+1(978)310-4246 credencewriters@gmail.com

Most weeks students will complete a short reading memo. For each memo, students will respond to questions, such as “What motivated the author to study this topic?”, “What is the dependent variable and what are the key independent variables?”, “Did the author pursue a deductive or inductive study design?”, “What are the studies key findings?”, and so forth.

Many questions have a single correct answer. For instance, students may be asked to identify a research question, explain how the study fills a gap in the literature, state a hypothesis, interpret the study’s results, or apply material from lecture to the study. For these items, students are evaluated for answering the question correctly. Other items ask students to evaluate the quality of an article’s research design or to draw conclusions from the article. For these items, students are evaluated for demonstrating careful reading and high engagement with the article. This requires students to understand and communicate the article’s central arguments and analytical strategies.

Please read the article attached and find the correct answer from the article.

Social Problems, 2020, 67, 399–417
doi: 10.1093/socpro/spz020
Advance Access Publication Date: 8 August 2019
Jennifer Carlson
University of Arizona
This paper draws on 79 in-depth interviews with police chiefs in Arizona, California,
and Michigan to advance sociological understandings of race, masculinity, and policing.
While the bulk of scholarship on public law enforcement focuses on urban settings, this paper juxtaposes police’s perceptions of urban, suburban, and rural gun violence. It details
how police chiefs construct criminal gun violence according to two overarching tropes:
(1) gang- and drug-related gun violence involving black and brown perpetrators and victims
in urban spaces and (2) active shooting-related gun violence involving white perpetrators
and victims in suburban and rural spaces. The analysis shows that police understand their
own guns in part through reference to these tropes, embracing two racially distinct styles of
police masculinity: the “warrior” and the “guardian.” Whereas the “warrior” brand of police
masculinity emphasizes aggressive enforcement against (black and brown) perpetrators, the
“guardian” brand of police masculinity emphasizes assertive protection on behalf of (white)
victims. Detailing masculinity as a bifurcated axis along which racialized policing is enacted
and amplified, this study broadens scholarly understandings of public law enforcement as a
race-making institution and suggests the limitations of police reforms that fail to address
whiteness as shaping public law enforcement.
K E Y W O R D S : policing; public law enforcement; race; masculinity; gun violence; whiteness;
active shootings.
“We are concerned with making sure that the gang violence does not spill over. As we say, we
like to keep our enemies on the other side of the gate.”
Chief Smith on gang violence
The author gratefully acknowledges Jessica Cobb, Kimberly Hoang, Neda Maghbouleh, Jordanna Matlon, and Laurel Westbrook for
their invaluable feedback on previous drafts of this paper as well as feedback from participants at the American Studies Seminar at
Boston College, the University of Chicago Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality Colloquium Series, the University of
Toronto Center for Ethics Colloquium Series, and the University of California, Berkeley Gender and Power Workshop.
Support was provided through the University of Toronto Connaught Grant; the University of California, Irvine Visiting Scholar
Fellowship in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society; and the University of Arizona Social and Behavioral Sciences Small
Faculty Grant.
The author may be reached at the School of Sociology, Social Sciences Building, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721; email:
C The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.
All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.

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Police Warriors and Police Guardians: Race,
Masculinity, and the Construction of Gun

“Say I’m in a movie theater, and there’s a shooting, and I am there, but I can’t do anything because I don’t have a gun? I would feel devastated. Ashamed. Guilty, I would feel like all of those
lives lost were on me. And it would ruin me forever.”
Chief Jones on active shootings
1 This paper uses the term “gun violence” to describe the use of guns against others, whether by police or private civilians. I use
the consistent term to avoid normative judgments and to focus attention on the social construction of the violence.
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Guns are central to U.S. public law enforcement, whether those guns are used by the suspects police
encounter or whether they are law enforcement agents’ own guns—reflecting the prevalence of guns
and gun violence in the United States. Every year, according to FBI data from 2012 to 2017, roughly
10,000 gun homicides occur, and these disproportionately involve boys and men of color. But this
centrality also provides a window into the racial and gender politics of crime and crime control.
Examining how police understand and interface with violent criminals in urban contexts, scholars
show that police embrace a Warrior mindset (Stoughton 2014) that valorizes gun-centric, aggressive
masculinity (Herbert 2001; Hunt 1984; 1990) deployed against black and brown criminals (Butler
2017; Forman 2017; Vitale 2017). Set against racialized tropes of hyperviolent criminals (Anderson
2012; Collins 2004; Russell-Brown 2009; Welch 2007), police gun violence1 is thus socially legitimated as a necessary response to criminal violence (Butler 2017; Forman 2017; Vitale 2017).
But gun violence is not confined to urban spaces. Since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, active shooting events have become more frequent in schools, movie theaters, outdoor events,
and malls (though mass shooting deaths remain rare in comparison to other forms of gun-related
death). These events disproportionately involve non-Hispanic white male perpetrators compared to
their overall population representation and compared to other kinds of gun violence (Follman,
Aronson, and Pan 2018; Fox and Levin 1998; Madfis 2014), and they enjoy disproportionate coverage compared to other kinds of gun violence, increasingly defining the phenomenon of “American
gun violence” in popular discourse (McGinty et al. 2014). How do police understand active shootings
as a policing problem?
This paper juxtaposes police chiefs’ understandings of urban, suburban, and rural gun violence.
Doing so illuminates the racial logics undergirding how police chiefs understand gun violence in different social contexts. Although Chief Jones and Chief Smith do not explicitly mention race, there is
an implicit racial bifurcation in the social construction of and engagement with gun violence. In particular, police chiefs construct criminal gun violence according to two overarching tropes: 1) gangand drug-related gun violence involving black and brown perpetrators and victims in urban spaces;
and 2) active shooting-related gun violence involving white perpetrators and victims in suburban and
rural areas. Reflecting racial narratives of crime, these tropes also shape the contours of crime control.
Specifically, police chiefs understand themselves in reference to these tropes, embracing two distinct
styles of policing masculinity: the Warrior (or the “hard-charger”; see Herbert 2001) and the
Guardian. Whereas Warrior masculinity tends to emphasize aggressive enforcement against black and
brown perpetrators, Guardian masculinity tends to emphasize assertive protection on behalf of white
victims (see Carlson 2015; Young 2003). Dissecting how police chiefs understand themselves vis- avis gun violence, this paper details masculinity as a bifurcated axis through which racialized policing is
This argument extends existing scholarship on public law enforcement as a race-making institution
by looking to the literatures on whiteness and masculinity. These literatures provide two insights:
first, whiteness operates as a distinct set of ideologies and practices, rather than merely the absence of
race; and, second, stylized enactments of masculinity, in intersection with race and other lines of difference, vary by social context. To empirically dissect this bifurcation in race, masculinity, and public
law enforcement, this paper employs an interview-based research design to maximize variation across
jurisdiction type. Empirically examining police chiefs in a diverse set of jurisdictions and theoretically
Race, Masculinity, and the Construction of Gun Violence

