Article #5: The Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove
Crime and Social Justice Associates
I. Police Function
A. Class, Racial, Sex, and Cultural Oppression
B. Dealing with Street Crime
II. Analysis of Police
A. Nature of the State
B. The Public Service â€œMaskâ€
1. An important assumption most authors make when writing about the police is that
modern society has to have a large and ever-present institution authorized to use coercion
and force to maintain order.
2. Police enforce the oppressive social and personal relations of a capitalist society through
selective enforcement of laws that have been defined primarily by and for the people who
benefit most from the capitalist system.
3. The state has used the issue of street crime to encourage fear and racist attitudes and to
divert attention away from corporate and government crime.
4. The real solution to end crime is in the struggle for a society that can meet peoplesâ€™ basic
5. The capitalist state serves to facilitate the accumulation of capital in the hands of the
6. The â€œIron Fistâ€ represents the overtly repressive actions of the police.
7. The â€œVelvet Gloveâ€ represents the community service activities of the police.
8. The legitimating functions provided by the public service programs of the police enable
them to increase the level of violent repression.
The police have mainly served to enforce class, racial, sexual, and cultural oppression
that have been an integral part of the development of capitalism in the United States. The
police maintain the oppressive social and personal relations of capitalist society through
definitions of crime that have been made by and for the people who benefit most from the
capitalist system and selective enforcement of laws. Economic crisis and intensified
repression in minority communities means that tactics are needed which take into account the
changing organization and forms of policing. Efforts should include support for community
investigations of police crimes, lobbying for reductions in wasteful and dangerous police
budgets, and maintaining alliances between working class and minority communities. In
addition, attention should focus on the material sources of crime and the inability of police to
control street crime, plus the development of community crime prevention efforts.
1. According to the article what is the role of the police? How does this differ from the
portrayal of the police role in the previous articles? Which do you agree with?
2. What changes were made in the police institution during and after the 1960s?
3. How do the police enforce the oppressive social and personal relations of capitalist
4. What does the article say about the crimes of the United States government and the
wealthy rulers of the corporate economy?
5. How does the article present street crime? Do you agree with these arguments?
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