The Danger Imperative

Violence, Death, and the Soul of Policing

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Pub Date 02 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 27 Mar 2024

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Description

Policing is violent. And its violence is not distributed equally: stark racial disparities persist despite decades of efforts to address them. Amid public outcry and an ongoing crisis of police legitimacy, there is pressing need to understand not only how police perceive and use violence but also why.

With unprecedented access to three police departments and drawing on more than 100 interviews and 1,000 hours on patrol, The Danger Imperative provides vital insight into how police culture shapes officers’ perception and practice of violence. From the front seat of a patrol car, it shows how the institution of policing reinforces a cultural preoccupation with violence through academy training, departmental routines, powerful symbols, and officers’ street-level behavior.

This violence-centric culture makes no explicit mention of race, relying on the colorblind language of “threat” and “officer safety.” Nonetheless, existing patterns of systemic disadvantage funnel police hyperfocused on survival into poor minority neighborhoods. Without requiring individual bigotry, this combination of social structure, culture, and behavior perpetuates enduring inequalities in police violence.

A trailblazing, on-the-ground account of modern policing, this book shows that violence is the logical consequence of an institutional culture that privileges officer survival over public safety.


Michael Sierra-Arévalo is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. He served on the city of Austin’s Public Safety Commission from 2020 to 2023.

Policing is violent. And its violence is not distributed equally: stark racial disparities persist despite decades of efforts to address them. Amid public outcry and an ongoing crisis of police...


Advance Praise

"The Danger Imperative showcases how danger becomes routinized as an organizing principle of policing through day-to-day practices, training, and the personal lifestyles of officers. Sierra-Arévalo convincingly captures the heart of policing as an institution, and we are left with an understanding of why current proposals for reforming the police often overlook the heart of the problem. The significance of this contribution cannot be overstated."

--Brittany Friedman, University of Southern California

"The Danger Imperative showcases how danger becomes routinized as an organizing principle of policing through day-to-day practices, training, and the personal lifestyles of officers. Sierra-Arévalo...


Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9780231198479
PRICE $30.00 (USD)
PAGES 392

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