In its origins and contemporary manifestations, public law enforcement is a race-making institution.
It reflects and reproduces racial frames (Feagin 2010) about crime and crime control that both animate racial categories and justify unequal racial arrangements by colorblind appeals to legality, culture,
morality, and other putatively neutral discourses (Bobo and Charles 2009; Bonilla-Silva 2017). From
its start, U.S. public law enforcement was inflected by predecessor transitional policing forms
(Greenberg 2005; Hadden 2001; Reichel 1988; Singh 2014; Vitale 2017) such as slave patrols aimed
at controlling black civilians (both free and enslaved) and volunteer militias aimed at clearing indigenous populations from North American soil (Dunbar-Ortiz 2018; Singh 2014; Vitale 2017). By the
late 19th century, U.S. police constituted an institutionalized mechanism of social control of the
“dangerous classes,” including, at the time, anyone outside the Anglo-Saxon bourgeoisie (Muhammad
2011; Owusu-Bempah 2017; Stuart 2016; Vitale 2017). Around the turn of the 20th century, proponents of scientific racism turned to police-generated crime data to justify criminalization as an axis of
racial control (Muhammad 2011). After the 1960s, criminalization became a primary means of racial
control (Anderson 2012; Wacquant 2001; Western 2006).
Amid the co-constitution of race and criminal justice (Van Cleve and Mayes 2015), police today
serve as core enforcers of what Mills calls the “racial contract”: “that set of formal or informal agreements . . . between members of one set of humans, henceforth designated . . . as ‘white’ and coextensive
. . . with the class of full persons, to categorize the remaining subset of humans as ‘nonwhite’ and of a
different and inferior moral status” (2014:11). Critical to creating the social reality of race, public law
enforcement agencies compel racial segregation by hyperpolicing “out of place” racial minorities in predominantly white areas (Carroll and Gonzalez 2014; Meehan and Ponder 2002; Novak and Chamlin
2012; Stewart et al. 2009), communicate racially disparate messages about civic inclusion and civic
membership (Brunson 2007; Epp et al. 2014), enact racially disparate violence against black and brown
bodies (Butler 2017), and facilitate racial disparities further down the pipeline of criminal justice (e.g.,
sentencing and the collateral consequences that attach to a criminal record; Kirk and Wakefield 2018).
With police resources disproportionately focused on black and brown bodies and spaces (Jackson and
Carroll 1981; Vargas and McHarris 2017), law enforcement is both the gatekeeper to the criminal justice system and a racially punitive apparatus in itself (Butler 2017; Forman 2017).
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integrating literatures on policing, whiteness, and masculinity, my analysis focuses on 79 in-depth
interviews with police chiefs in Arizona, California, and Michigan in urban, suburban, and rural jurisdictions. Though police chiefs should not be generalized to represent public law enforcement at large,
this research design nevertheless provides a window into the racial and gender contours of policing
gun violence across diverse jurisdictions.
Existing scholarship shows that public law enforcement systematically criminalizes boys and men
of color by reflecting and reproducing tropes that naturalize urban violence (Anderson 2012; Collins
2004; Russell-Brown 2009; Welch 2007), designating boys and men of color as criminals through
practices such as racial profiling and the intense policing of urban spaces (i.e., the “iconic ghetto”; see
Anderson 2012) as crime-worthy (Epp, Maynard-Moody, and Haider-Markel 2014; Muhammad
2011; Owusu-Bempah 2017; Russell-Brown 2009; Vitale 2017; Welch 2007). This paper further analyzes how police chiefs advantage white communities by denaturalizing suburban and rural violence. As
a gendered frame for policing practices in suburban and rural areas, the Guardian sutures together innocence, victimhood, and whiteness. Thus, this paper contributes to scholarship on institutional racism by demonstrating whiteness as a racial praxis, rather than a racial lack that helps to constitute
police as a race-making institution. That is, racial disparities in policing cannot be reduced to quantitative differences in unwanted police encounters; rather, policing—whether in urban, suburban, or
rural contexts—is animated by ideas about both black and brown criminality and white innocence
that shape the intensity and imagery of public law enforcement.

Many police officers reinforce a robust form of masculinity, which encourages them to aggressively pursue “bad guys” . . . . officers remind each other that the danger of their job requires a
brave and often aggressive response. . . . Policing is mythologized as a test of agility, strength
and tenacity. (Pp. 56–59)
This hard-charger masculinity encourages police to approach their interactions with civilians as masculinity contests (Cooper 2008); devalue certain tasks—such as paperwork—as “feminine” (Herbert
2001; Hunt 1984; 1990); imagine the jurisdictions they police as military grids to be dominated
(Herbert 2001); and embrace firearms as both practical and symbolic evidence of their willingness to
face danger (Herbert 2001; Hunt 1984; 1990).
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Decades of ethnographic work on urban police have examined how these dynamics are reproduced at the micro-level. Police subculture provides officers with schema through which to interpret
their engagement in police work, specific values with which to understand their moral standing within
that world, and practical tools to navigate the intractable tasks involved in policing (Herbert 1998;
Hunt 1985; Maynard-Moody and Musheno 2003; Waddington 1999). Police subculture emphasizes
a crime-fighting mission, a desire for action and excitement, an “us/them” mentality, the glorification
of force, suspiciousness, and cynicism, social isolation and strong in-group loyalty, and authoritarian
conservatism (Waddington 1999). Police subculture, therefore, also helps explain racial disparities in
policing: ideas about suspiciousness are shaped by race (Alpert, MacDonald, and Dunham 2005;
Beckett, Nyrop, and Pfingst 2006; Welch 2007) through implicit biases linking blackness to criminality (Carroll and Gonzalez 2014; Novak and Chamlin 2012; Smith and Alpert 2007).
Warrior policing serves as one cornerstone in the construction of these racial dynamics.
Stoughton notes that “within law enforcement, few things are more venerated than the concept of
the Warrior” (2014:225). Warrior policing is often elaborated in colorblind, race-neutral terms: “the
warrior mindset,” Stoughton writes, “refers to a deep-bone commitment to survive a bad situation no
matter the odds or difficulty, to not give up even when it is mentally and physically easier to do so”
(2014:226). Overemphasizing danger and fear in police work (Stoughton 2014: 227), the Warrior
mindset reinforces a social context in which fears surrounding violent threat are conflated with and
co-constituted by blackness (Anderson 2012; Collins 2004; Muhammad 2011; Owusu-Bempah
2017; Russell-Brown 2009; Welch 2007). These racial contours have shaped the socio-political context in which “[W]arrior policing as we now know it” (Forman 2017:156) emerged: the crack epidemic of the 1980s and its “unprecedented carnage” helped to inextricably link drugs, violence, and
urban America in popular and police minds. As Forman (2017:156) notes, “the fight against crack
helped to enshrine the notion that police must be warriors, aggressive and armored, working ghetto
corners as an army might patrol enemy territory” (see also Murch 2015). The adoption of a Warrior
mindset as well as the influx of militarized equipment into police precincts, which was amplified by
the federal government’s 1033 program enacted in the 1990s (Kraska 1996; 2007; Stoughton 2014),
converged with this social context in such a way that Warrior policing disproportionately impacts
communities of color (see Epp et al. 2014 on the social foundations of racial profiling).
Aggressive masculinity is a key means through which Warrior policing and its consequences are
experienced, enacted, and justified. As Kraska (2007:507) describes, “the ‘military special operations’
culture—characterized by a distinct technowarrior garb, heavy weaponry, sophisticated technology,
hypermasculinity, and dangerous function—was nothing less than intoxicating for its participants.”
This resonates with a broader valorization of masculinity in policing. Hunt (1984:287–288; see also
Hunt 1990) finds that police “construct their world in terms of a binary system of oppositional categories with masculine and feminine significance,” associating “crimefighting” with “particular masculine skills and personality attributes” such that “the street cop . . . is a brave and aggressive soldier
who has mastered the art of violence.” Herbert (2001) analyzes the “hard-charger” masculinity that
frames aggressive police work as courageous and heroic:
Race, Masculinity, and the Construction of Gun Violence

