can be bought. It doesn't seem to excite anybody. People in law enforcement could give you a list -- if you went and just talked to all the people, especially the people that deal with these guys, like the people in the Detective Division -- you could amass yourself a long list of the attorneys that pay off judges and long list of the dirty judges too.... However, that's just peanuts, and people don't seem to be too excited about it. If they were, they'd demand that something be done about it, and they don't. But if you expand that, then, and show that our government is loaded with senators and congressmen and U.S. judges that are just as nefarious, just as crooked -- especially congressmen that owe their allegiances to neighborhoods in big cities -- you know, that would do some serious damage to the national psyche, I think. If we get away from the Chicago-New York- Philadelphia mentality, put yourself in Iowa or Nebraska, it would, I think, bother people of goodwill if the seriousness of it were known.[pp. 327-328]
Clayton's rating: Easy to read, and yet with enough serious content from a public policy standpoint that it needs to be more widely read.  A friend reads books like this because when he starts to feel sorry for himself for being a software engineer, a book like this helps break him out of his pity party.  Occasionally humorous, and always well-written.