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Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  117 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Norm Stamper, formerly chief of the Seattle Police Force and deputy chief of the San Diego Police Department, has written a story unlike any other. Part memoir, part polemic on the state of policing in America, Breaking Rank melds progressive politics with hard-boiled reportage in the tradition of Charles Bukowski and Elmore Leonard. With provocatively titled chapters like ...more
Hardcover, 396 pages
Published May 19th 2005 by Nation Books
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Bryan Shanks
Sep 10, 2015 Bryan Shanks rated it liked it
Easy to read and well written. This book would have been more relevant had it been written twenty or thirty years ago. It's more of a history book, than a current events read. Nonetheless, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in American policing.
Jan 21, 2013 Geoffrey rated it really liked it
Meh... Stamper and I agree on many things. The drug war is a colossal waste of time, money and lives. "Chickenshit police discipline" causes a culture of fear and insularity. Prostitution will never be stopped, so making it as safe as possible is the only humane choice. Capital punishment is too much responsibility for the state. There are too many guns in our country. Cops are often racist, sexist, fat, lazy. All of what he says is true in my experience. However, as someone who spent most of hi ...more
Gary Braham
Aug 08, 2013 Gary Braham rated it really liked it
West coast progressive Norm Stamper had quite the career in law enforcement. Rising from the ranks of not being quite on the up and up, to learning his craft the right way, and finally into leadership positions, including being the Chief in Seattle for a number of years.

Stamper doesn't pull any punches, either on his overwhelming liberalism, which sometimes gets in the way. To his past history as a scumbag, which he gets out of the way right at the beginning. It's a bold move. Right away he set
May 18, 2013 JP rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is enlightening. Stamper provides a thoughtful critique of policing, complete with plenty of interesting first-hand experiences that illustrate how much personal discretion is necessary. His breadth of experience, from beat cop to chief, establish his authority, but what makes this book truly credible is his openness in admitting his own mistakes and changes in outlook. Such dynamic thought appears to be rare in a profession so rooted to tradition and clear-cut operating principles. He ...more
Silja J.A.
May 28, 2008 Silja J.A. rated it it was amazing
I cannot heap enough praise on this book. Norm Stamper's book is utterly groundbreaking, eye-opening, page-turning, thrilling and, at times, quite disturbing.

This book is one of the most important and unexpected contributions to criminology in the past century. Stamper himself is one of the nation's leading advocates of drug (and prostitution) decriminalization within the law enforcement field, and has taken his role seriously as such. From racial profiling to domestic violence in the ranks, Sta
Nov 18, 2013 Susan rated it liked it
I'll be honest, I have only read half of this book, it is too long for me but I know I'll have to finish it one day when I am on a vacation and have the time. I kept putting it down to digest a chapter and spending so much time thinking about the topic he just covered I didn't have space to take on more. It's a rare gem of a book. I heard Stamper interviewed on the radio and he is such a smart, open minded, honest person. He's not perfect and he never pretends to be for a second but he's one rig ...more
Oct 27, 2014 Jessica rated it it was amazing
This book gets five stars for honesty and self-critique. If only Norm Stamper knew then (about himself and policing) that he knows now. Another great snapshot of local history.
Norm Stamper had a few bumps in the road his first few years with the police force, but quickly became the kind of cop i wish they all aspired to be.
Throughout his career he pushed for what he believed in with integrity, smarts and savvy.
His book is intelligent and well written. Some portions dragged a bit, but needed to be said as they seemed to be targeted to a career cop audience. For the most part though, the book is liberally peppered with anecdote and the true police drama that shaped Stam
Ellen Silverman
This is an excellent read on police work and administration. It's interesting, factual, and readable about a timely issue revisited.
Diana Sandberg
May 25, 2012 Diana Sandberg rated it it was amazing
Wow - I have a lot of trouble reading many nonfiction books; my mind wanders, I just don’t get engaged. Not an issue with this one. Very interesting read. Stamper describes in unflinching detail the issues confronting police departments and citizens, including many anecdotes - several not at all flattering - from his own years as a cop. He has evolved over his career (he’s now retired) from a racist, sexist, homophobic punk rookie to a very articulate and thoughtful advocate for social justice a ...more
Some interesting info, but Norm likes to rattle on a bit and he really works the tough cop I've seen it all and then some writing style. Imagine yourself sitting in his office and he starts telling you a story. Three stories later, you wonder if you are ever going to be able to leave or if you are trapped for life. So, I recommend it, but read chapters that most interest you and cruise through or skip the rest. As far as policing goes, I think he gives a fairly accurate picture and it was nice t ...more
Apr 12, 2015 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
3.5 stars. A mixed bag, but as a memoir it works pretty well.
Dec 04, 2013 Orin rated it it was amazing
Norm Stamper lived in the same Seattle neighborhood I did, and our paths would cross occasionally. His is a refreshing take on the conventional wisdom of policing in a large American city; alas, it is a viewpoint very much in the minority. Even in Seattle, which is presently under a court order to change its ways, based on a recent history of excessive force and racial profiling. About the only place we disagree is his insistence that police cars be black and white...
Dec 20, 2011 Barry rated it really liked it
I'm doing research on the battle in Seattle and came across this book. Let me just say it is wonderful! Stamper is a great and compassionate writer. It only deals a little with the topic I am researching, but the insights into policing in the US is insightful and hopeful.

I highly recommend it.
Griffin Fujioka
Jan 02, 2015 Griffin Fujioka rated it really liked it
Stamper shares a brave, rare and interesting perspective on American policing and I enjoyed his sometimes radical, yet often logical and well explained, views on many issues which continue to plague America. Bonus points because I'm from Seattle and he was Chief of SPD.
Donna Davis
WHOA. While the FBI attempts to put a leash on the out-of-control Seattle Police Dept., apparently startlingly few people are reading the expose of its former police chief. He will tell you why cops beat Black men. In fact, he has a whole chapter about it.
Aug 09, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
Nice to see someone critical of how police act and how they should act. They are not above the law and they are people just like the rest of us.
Sharon "Ruiz-Schluger" Carvo
Aug 17, 2009 Sharon "Ruiz-Schluger" Carvo rated it it was amazing
Anyone interested in Criminal Justice should read this book, it is absolutely amazing!
Feb 05, 2014 Davethesuave rated it it was ok
couldn't finish. i like the ideas, just not the writing.
Jaclyn Garrison
Dec 15, 2015 Jaclyn Garrison rated it liked it
Way too long, but very interesting stories.
Amazing insight!
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Norman Harvey "Norm" Stamper is an American former chief of police and writer.

He is known for his role as chief of the Seattle Police Department responsible for its response to the protests of the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999, which he has expressed regret about. Since his resignation, Stamper has called for the legalization of drugs and the case-by-case release of persons incarcerated for n
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“Simply put, white cops are afraid of black men. We don’t talk about it, we pretend it doesn’t exist, we claim “color blindness,” we say white officers treat black men the same way they treat white men. But that’s a lie. In fact, the bigger, the darker the black man the greater the fear. The African-American community knows this. Hell, most whites know it. Yet, even though it’s a central, if not the defining ingredient in the makeup of police racism, white cops won’t admit it to themselves, or to others.” 11 likes
“In New York City, twenty-three African-American cops have been shot and eighteen others assaulted by white officers in cases of "mistaken identity." Not one white cop has ever been shot by a black cop. The PBA, while bemoaning these "tragic incidents," has done nothing to help remedy the problem.” 0 likes
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