Existing scholarship shows that U.S. policing has both shaped and been shaped by the conflation
of racialization and criminalization, with the valorization of particular notions of Warrior masculinity
further entrenching and legitimizing aggressive policing of people of color. Focused on the policing
of black and brown bodies, however, this extensive literature overlooks how police understand and
justify police work, including police violence, vis- a-vis white perpetrators in predominantly white suburban and rural settings.
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In scholarship on race and policing, whiteness often implicitly serves as a backdrop for the policing of
“out of place” black and brown bodies (Carroll and Gonzalez 2014; Meehan and Ponder 2002;
Novak and Chamlin 2012; Stewart et al. 2009) or it is used to signal a lack of police attention that
whites experience compared to people of color (Epp et al. 2014; Jacques and Wright 2015). Smith
and Linnemann (2015:101) reflect on the “invisibility” of whiteness in the context of policing: “it is
the normalized ‘invisible weight’ of whiteness that provides meaning for the difference and crafted inferiority of the other.” Despite its naturalized invisibility, however, whiteness is a contingent social
achievement (Maghbouleh 2017). Lipsitz (2008:105) shows that people of color are not merely
“disadvantaged” by racial relations in the United States but that “minority disadvantages craft advantages for others.” Harris (1993:1725) argues that whiteness affords a negative freedom (e.g., a lack of
police attention) and a positive liberty (e.g., entitlement to different treatment): “The law’s construction of whiteness defined and affirmed critical aspects of identity (who is white); of privilege (what
benefits accrue to that status); and, of property (what legal entitlements arise from that status).”
Institutional arrangements benefit whites by redistributing resources from people of color and by
establishing the structural and discursive shill to justify this redistribution: boys and men of color are
framed, implicitly, as aggressors, while victimhood is reserved for whiteness. As such, scholars have
begun to peel apart the social construction of racial innocence among white deviants, criminals, and
killers (Eastman 2015; Heitzeg 2015) and the softer manifestation of the War on Drugs in predominantly white suburban and rural areas (Garriott 2011; Linnemann 2016). This growing literature suggests that policing in predominantly white areas entails a distinct logic that cannot be reduced to a
“racial lack.”
This study extends this literature by pivoting to gun violence associated with white perpetrators
and white victims: active shootings. The FBI (2019) defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” Active shootings are more
likely to involve white male perpetrators (Fox and Levin 1998; Madfis 2014); a recent dataset identifies white men as the perpetrators of 57 percent of mass shootings (Follman et al. 2018). Meanwhile,
in a study of media coverage of gun violence from 1997 to 2012, McGinty et al. (2014) found that
most coverage of gun violence focused on mass shootings, and within coverage of active shooters,
white perpetrators were more likely to be framed in terms of mental illness than criminality
(Duxbury, Frizzell, and Lindsay 2018). Despite the popular appeal of mental health explanations of
active shootings, most people with serious mental illness are non-violent, more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence (Metzl and MacLeish 2015). Scholars have, instead, explained
white boys’ and men’s disproportionate perpetration of violence by pointing to the intersection of
whiteness and masculinity in both shaping a sense of aggrieved entitlement that drives active shooters
as well as providing an idealized means—violence—for addressing that grievance (Madfis 2014).
Crucially, while these shootings disproportionately involve white victims compared to other kinds of
gun crime, they do not exclusively impact homogenously white communities: an analysis of
Stanford’s Mass Shootings in America database reveals that just over 30 percent of active shootings
take place in communities that are more than 80 percent white, while 42.4 percent take place in communities with white populations less than 64 percent (Florida and Boone 2018).

Table 1. Police Masculinities
Social Constructions
of Gun Violence
Urban context
Gang and drug-related violence
involving black and brown boys and
Minimization of gun violence as a contained social problem
Affecting perpetrators and
Evocation of: courage, toughness,
empowerment, and hostility
Suburban and rural context
Active shootings
involving white boys and men
Amplification of gun violence as a pervasive
social problem
Affecting victims
Avoidance of: guilt, shame, and devastation
Though scholars have examined how active shootings have reorganized security and policing
within the sites where active shootings have occurred (e.g., schools; see Addington 2009 and Kupchik
2010), few have considered how active shootings shape public law enforcement itself. One notable
exception is Phillips (2016:186), who analyzes how the threat of active shootings and terrorism reinforces “police myths” centered on “crime prevention, crime fighting and danger” in order to justify
police use of rifles as patrol firearms. Phillips’ (2016) analysis reflects that active shootings have
gained increasing prominence as a central policing problem since 1999, inspiring innovations in police tactics and mindset, as the proliferation of active shooter response manuals suggests (see, e.g.,
Blair et al. 2016). Treating active shootings as a form of terrorism (Altheide 2009; Turk 2004), the
police chiefs I interviewed constructed active shooting as a policing problem first, by emphasizing it as
a pervasive threat and denaturalizing it, despite increased frequency of these shootings; and second, by
emphasizing the unambiguous status of victims. This contrasts with their treatment of urban gun violence, which is minimized as a social problem first, by containing and naturalizing it to racially marked
portions of urban landscape (e.g., the “iconic ghetto”; see Anderson 2012); and second, by blurring
lines between perpetrators and victims, designating victims as perpetrators.
This construction of active shootings allowed police chiefs to construct themselves as Guardians
rather than Warriors (see Table 1). Police practitioners Rahr and Rice (2015:3) juxtapose these two
mindsets, reminding police that they are not soldiers: “The soldier’s primary mission is that of a
Warrior: to conquer. The rules of engagement are decided before the battle. The police officer’s mission is that of a [G]uardian: to protect.” That is, the Guardian emphasizes a moral obligation to protect innocent lives, grounding police work not in dominating but in protecting others.
Recent scholarship on hybrid masculinities helps to illuminate the Guardian as a brand of police
masculinity, showing that race- and class-privileged men (Bridges and Pascoe 2014) in conservative
politics (Carlson 2015; Heath 2003; Messner 2007) reframe masculinity to selectively integrate care
and compassion so as to navigate and justify their engagement in these areas. Messner (2007:467)
illustrates by unpacking the political persona of Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Hardness and violence,
plus compassion and care, is a potent equation for hegemonic masculinity in public symbology
today.” In the context of public law enforcement, the Guardian is an example of hybrid masculinity:
while the Warrior emphasizes the bellicose relationship between the “good man” and the criminal aggressor (of color), the Guardian emphasizes the protective relationship between the “good man” and
the (white) innocent victim (see Young 2003).
Overall, my interviews reveal that these two frames of police masculinity—the Warrior and the
Guardian—are bifurcated by racial ideas about gun violence and inflected by gendered ideals regarding police work, leading police to attach different sensibilities to their police guns in different
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of Police Guns
Race, Masculinity, and the Construction of Gun Violence

