The Process of Writing Cop World II

Based on some of the comments I’ve received about the introduction to “Cop World II”, I feel it’s important to write a little about the process used to create it. I’m making no effort to conceal the fact that “Cop World” is my model and I’m focusing primarily on how policing in general, and in San Diego specifically, has changed since “Cop World” was published in 1984. Of course, that will inevitably lead to examining the aspects of policing that will most likely never change.

James McClure started “Cop World” with a brief history of San Diego since the days of Juan Cabrillo’s discovery as a segue to his examination of the SDPD during his long series of ride-alongs with central division officers in 1979. I’m not sure why it took five years for the book to appear in print, but I have a pretty good idea. Writing this type of book requires going on countless ride-alongs, conducting numerous interviews, taping and transcribing everything heard or spoken, composing the text and then re-writing and then re-writing it again. There’s no limit to the amount of re-writes until the writer finally thinks they’ve got it right. Writing clearly and, with any luck, in a way that both intellectually informs and emotionally moves readers as they come to understand what a cop’s life is like, is an arduous process.

I’ve begun “Cop World II” with an extremely brief history of San Diego’s policing since “Cop World” was researched and published. Composing that history required writing critically about people I know and respect. I deeply regret having to write anything that either is, or appears critical of any of them, but a writer’s difficult reality is that they have to tell the truth as best they know it. If a writer’s not willing to do that, he or she should find another way to spend their time because they’d certainly be wasting their reader’s time.

“Cop World II” is not just for current and former cops. It’s intended to inform a wider audience about what it’s like to police the streets of a major city right now. For those readers to get a clear picture, it’s important to have some historical perspective.

I’ve been deliberately critical of the history of community policing in San Diego, specifically because McClure praised it. For the most part, he was a journalist who simply exposed what he saw and heard to his readers without passing judgment on any of it. Community policing was a notable exception and my book couldn’t come into existence without taking a hard look at the topic.

The early stages of community policing in San Diego were as much a product of its time as it was the people who created and instituted it. A friend whose a retired police reporter has told me he recollects that the beginnings of community policing in San Diego had to do with efforts to get maximum productivity from too few officers by forming partnerships with the public. Anyone with knowledge about the history of San Diego policing certainly knows too few cops on the street has been a reality for decades.

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