My research focuses on twentieth-century American history, with particular focuses on political history, urban history, social and cultural movements, gender history, and oral history. I teach courses in the history of crime and policing, the history of the American West, urban history, and modern American history.
My book The Streets of San Francisco: Policing and the Creation of a Cosmopolitan Liberal Politics, 1950-1972 (University of Chicago Press, 2014) reveals the central role policing played in the creation of San Francisco's modern liberal politics. Through personal papers and over forty oral histories, I have recovered the seldom-reported, street-level interactions between police officers and San Francisco residents during the 1950s and 60s. I found that postwar police officers exercised broad discretion when dealing with North Beach beats, African-American gang leaders, gay and lesbian bar owners, Haight-Ashbury hippies, artists who created sexually explicit works, Chinese-American entrepreneurs, and a wide range of other San Franciscans. Unexpectedly, that police discretion grew into a source of both concern and inspiration for thousands of young professionals who were streaming into the city's growing financial district and expressing desires for both diversity and security. By the late 1960s, marginalized San Franciscans, young white professionals, and even rank-and-file police officers were rallying around issues of police discretion to forge a new liberal coalition. Promising both democracy and physical safety, San Francisco liberals became a driving force behind a national transformation in urban liberal politics. Today, urban liberals across the country ground themselves in similar understandings of democracy through an emphasis on both broad diversity and tough policing.
I am currently writing a chapter on the themes of policing and "freedom” for the SAGE Handbook of Global Policing. My upcoming research projects will expand on my studies of urban democracy by looking at a range of cities in the post-1970s period. In particular, I am interested in examining the relationship between grassroots, "Do-It-Yourself" (DIY)-style political and cultural movements and the ascendance of neoliberal governing coalitions. As a first step towards this next book project, I plan to write a stand-alone article examining the birth of community policing from an international perspective.