contexts. Note that masculinities are dynamic and context-specific (Bridges and Pascoe 2014;
Connell and Messerschmidt 2005); rather than static mindsets, I find both the Warrior and the
Guardian frames are employed by police chiefs across urban, suburban, and rural communities to
make sense of different kinds of gun violence and their own prerogatives as police.
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This paper is part of a larger study that examines how state agents make sense of and enforce gun
policy. I focus on police chiefs in Arizona (N¼20), California (N¼36), and Michigan (N¼23) because chiefs have decades of policing experience and can thus provide insight into how gun laws and
gun violence have intersected with police work over time. Further, chiefs must interface with the public, especially on issues such as the use of force. They make illuminating interview subjects with regard to the popular, justificatory narratives regarding gun policy, gun politics, and gun violence—
both by private civilians and by police. That said, police chiefs are not interchangeable with law enforcement at large; most police spend their careers on patrol, while in many agencies, chiefs neither
regularly engage in patrol nor have done so for years. Thus, though chiefs should not be generalized
to public law enforcement, their vantage point in training, managing, and disciplining officers is invaluable in understanding the social construction of gun violence within policing and its impact on
police practice.
I compiled a list of municipalities in Arizona, California, and Michigan, identified police chiefs
based on publicly available information, and contacted prospective interviewees. In California, there
are over 300 jurisdictions; I focused on jurisdictions from San Diego County in the South to
Sacramento County in the North. Because there are fewer jurisdictions in Arizona and Michigan, I
contacted every public law enforcement agency with publicly available contact information (with the
exception of Upper Peninsula jurisdictions in Michigan). See Tables 2, 3, and 4 for the geographic
breakdown of jurisdictions in Arizona, California, and Michigan, respectively. For all three states, the
modal police chief was an older white man who had decades of police experience (see Table 5).
Though these figures vary by state, just under half of my full sample had significant experience in
urban settings, while four in five chiefs had extensive experience in suburban and/or rural areas (see
Table 6).
While existing qualitative scholarship on public law enforcement often illuminates the intersection
of race, masculinity, and policing by focusing on urban jurisdictions, the majority of public law enforcement (63 percent) works in jurisdictions smaller than 250,000 residents, and nearly one in five
police officers work in jurisdictions with fewer than 10,000 residents. Exploring policing beyond urban settings, this paper helps account for how police chiefs navigate gun violence in suburban and rural areas, providing a better understanding of policing as a race-making institution.
Interviews covered policing background, experiences and attitudes on gun violence and gun policy,
encounters with violence (as victims and perpetrators), thoughts on the use of guns for self-defense,
views on and experiences with gun regulations on-the-ground (especially concealed carry licensing),
and opinions on gun control measures such as background checks and assault weapons bans.
Interviews were semi-structured to cover a consistent range of topics but also to allow for additional
probing and to enable interviewees to direct the interview. I gave each chief the choice of interview
location; all but two interviewees instructed me to meet them at their respective headquarters.
Interviews lasted between 30 minutes and 5 hours.
As with all data, interview data are shaped by the context in which they are gathered. Rather than
observing police in action, I asked police chiefs to talk about gun violence. As I am not a member of
law enforcement, I relied on my knowledge of firearms, firearms law, and gun politics to establish rapport with my interviewees. Further, as a white female cisgender interviewer, I collected a different set
of data than had I been, for example, a white and/or Latino male-presenting participant observer of
police (Herbert 1998; 2001; Kraska 1996; Moskos 2008; Sierra-Ar evalo 2016; Stuart 2016).

Table 2. Geographic Breakdown of Interviewee Jurisdictions in Michigan (N¼23)
Greater Detroit Area
Greater Lansing Area
Western Michigan
Northwestern Michigan
Bay Area
Greater LA Area
Inland Empire
Central Valley
Table 4. Geographic Breakdown of Interviewee Jurisdictions in Arizona (N¼20)
Greater Tucson Area
Greater Phoenix Area
Greater Prescott Area
Northern Arizona
Southern Arizona
Table 5. Chief Demographics by State
% Male
% White
Average Age
Table 6. Police Experience by Jurisdiction Type
*Note: For this table, I tabulated all significant police experience; a chief who retires from Southern California to work in Arizona, for example,
may have experience in both urban (Los Angeles) and rural settings (Northern Arizona). I rely on population size and density of jurisdiction
as well as police’s own assessments; I collapse suburban and rural areas, as the line between small towns and suburban jurisdictions is somewhat arbitrary in police’s own assessments.
Nevertheless, my findings reflect existing analyses (e.g., Maynard-Moody and Musheno 2003; Stuart
2016) that police cannot be reduced to the crime-fighter role often emphasized in popular and academic accounts of policing.
To ensure anonymity, I follow Moskos (2008), referring only to pertinent characteristics of a chief
(such as jurisdictional attributes) when introducing an excerpt and minimizing the use of pseudonyms. As per my Human Subjects Review Board protocol, I took detailed written notes (no audio
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Table 3. Geographic Breakdown of Interviewee Jurisdictions in California (N¼36)
Race, Masculinity, and the Construction of Gun Violence

