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Sarah A. Seo, Columbia Law School

For: Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom (Harvard University Press, 2019).

This exceptionally stimulating book makes the argument that the “fundamentals of policing in the United States as well as constitutional law emerged as a response to the rapid adoption of automobiles, and its consequences, in the twentieth century. In earlier eras, the author concludes, most individuals did not interact with the police on a regular basis, mostly viewing them as a friendly presence on the streets or mostly absent in the farms and hinterlands. The rise of the automobile culture of the twentieth century sparked a radical transformation in this relationship in which law-abiding citizens now engaged with police on a regular basis, and almost always that interaction was negative. Police departments rapidly expanded to patrol ordinary citizens driving in cars; at the same time pressing to reduce constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizures and thereby allow police to stop citizens suspected of a crime. This discretionary policing has been much debated, condemned, etc., but overall, the trend has been toward more oversight and surveillance, greater latitude for policing, and only moderate recourse in response to police actions.