A City Divided: Race, Fear, and the Law in Police Confrontations, by David A. Harris


  • Jesse S. G. Wozniak


To most any U.S. American who has paid even a modicum of attention to the news over the past several years, the central incident of police violence examined in David A. Harris’s A City Divided: Race, Fear, and the Law in Police Confrontations is familiar almost to the point of banality. Indeed, even if you have never heard of Jordan Miles, you can probably guess the exact sequence of events with little effort: an eighteen-year-old Black man, who is unarmed and has committed no crime, is brutally beaten by multiple police officers; the young man’s version of the events contrasts drastically with that of the three police officers; the police force immediately backs its officers before any investigation has taken place; the community cries out for justice; authorities are extremely reluctant to prosecute the officers involved; criminal charges against the officers are unsuccessful but a large civil settlement is paid out to the victim; and a series of milquetoast reforms are instituted that fail to address the problem. The sad reality is that by simply changing the names and few geographic details, this book could be discussing virtually any incident of police brutality in the United States. Yet it is very much the terrifying familiarity of the Jordan Miles case that makes Harris’s book so gripping and informative.