Race, Masculinity, and the Policing of Urban Gun Violence
Chief Taylor had worked for nearly four decades in a high-crime, African American-majority city.
When I asked how he first decided to go into law enforcement, he responded with sarcasm: “Because
I want to help people!” After some stilted laughter, he added: “Because I want to catch bad guys!
Lock ‘em up!” In a matter of seconds, the chief had juxtaposed two overarching ideals of police work:
the helpful Guardian and the hard-charging Warrior. Sarcastically passing over the former as naı̈ve,
this particular chief drew a line between “cops” and “police officers,” echoing Hunt’s (1990) and
Herbert’s (2001) observations that police work is valorized through its association with a masculine
ethos of crime-fighting:
There are police officers, and there are cops. The police officer, they will be there at roll call.
They’ll answer the calls; they will file the reports. They will write their tickets. But when their
eight hours is up, they go home. A cop: he gets to work, and he starts reading the reports of
what happened on the last shift. He gets into his car, and if he stops someone, he’s not writing
a ticket. He’s saying you fit that description. He’s looking for the car involved in the robbery.
He’s jumpy. He’s ready to stop a felony, to get the bad guy. He’s not just there to write a ticket.
He goes the extra mile. And he has the dream.
This chief explicitly suggests that “going the extra mile” means engaging in profiling (“he’s not writing
a ticket. He’s saying you fit that description”). This could also be read as a specific nod toward racial
profiling; throughout the interview the chief recognizes and recuperates the racial politics of urban violence. He refers to statistics regarding the disproportionate representation of African Americans
among gun offenders and prison inmates; he suggests that black men are less likely to become cops
because “a lot of the black men smoke and can’t pass a drug test,” and noting that “we don’t have social programs to deal with the fall-out,” he pathologizes the black family, referencing a column by conservative African American economist Walter E. Williams.2
Explicitly linking racial ideologies to the practice of policing, these statements also substantiated
and celebrated a particular rendition of high-drama police work centered on urban violence, which
was illustrated by what Chief Taylor called “the dream.” The “dream,” he elaborated, reveals the anxieties of the cop. In “the dream,” the officer can’t find his gun, he (as this chief tells it, the police
2 See Williams’ column “The True Black Tragedy: Illegitimacy Rate of Nearly 75%” from May 19, 2015 (https://www.cnsnews.
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recording), which I turned into narratives the day of or day after each interview and removed all identifying information. I analyzed interview data with the assistance of Atlas.ti. Though I deductively developed codes in tandem with the major themes of the interview guide, I mainly developed the nearly
200-item codebook through inductive coding and re-coding of interviews, adding codes to reflect
emergent, empirically derived themes. Following an abductive approach (Tavory and
Timmermans 2014), my coding scheme was iteratively informed by existing scholarship on policing, race, and masculinity. I focused on coded data related to police chief understandings of gun violence as well as police chief carry practices, including on-duty and off-duty carry. I paid attention
to how discourse related to race, gender, and other lines of inequality intersected with how police
chiefs understood and justified specific practices and attitudes with respect to guns and gun violence. And, following Whitehead (2015), I again note that my social positionality—especially my
racial and gender positionality as a white cisgender woman—shaped not only my data collection
but also my data analysis; sociologists are, like everyone else, embedded in racializing and engendering institutions, even as many work to denaturalize and dismantle them. I feature the words of
interviewees both to demonstrate my claims and to invite the reader to evaluate my sociological

I got a call for a carjacking. And when you get into the hang of things, you get a sense of how
things go down, so maybe a car-jacking happens on one street, and you know to go straight
over to another block nearby. It turns out there are a driver, a passenger, and two kids in the
back seat. One kid in the back, a 13-year-old, pulls out a gun that looks like it has a 14-foot barrel. I know it was just a gun, but it looked like the biggest thing I have ever seen. I pulled out
my gun and just shot – I didn’t see a kid, I just saw a cannon right in my face. And the only reason that kid didn’t die was because I was using “city council” rounds [ammunition] at the time,
with limited penetration. They were frangible rounds.
Through this stylized rendition of urban crime, this chief’s story presents policing as a high-stakes
drama testing the grit of individual police officers faced with firearms. The 13-year-old Detroit boy is
reduced to weaponry (“I didn’t see a kid, I just saw a cannon”), while the chief’s gun is framed in an
anti-septic fashion to—as another chief described it—“eliminate the threat.”
In his interview, this chief directly addressed the politics of race, at turns wondering whether slavery was a “fatal birth defect” dooming the viability of the United States, bemoaning the “breakdown
of the nuclear family,” and emphasizing black men’s “disproportionate” involvement in gun crime as
a reflection of “core family values,” and wagering that his own upbringing as white but poor helped
him better understand the plight of Detroiters than other police. Even as he expressed more nuance
than other chiefs I interviewed, the tropes surrounding urban crime and law enforcement’s role in
combatting it nevertheless shaped how this chief framed his own experiences of gun violence. After
all, his story could have been told differently: the chief could have emphasized his relief at having had
“less lethal” rounds so that both the boy and the chief were able to leave the incident alive. Instead,
he casually dismisses the precarity of life and death in Detroit: “the only reason that kid didn’t die
was because I was using ‘city council’ rounds.” Thus, this story of a heroic face-off with gun violence
communicated a particular understanding of police violence, one centered on guns as tools of aggressive enforcement that reveal the police’s perspicacity.
Not just gun violence, but a particular brand of urban gun violence allowed chiefs to assert themselves as crime-fighting, bad-guy-catching Warriors. Police chiefs tended to see the problems of urban
gun violence as contained, both in the sense of it being relegated to particular cities or parts of cities
and in the sense of involving tightly networked perpetrators and victims. Describing violence in his
urban jurisdiction, one chief told me “it’s very concentrated among a network of people. Let me
show you a picture.” He grabbed a picture with three rows of faces, all homicide victims: two white
men, one black woman, and the rest black men. He covers the two white faces, neglects the woman,
and summarizes:
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officer is consistently a “he”) can’t pull his gun; his trigger finger is weak, or there is just a click where
there should be a boom when the trigger is finally forced back. As this chief and others make clear,
this “dream” is embedded in a particular brand of policing in which police “hunt” (as one chief described it) criminals. As such, Chief Taylor illustrated the intertwining of gun violence and police
identity under Warrior masculinity: by conjuring a stylized rendition of urban gun violence against
the backdrop of black pathology, he articulated a romanticized ideal of the Warrior centered on
Other chiefs evoked Warrior masculinity as they reminisced about their early days on street patrol.
One chief discussed the world of policing in the 1980s: “those were the good old days. I was in my
20s; there was a lot of action—catching bad guys. It was legitimate police work.” Though he was now
the chief of a small town in rural Michigan, he had spent the bulk of his career in the African
American-majority city of Detroit. He launched into a real-life rendition of “the dream” (in Chief
Taylor’s terminology):
Race, Masculinity, and the Construction of Gun Violence

