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This website is live but not public/finalized and will be published by summer 2002. If you found this and want to explore it, please note that some pages are still in development or incomplete. Please do not cite or link this without permission. Direct all inquires to Matt Lassiter (

Crackdown: Policing Detroit through the War on Crime, Drugs, and Youth is a public history exhibit created by the Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab, an initiative of the University of Michigan Department of History and a component project of the UM Carceral State Project's Documenting Criminalization and Confinement research collaboration.  The Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab research team--fifteen undergraduate students, one graduate student lab supervisor, and one professor--constructed this digital exhibit and the accompanying ArcGIS StoryMap exhibit during the Fall 2019 semester in History 491: "Cold Cases: Police Violence, Crime, and Social Justice in Michigan."  The Crackdown exhibit covers the twenty-year period from 1974-1993, when Coleman Young led the city of Detroit as its first African American mayor, and when policies designed to reform the brutality, misconduct, and racism of the Detroit Police Department accompanied the continued criminalization of black youth and the escalation of the local, state, and federal wars on crime, drugs, and gangs.         

Crackdown is the second installment of a broader curricular and extracurricular project by the Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab to research and document the history of policing and criminalization in Detroit throughout the twentieth century; to analyze the politics of crime control and civil rights activism; and to excavate and map police-civilian encounters, including homicides, brutality, and misconduct.  Crackdown builds directly on the Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab's previous digital exhibit, Detroit Under Fire: Police Violence, Crime Politics, and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Civil Rights Era, covering the 1957-1973 period.  Both exhibits are affiliated with the UM HistoryLabs program, established in 2018 by the History Department to promote public engagement, student-faculty scholarly collaborations, and digital humanities.  Both also advance the mission of Documenting Criminalization and Confinement, the UM Carceral State Project's multidisciplinary humanistic study of the impact of criminalization, policing, incarceration, and carceral control in the United States.  

Research Archives: The design of "Crackdown" combines textual narrative and historical analysis with more than XXX hundred archival documents, photographs, and video clips--allowing audiences to explore original documents and multiple perspectives in depth.  The Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab team conducted much of this research at the the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library, which contains the Coleman A. Young records and the minutes of the Board of Police Commissioners, among other resources.  The team conducted additional research at the Walter P. Reuther Library's Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University in Detroit, at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, in the digitized archive of the Detroit Historical Society, in other municipal and legal archives in Detroit and Wayne County, and in various online databases.  The Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab thanks these archives and their dedicated archivists for their support as well as permission to reproduce these documents and images for a public audience.  We also thank LSA Instructional Support Services at UM for providing funding for the Detroit policing project through the "New Initiatives/New Infrastructure: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" grant program.

Navigating the Exhibit: Proceed to the Exhibit Overview section for an introduction to the Crackdown exhibit and discussion of the project's mission, major research findings, data visualization through mapping, and reflections on archival politics and silences.  Visit the About the Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab Research Team page for more information about the student researchers and their visits to archives and field sites.  Use the drop-down menu to begin exploring the history of police violence and misconduct, crime politics, and reform efforts  in Detroit from the early 1970s through the early 1990s.  And please visit the accompanying ArcGIS StoryMap exhibit, "Police Violence and Misconduct in Detroit, 1974-1993" (coming soon), to visualize this history through a platform that synthesizes the maps and metadata on police-civilian encounters utilized in the Crackdown exhibit and created by the Policing and Social JusticeHistory Lab.  For generous support with the Omeka and ArcGIS StoryMaps platforms, the Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab particularly thanks Joe Bauer and Peter Knoop of LSA Technology Services, Public Engagement Manager Greg Parker of the Department of History, and the indispensable contributions of Lab Supervisor Nicole Navarro.     

Feedback and Research Ethics: Difficult questions regarding research ethics and complex issues of publicity vs. confidentiality are involved in the construction and publication of an online digital exhibit about state violence, crime and criminalization, surveillance and protest.  Please see the Exhibit Overview section and the Politics and Silences in the Archives page for elaboration.  Please send any feedback or inquiries about the Crackdown exhibit--including requests for removal of personal material, and contributions of personal stories and documents to fill in gaps in the archives--to Professor Matthew Lassiter (, the Director of the Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab.


Image Credits (above, left to right): Coleman Young and "Detroit: Toward a New Future" Billboard, c. 1974, Box 322, Folder: Photos Local Celeb./People Undated, Coleman A. Young Mayoral Papers, Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library; Coleman Young and Family at 10th Precinct Mini-Station, 1977, Box 322, Folder: Photos Coleman A. Young and Police 1977 and Undated, Coleman A. Young Mayoral Papers, Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library; Riots/Detroit/Livernois-Fenkell Area, VMC 1017, July 29, 1975, Detroit News Photographic Collection/Virtual Motor City, Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.  

Banner image credit: Riots/Detroit/Livernois-Fenkell Area, July 29, 1975, VMC 1017-3, Detroit News Photographic Collection/Virtual Motor City, Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.