“Thugs” and “Riots”: Legitimizing Police Violence at Protests Against Police Violence

Note: The NLG National Office, in collaboration with NLG Review, is publishing a 4-part blog series exploring questions around policing in the United States. Guild members are sharing pieces analyzing the policing of social movements, the role of police in maintaining current power dynamics, and alternatives to policing from community power to defunding to abolition. The goal of this series is to generate discussion and conversation among our members and the public regarding the current state of policing and to envision new strategies of social organization. Please also read the Guild’s recent resolution supporting the abolition of policing passed by the membership in 2020. 

In the third article of the series, criminal justice professor Cedrick Heraux discusses how the language of violence and bias impacts policing during social movements, particularly when it is the excessive use of force by police that is being protested. He notes that both legal and moral norms are violated most often when those protesting are members of minority communities, with little accountability for those violations. 

Read the full piece below, or download the PDF

Dr. Cedrick Heraux is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Adrian College. He received his MA in Criminal Justice from SUNY-Albany, and his Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University. His research focuses on police use of force behavior, and his work has appeared in Justice Quarterly, as well as the Journal of Criminal Justice. He has also attended use of force training sessions presented to in-service law enforcement personnel.


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