Besides those two, they are all the same: black men who are between 18 and 24. It’s gangrelated, but it’s local gangs . . . It will happen when people are playing dice or what have you.
So, one homicide victim—he was shot at 6 a.m., and it was the third time he was shot. The guy
who shot him then goes and kills himself. And it was because they had words, one of them accused the other of cheating at dice, and that’s it.
3 Gangs and drug-related violence are not exclusively confined to urban settings; chiefs in rural towns, e.g., at times provided examples of gang violence in their jurisdictions.
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Though boys and men of color are disproportionately the victims of gun violence, this construction
minimizes the gun violence affecting black and brown boys and men. First, it undermines gun violence as a broad issue of public safety issue by concentrating its effects to relatively small circles of
boys and young men of color and developing police strategies to isolate gun violence to particular settings. For example, one chief in a high-crime area naturalized this violence by explicitly appealing to
the demographics of the city: “We have gang issues, and that’s connected to us having a low-income
community and a high minority rate; we are 70 percent Hispanic. So that goes sort of hand in hand.
Our crime rates have dropped about 25 percent, but here the gun violence is still people shooting
people!” Another chief in a jurisdiction that bordered a high-crime area likewise spoke a language of
containment: “we are concerned with making sure that the gang violence does not spill over. As we
say, we like to keep our enemies on the other side of the gate.”
Second, this construction of gun violence minimized urban gun violence by blurring lines between
perpetrators and victims, reducing the latter to the former. Chiefs at times tallied the homicides in
non-gang-related and gang-related categories separately as they explained their city’s terrain of gun violence. They resisted labeling those who die in gang violence as victims. One chief offered, “I would
say that gun violence is my number one concern . . . 90 percent of it is targeted. It’s people who are
involved in a criminal lifestyle.” Another noted, “usually these kinds of cases are gang-on-gang cases
that involve people getting physical, and then it escalating to a weapon.”
Note that these sentiments do reflect the empirical reality that urban gun violence is concentrated
within networks of both perpetrators and victims (Papachristos and Wildeman 2014; Papachristos,
Wildeman, and Roberto 2015; Wintemute 2015), and some initiatives that have used a blend of policing strategies and community support networks to target “at-risk” individuals have meaningfully reduced some categories of gun crime (see, for example, “the Boston Miracle”; Braga 2003). However,
by narrating urban gun violence as a localized issue of “bad people” from “bad places” doing “bad
things” (to paraphrase), chiefs reflected not just empirical trends with respect to gun violence perpetration and victimization. They also forwarded a moral claim about those involved in urban gun violence: that they are, by definition, involved in a “criminal lifestyle” rather than community members
and fellow citizens. This stylized version of gun violence narrowly defined urban gun violence (e.g.,
domestic violence, negligent shootings, and active shootings tended to be sidelined) and provided
chiefs with an appropriate target (the urban gun offender) through which to relay an investment in a
particular kind of police work (i.e., the Warrior).
Urban, suburban, and rural chiefs took up the discursive opportunity that urban gun violence provided to assert allegiance to this brand of police work. After all, most chiefs I interviewed had no direct experience with gang violence in urban settings.3 Nevertheless, rural and suburban police chiefs
in Arizona, California, and Michigan were aware of these tropes through references to “the drug dealers that drive through from Detroit” (MI chief); “the gangbangers who still have their Roscoes
[guns] in LA” (CA chief); and the “gang members in Chicago” (AZ chief). This is not surprising: for
decades, racialized boys and men have been popularly figured as hyperviolent aggressors, a framing
that naturalizes gun violence as part of the landscape of urban America while also minimizing the human toll of this violence by treating victims as suspicious.

As Turk writes (2004:271), “terrorism is not a given in the real world but is instead an interpretation
of events and their presumed causes”; it is a “condition and state of affairs” (Althiede 2009:1366).
Elevating the urgency of active shootings, chiefs routinely referenced active shootings as central to a
new-felt “condition and state of affairs,” especially as they explained changes in their off-duty gun
carry habits. Just as urban, suburban, and rural chiefs referenced urban tropes of gun violence as they
articulated Warrior masculinity (even if they did not police in urban jurisdictions), so too did chiefs
across urban, suburban, and rural contexts reference tropes as they described active shooters as
“terrorism” and articulated their off-duty carry habits accordingly. Chiefs often collapsed active shootings under a broad umbrella of terrorism, connecting “9/11,” “assassinations” of police, “domestic
terrorism,” and active shootings as they named places now eponymous from mass incidents of gun violence (e.g., “San Bernardino,” “Orlando,” “Sandy Hook”).
In a sense, this conflation of terrorism and active shootings reinforced police’s standing as crimefighters (Phillips 2016). It reflected both the increasing expectation that law enforcement be involved
in anti-terrorist activities (even as law enforcement largely refuses this new responsibility with regard
to immigration enforcement; see Harris 2006) and the resonance between the War on Crime and
the War on Terror as sets of political claims and policing strategies (Huq and Muller 2008).
However, by framing active shootings as terrorism, chiefs enforced a distinctive racial politics of gun
violence centered on white victimhood rather than racialized perpetration. The term “terrorism” provided a way to foreground white, middle-class space and communities as particularly vulnerable, even
though existing data suggest that most mass shootings do not take place in homogenously, or even
disproportionately, white communities (Florida and Boone 2018). At the same time, labeling active
shootings as terrorism allowed chiefs to subtly sidestep the empirical reality that white boys and men
are disproportionately the perpetrators of active shootings by referencing a variety of racial backgrounds of perpetrators and framing their actions as terrorism.
Suggesting that terrorism represents a new threat requiring a Guardian’s vigilance, police chiefs
asserted a newfound attachment to their guns, even off-duty. Three chiefs told me:
1. You know, since 2001, 9/11 was a major trigger. And just last year you had assassinations in
Dallas and Baton Rouge. And so those are the things that make a big splash . . . I have everyday awareness and practice situational awareness. I understand that this stuff can happen
anytime, anywhere.
2. I used to not carry as much, but now in the last five years, I’m carrying a lot more. It’s the
terrorism, the domestic terrorism, the climate for law enforcement.
3. It’s really been the last ten years that I’ve been carrying more . . . mass shootings had a role.
It just seems that as you experience more, and you read more, you have more of an obligation to protect. And it’s just common sense. You could seriously help people.
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However, in the late 1990s, the Columbine High School shooting would force a dramatic shift in
popular understandings of gun violence. As Willis-Chun (2011:50) writes, “the violence at
Columbine High was all the more shocking because it defied U.S. assumptions about both whiteness
and middle-class-ness.” It pierced the association between urban schools and guns that naturalized
poor, racialized communities as violent and revealed the fragility of the safety and security of seemingly “normal” schools like middle-class suburban Columbine High. My interviews reveal that police
chiefs identified active shootings as urgent and intractable policing problems akin to terrorism and
distinct from the gun violence imagined to take place in urban settings. In doing so, they drew on a
fundamentally different narrative for understanding this brand of gun violence—and appropriate police responses to it.
Race, Masculinity, and the Construction of Gun Violence

