The Soul of Policing: Michael Sierra-Arévalo’s THE DANGER IMPERATIVE with Walter Katz & Monica C. Bell

Friday, May 17, 2024 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
RECIRCULATION A project of Word Up
876 Riverside Drive (near 160th St.)
New York, NY 10032


Join us at Recirculation for a discussion on policing based on Michael Sierra-Arévalo’s new book The Danger Imperative: Violence, Death, and the Soul of Policing. In conversation with Sierra-Arévalo will be Walter Katz, a Senior Fellow with the Council on Criminal Justice, and Dr. Monica C. Bell, professor at Yale Law School. 

This event is a $5 suggested donation ticket with 50 max attendees. Please register in advance. 

In compliance with Word Up Community Safety guidelines, all attendees are encouraged to stay masked at all time. 

Recirculation, a project of Word Up Community Bookshop, is located at 876 Riverside Drive (near 160th St.) in Washington Heights, NYC. You can take the 1 train to 157th St., A/C train to 163rd St., and the M4 and M5 to Broadway and 159/160th.


Policing is violent. And its violence is not distributed equally: stark racial disparities persist despite decades of efforts to address them. Amid public outcry and an ongoing crisis of police legitimacy, there is pressing need to understand not only how police perceive and use violence but also why.With unprecedented access to three police departments and drawing on more than 100 interviews and 1,000 hours on patrol, The Danger Imperative provides vital insight into how police culture shapes officers' perception and practice of violence. From the front seat of a patrol car, it shows how the institution of policing reinforces a cultural preoccupation with violence through academy training, departmental routines, powerful symbols, and officers' street-level behavior.

This violence-centric culture makes no explicit mention of race, relying on the colorblind language of "threat" and "officer safety." Nonetheless, existing patterns of systemic disadvantage funnel police hyperfocused on survival into poor minority neighborhoods. Without requiring individual bigotry, this combination of social structure, culture, and behavior perpetuates enduring inequalities in police violence.

A trailblazing, on-the-ground account of modern policing, this book shows that violence is the logical consequence of an institutional culture that privileges officer survival over public safety.


Michael Sierra-Arévalo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Associate Director of the Liberal Arts Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin. His new book, “THE DANGER IMPERATIVE: Violence, Death, and the Soul of Policing,” shows how policing’s preoccupation with danger shapes police culture and violence in the United States. Sierra-Arévalo’s research is published in leading journals, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Criminology, Law & Society Review, and the Annual Review of Law and Social Science. His writing and research are widely featured in media, including The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Times Higher Education, Slate, GQ, and NPR. From 2020 to 2023, he served on the City of Austin’s Public Safety Commission. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University and his B.A. in Sociology and Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.


Walter Katz, a Chicago native, began his legal career as a public defender in Southern California, handling over 75 jury trials and investigating convictions tainted by police misconduct. He then shifted to police oversight, serving as Deputy Inspector General in Los Angeles County and later as Independent Police Auditor appointed by the San Jose city council. In San Jose, Katz pushed for reform in investigations of police use of force. Returning to Chicago in 2017, Katz joined the Mayor’s Office as Deputy Chief of Staff for Public Safety, leading reform efforts and overseeing the police department. He played a key role in negotiations over the consent decree, which took effect in 2019. In his most recent role as Vice President of Criminal Justice at Arnold Ventures, Katz led philanthropic initiatives focusing on police accountability, gun violence reduction, and alternatives to arrest for individuals living with mental illness. He has also published works addressing issues such as transparency in police union collective bargaining and the impact of redlining in the 20th-century on modern policing.

Monica Bell is a Professor of Law and Counselor to the Dean at Yale Law School and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Yale University. Bell works at the intersection of law and sociology, using sociological theory and research to explore legal questions regarding race and class inequality. Bell's scholarship has appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, the Yale Law Journal, Journal of Economic Perspectives, NYU Law Review, Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, and other journals. She has also published writing in popular outlets such as Politico Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Inquest, and the Washington Post.


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ACCESSIBILITY: Recirculation is a wheelchair-accessible space with one ramp from the street level down to the store. Most of the shelves are on wheels and can be moved to provide additional access. The bathrooms are not yet ADA compliant and do not yet have a changing table but are gender neutral. The events are mic’d for sound and videos are captioned when possible. Free ASL interpretation is available for most programs upon request. Please email to request interpretation as early as possible. If you have specific questions about the space or how an event can be made more accessible to you, please do not hesitate to contact us at

The Danger Imperative: Violence, Death, and the Soul of Policing By Michael Sierra-Arévalo Cover Image
Not Available
ISBN: 9780231198479
Published: Columbia University Press - February 13th, 2024