The Horror of Police

2022
Author:

Travis Linnemann

Unmasks the horrors of a social order reproduced and maintained by the violence of police

Drawing on the language and texts of horror fiction, Travis Linnemann recasts the police not only as self-proclaimed “monster fighters” but as monsters themselves, a terrifying force set loose in the world. The Horror of Police shows that police violence is not a deviation but rather a deliberate and permanent fixture of U.S. “law and order.”

We know this more clearly today than ever before: policing is monstrous, unleashing terror while cannibalistically devouring resources otherwise destined for more human things. Travis Linnemann turns our reality upside-down as he turns the horror genre inside-out, insisting that only by confronting the dreadful monsters in our midst can we build a truly different world.

Geo Maher, author of A World Without Police: How Strong Communities Make Cops Obsolete

Year after year the crisis churns: graft and corruption, violence and murder, riot cops and armored vehicles claim city streets. Despite promises of reform, police operate with impunity, unaccountable to law. In The Horror of Police, Travis Linnemann asks why, with this open record of violence and corruption, policing remains for so many the best, perhaps only means of security in an insecure world.

Drawing on the language and texts of horror fiction, Linnemann recasts the police not only as self-proclaimed “monster fighters” but as monsters themselves, a terrifying force set loose in the world. Purposefully misreading a collection of everyday police stories (TV cop dramas, detective fiction, news media accounts, the direct words of police) not as morality tales of innocence avenged and order restored but as horror, Linnemann reveals the monstrous violence at the heart of liberal social order.

The Horror of Police shows that police violence is not a deviation but rather a deliberate and permanent fixture of U.S. “law and order.” Only when viewed through the refracted motif of horror stories, Linnemann argues, can we begin to reckon the limits of police and imagine a world without them.

Travis Linnemann is associate professor of sociology at Kansas State University. He is author of Meth Wars: Police, Media, Power; coauthor of Media and Crime in the U.S.; and coeditor of Ghost Criminology: The Afterlife of Crime and Punishment and the journal Crime, Media, Culture.

We know this more clearly today than ever before: policing is monstrous, unleashing terror while cannibalistically devouring resources otherwise destined for more human things. Travis Linnemann turns our reality upside-down as he turns the horror genre inside-out, insisting that only by confronting the dreadful monsters in our midst can we build a truly different world.

Geo Maher, author of A World Without Police: How Strong Communities Make Cops Obsolete

Police stories are among the most popular in American culture. In this book—equally steeped in pop culture, the latest critical theory, and the history and contemporary reality of policing—Travis Linnemann reads those stories against the grain to argue that the police represent the monstrous core of our society and to challenge us to imagine a world without them.

Adam Kotsko, author of Neoliberalism’s Demons: On the Political Theology of Late Capital

In this highly original take, Travis Linnemann looks beyond the flashy headlines of the grossest excesses of police violence to the monstrosity that lies beneath it: police power itself. Using the tropes and conventions of the horror literary genre, Linnemann parses not just the fear that the police inspire amongst ‘us’ but also what haunts the police: mutuality, collectivity, and solidarity.

Emma Russell, author of Queer Histories and the Politics of Policing*

Contents

Introduction: Police Story, Horror Story.

1. Bad Cops and the True Detective

2. The Police at the End of the World, or the Political Theology of the Thin Blue Line

3. Robocop, or Modern Prometheus

4. Monsters Are Real

5. The Unthinkable World

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index