1. You never know where and when someone will start shooting, and you can’t outrun a bullet.
So you have these things happening in the theater, schools, Best Buy, where some nut job
just snaps. I do think about that.
2. Active shootings – I don’t like to call them school shootings because they can also be at
workplace and other places – those are up. I read the intelligence bulletins, and it’s happening at the national level, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen here.
3. Something can happen in the strangest places. I wouldn’t go to church without a gun.
The newfound constellation of unexpected places and unexpected victims led police chiefs to embrace the urgency of active shootings as akin to the threat of terrorism. The church, the school, the
workplace: none of these are necessarily “strange” places with respect to violence, except by virtue of
their racial and class marking. In other words, they are the public equivalents of the private sanctuary
of the white picket fence: places that can be assumed to be peaceful by virtue of the broader projects
of racial and class exclusion that make them possible. Reflecting this marking of space, one chief told
me that the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, had affected him because it exposed
these newfound vulnerabilities:
Aurora: it seemed commonplace. It wasn’t a school. This is a movie theater where there is no
security; people buy a ticket, and they go in. They let their guard down. They are sitting and
eating their Red Vines and popcorn, and they are vulnerable.
Active shootings disrupted a social geography of gun violence that designated certain spaces as safe
and others as dangerous. The terror framing thus helps to emphasize that active shootings are inherently uncontrollable and foreign to the spaces in which they emerge.
Second, the terror framing provided a way to discursively navigate blameworthiness and blamelessness for typically white, middle-class perpetrators and victims. Though active shootings are relatively
rare, police chiefs used the label “terrorism” to frame active shootings as broad issues of public safety,
shifting emphasis away from perpetrators and onto the innocence of victims. As with discourses regarding mental health (McGinty et al. 2014; Metzl and MacLeish 2015), terrorism provided a compelling trope to jettison issues around criminality and culpability, which helps explain why chiefs
labeled white shooters as “terrorists,” “mentally unstable,” and even “evil.” These labels had a shared
effect: they emphasized the innocence of victims and exonerated the communities in which active
shootings may take place. Thus, the terror framing flags the unambiguous moral status of victims as
(to paraphrase) “normal kids” in “normal places” doing “normal things.” Put differently, “the terror
frame assigns the entire nation victim status, while constructing the immediate victims of the violence
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Encoded in this conflation of particular kinds of gun violence with terrorism is a different racial politics of gun violence than has been attached to urban gun violence, one in which white social order is
more directly under threat and one in which the racialized threat demands not containment but expulsion. Active shootings scramble the racial politics of policing, upending sensibilities about where
gun violence should or should not take place; framing active shootings as terrorism provides a narrative to convey the sense of unpredictable vulnerability that these events carry.
First, the terror framing resists the normalization or naturalization of these incidents, despite their
increased frequency and an increasingly pervasive sense of threat (even as active shootings remain relatively rare compared to other kinds of gun-related deaths). While the War on Crime focused largely
on containing crime within urban spaces marked as poor, disorderly, and dangerous, active shootings
appear as a different kind of penetrating threat that bucked containment to threaten white spaces.
Chiefs zoomed in on the spatial politics of active shootings, making the threat of otherwise rare acts
of gun violence mushroom into a cloud of ever-present danger:

as heroes” (Morin 2016: 1000). The terror framing not only reconstructed gun violence in the context of suburban and rural white spaces; it also shaped how police chiefs talked about their own guns.
You know people say, “Oh, this guy is racist or whatever in Charleston.” No, it’s just evil. It’s
evil killing good people. And the evil is getting stronger and stronger, and the good is being
made to look evil, and that’s why we need to be superheroes.
Resisting the much-publicized racial motivations of this mass killing, this chief appears to struggle
with an active shooting that takes place in an African American church as opposed to spaces associated with whites. Appealing to a colorblind discourse (Bonilla-Silva 2017), the chief concludes that
such killings are “just evil,” which, in turn, compels him to embrace a particular understanding of himself—as a “superhero.” Not only is this self-understanding—what I elaborate here as Guardian masculinity—dependent on particular racial tropes of gun violence; it also suggests how police
understand their own guns. Framing police as “superheroes,” this chief (and others who used resonant language) adopted a distinctive brand of policing—the Guardian—in response to active
In explaining how they understood themselves and their obligations as police vis- a-vis active
shootings, police chiefs often referenced Columbine as a watershed moment that shifted police protocols and sensibilities. A group of police practitioners summarized this shift: “the law enforcement profession had conditioned the patrol function to fail in an active shooter situation like Columbine . . .
what training was provided reinforced the concept of containment and calling for SWAT teams to
handle critical situations” (Blair et al. 2016:12).
Almost two decades after Columbine, a sense of collective failure and shame regarding the police
response remained palpable. One Arizona chief told me that he had previously patrolled a neighboring community to Littleton in suburban Denver. He explained,
I was in a neighboring community in Colorado when Columbine happened . . . that really impacted us. We felt like failures. We thought – how could we have allowed this to have happened? Here, we waited outside while kids were being killed. And that was really our attitude –
we were failures . . . Because we felt like we let society down . . . I really believe, we really are
the only first responders. We have to treat every situation that way.
Though this chief was not present at the high school, he uses “we” as he discusses law enforcement’s
feelings of failure in the aftermath of Columbine. This incident was not reducible to mistakes made
by the individual officers on the scene that day (“bad apples,” as debates on officer misconduct in the
context of urban policing often reference); rather, the police failure at Columbine is read as a failure
of all police to stay true to a core mission of protection. In the words of this chief, “We really are the
only first responders. We have to treat every situation that way.” This framing thus exhorts police to
see themselves not as specialized experts but as “first responders,” ready to engage whatever threat
may come their way, wherever and whenever it may come. Another chief referenced Columbine as
he articulated a seismic shift in police sensibilities:
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Active Shootings, Masculinity and the Reconstruction of Police Violence
Chief Sampson had spent his entire career policing rural jurisdictions. He earnestly explained that he
is the only police officer in his family: “I wanted to help people.” When the interview turned to combatting gun violence, this earnest desire took on enhanced urgency. The chief referenced the 2015
Charleston Church Shooting in which a self-identified white supremacist killed nine black churchgoers at a historically black church:
Race, Masculinity, and the Construction of Gun Violence

That [Columbine] was a watershed moment in terms of active shooting. That was when we
were all retrained to intervene – and trained to step over the dead bodies to run to the threat.
And the hardest part there was not stopping to help the people who needed our help who we
were stepping over.
1. I could not live with myself if I was in a situation where I could save lives, and I wasn’t able
to. I can’t imagine being at a public shooting and not having the tools [e.g., a firearm].
2. Say I’m in a movie theater, and there’s a shooting, and I am there, but I can’t do anything because I don’t have a gun? I would feel devastated. Ashamed. Guilty, I would feel like all of
those lives lost were on me. And it would ruin me forever.
3. Shame on us if we are called to this, and we are able to save a life, but because we were
unprepared we didn’t. It would break my heart. . .More than any other than thought, I carry
a gun because of that.
Rather than the overt masculinity of the Warrior, these chiefs embrace “hardness and violence” in the
service of “compassion and care” (Messner 2007:467). These chiefs are not concerned with the thrill
of the chase or looking for trouble to prove their chops as cops. Rather, they articulated unprompted
fears of impotence amid the threat of active shootings. Even the handful of chiefs who said they rarely
carried off-duty expressed this moral imperative: “I would feel stupid if something happened, and I
was walking around without my gun . . . I feel responsible for my community,” said one. Another: “I
am worried that I’ll be out and about and need one and wish I had one on me . . . I need to be able
to do something.”
Amid the threat of active shootings, chiefs from Arizona, California, and Michigan recuperated a
masculine imperative to run courageously into the face of danger, but this imperative is distinct from
the one imposed by Warrior masculinity. Under Guardian masculinity, this urgency is centered on
protection on behalf of innocent bystanders, especially children (Messner 2007), rather than, under
Warrior masculinity, enforcement against suspected criminals (e.g., “catch the bad guys! Lock ‘em
up!”). This sentiment echoes Young’s (2003) observation that violence is not just a vehicle of aggressive domination among men but also a means of asserting “good men’s” utility as protectors.
Nevertheless, this embrace of protection is selective: in my interviews, it tended to refer to policing
in white rural and suburban spaces and communities, and contrasted with the narratives of containment used to discuss gun violence associated with black and brown perpetrators and victims in urban
Today’s public law enforcement (and the U.S. public more broadly) have inherited particular ideas
and expectations about criminality, policing, and social order, but police chiefs are in a position to
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Whereas Warrior masculinity revolves around aggressive enforcement against suspected criminals,
Guardian masculinity is defined by protection on behalf of victims—whether dead and stepped over
or screaming and helpless.
Further, guns appeared to do different kinds of emotional work with respect to active shootings
versus urban gun violence. Indeed, police chiefs may similarly use guns as pragmatic tools to address
threat across contexts (interviews did not reveal, for example, that police chiefs across urban, suburban, and rural contexts embrace starkly different levels of firepower). However, while guns allowed
police to evoke feelings of aggression, empowerment, and hostility under Warrior masculinity (see
Herbert 2001 and Hunt 1984; 1990 on guns and masculinity), guns served as a means for police
chiefs to avoid feelings of guilt, shame, and devastation under Guardian masculinity. These three
chiefs described their attitudes about their guns amid the threat of active shootings as follows:

