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Abstract

Narrowly conceived, neoliberalism is a system of economic ideas and policy

initiatives that emphasize small government and market-based solutions to social

and economic problems. Adopted in response to the fiscal, welfare and racial crises

of the Keynesian state, neoliberalism has become the dominant governing principle

in the United States over the last forty years. A growing body of literature has

shown how the rise of neoliberalism has underwritten the massive expansion of the

American criminal justice system and the growth of its incarceral arm. Yet

theorists of neoliberalism have largely ignored how the rise of neoliberalism has

affected policing practices and, in turn, have failed to consider the role that police

play in the neoliberal state.

This Note considers policing practices and policies in New York City under the rise

of neoliberalism. It argues that the rise of neoliberalism has led to significant and

lasting changes in the accountability structures, enforcement priorities, and

policing strategies and tactics of New York City's policing apparatus. While new

approaches to policing have been heralded by some as making the NYPD internally

more efficient and more effective at fighting crime, this Note contends that the

adoption of neoliberal policing techniques cannot be evaluated without a broader

account of the historical, social, political and economic contexts in which they are

implemented. An analysis of policing within these broader contexts reveals that

there is good reason to be concerned about many facets of neoliberal policing, which

include shifting accountability structures, the policing of disorder and the

deployment of stop-and-frisk policing. Collectively, these neoliberal policing

practices constitute the punitive governance of disproportionately marginalized

communities, which erodes police legitimacy and may ultimately make poor people

and people of color less secure.

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