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transform these ideas. As an example, consider one chief who policed a small, high-crime and racially
segregated city in an otherwise rural area of Michigan; drawing on racial code-words to explain the
make-up of his jurisdiction, he noted euphemistically, “in some areas we definitely are urban with a
high concentration of poverty.” Emphasizing that policing is about “relationships,” he narrated his
transition from the “old way”—e.g., saturation policing and a focus on arrests—to embrace community policing. But rather than a vehicle for the community to get to know and respect law enforcement, he saw community policing as a means for law enforcement to get to know and respect the
community. He was eager to describe one program: “Everyone [each officer] now has to go door to
door to say hello to the community . . . Police need to see the community differently. I’ve had officers
say, you know, ‘these are just regular folks living out there in poor areas.’ Most of the people are just
good people.”
This paper suggests that such initiatives are not just good public relations for police. Ideas about
community—especially racialized ideas—are consequential for the way gun violence is understood
and responded to. Among the general public, race bifurcates how different kinds of gun violence are
debated and dissected: gun violence associated with boys and men of color is often criminalized as
deliberate, blameworthy aggression, while gun violence associated with white boys and men is often
medicalized as the unfortunate consequence of mental illness. Likewise, this paper suggests that race,
in intersection with masculinity, bifurcates how police chiefs understand gun violence—and themselves as law enforcement. Though they may wield the same guns across urban, suburban, and rural
contexts, police chiefs attached to their guns different gendered and racial meanings as they constructed themselves as agents of policing. Regarding gun violence associated with urban contexts, police chiefs constructed themselves as Warriors pitted against black and brown gang-bangers, drug
dealers, and super predators. Relative to gun violence associated with rural and suburban contexts,
police chiefs presented themselves as Guardians, reframing gun violence as terrorism and emphasizing their own police duties as first-responders. Narratives of police failure revolved around not an inability to apprehend the “bad guys” but an inability to save the “good kids.”
An important caveat should be mentioned here: though some jurisdictions are more horizontal
than others, chiefs as a rule do not face the same policing dilemmas that patrol officers do. As such,
these divergent constructions of gun violence may not reflect the law enforcement community
broadly—that remains an empirical question for future study. Still, these findings contain implications for police practice, as chiefs’ framings may shape the street-level through formal and informal
top-down structures initiated by chiefs. After all, police chiefs set expectations about which concerns
their agencies should centrally address within the communities they serve, how these concerns should
be transformed into policing problems, how police should understand their own identities as police,
and how police reforms should be spear-headed.
Whether voiced from within or outside of public law enforcement, calls for reform often focus on
eradicating pernicious elements in urban policing that presume an otherwise race-neutral institution
of policing (Vitale 2017). Thus, the Guardian mindset has been recently embraced as a new model
for police work. Practitioners working to promote this model seek to emphasize police as Guardians
of democracy and protectors of rights; they see it as a means of training police who will “operate. . .as
part of the community, demonstrating empathy and employing procedural justice principles during
interactions” (Rahr and Rice 2015:3). Rather than transcending racial disparities in policing, however,
the promulgation of the Guardian mindset may function to contain them, insofar as the promise of
such interventions to enhance police legitimacy is conditioned by the racial ways in which police understand crime—and themselves. Rather than the absence of Warrior masculinity, contemporary suburban and rural policing is perhaps better understood as animated by a distinct gender/racial project
of policing that recasts the meanings that police chiefs attach to their own guns—that is, Guardian
This paper suggests that the Warrior and the Guardian reflect racially bifurcated styles of police
masculinity. It thus encourages those wishing to address racial disparities in policing to account for
Race, Masculinity, and the Construction of Gun Violence

how racial bifurcation shapes policing both in communities of color and white communities and accordingly address the reproduction of conditions of inequality. As such, transforming policing at this
more fundamental level may depend less on promulgating idealized forms of policing unwittingly
transposed from particular policing contexts and more on compelling officers—like the small-city
chief described above—to face the communities they police, and not to assert police legitimacy, but
to build up community dignity.
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Soc 300 – Autumn 2020
Reading Memo 7
“Police Warriors and Police Guardians: Race, Masculinity, and the Construction of Gun
1. What is the study’s central research question(s)?
2. What does the author believe is missing in the empirical literature on law enforcement, race, and
gun violence in the U.S.? How does this study fill a “gap” in the literature?
3. Based on the text leading up to the methods and analysis, does the author consider White to be a
racial category? Why or why not?
4. Is the study design primarily deductive or inductive? Explain your reasoning.
5. What is the author’s unit of analysis?
6. Practice with sampling.
a. Who or what is the authors’ target population?
b. Who or what is included in the sample?
c. Do you think the authors’ sample is representative or non-representative of its target
population? Explain your reasoning.
7. The author acknowledges that her positionality likely affected the results when she writes: “As I
am not a member of law enforcement, I relied on my knowledge of firearms, firearms law, and
gun politics to establish rapport with my interviewees. Further, as a white female cisgender
interviewer, I collected a different set of data than had I been, for example, a white and/or
Latino male-presenting participant observer of police…” (pg. 406). How do you think the
author’s positionality might have affected the results?
8. How might a research subject be exposed to harm by participating in this study? What is a step
the researcher could take (or did take) to minimize harm?
9. Results interpretation.
a. In your own words, explain what the author means when she claims that police chiefs
tended to construct themselves as Warriors or Guardians with regards to gun violence.
In your responses, be sure to acknowledge 1) how the constructions relate to the race of
offenders and victims and 2) how the constructions relate to geography.
The Warrior:
The Guardian:
b. This year, in the wake of widely publicized incidents of police brutality against Black
people, the world witnessed police engaging in violent acts against protestors and rioters
in many U.S. cities. Drawing from the analysis presented in this article, which analytical
construction – the Warrior of the Guardian – do you think generally guided the actions
of police officers who confronted the social unrest? Explain your reasoning.
Written Participation Opportunity:
Thoughtfully address one or more of the following questions:
What are the implications of the study’s findings? That is, why do the findings matter?
Describe some of the tradeoffs the author made when designing this study.
Did you find the arguments in this article convincing? Why or why not?
What about the article helped you understand the arguments and findings?
Based on the author’s findings, what might be a new research question for the author to pursue?

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