Dr. Noakes Speaks on Police Oversight, Quoted in Smithsonian Magazine

By Caitlin Burns | January 11, 2018

Headshot of Dr. Noakes

Dr. John Noakes, associate professor and chair of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice, presented in November at TEDx West Chester on police oversight and the social contract. Dr. Noakes said that the general population subscribes to a social contract– agreeing to give up certain liberties to ensure the safety of all in society.  To enforce the social contract, police are “empowered…with a monopoly over the legitimate means of violence in society.” Under this social contract, Dr. Noakes said, it is the responsibility of the population to ensure the police are using that force appropriately.

“We must insist as citizens in a democracy [that we] oversee the use of violence that’s done in our name,” Dr. Noakes said. “It means rejecting versions of the social contract that say things like, ‘Police are the thin blue line between us and chaos,’ that tell us that police use violence so we don’t have to, and that our only response should be gratitude. Primarily, because it absolves you and I of our responsibility for oversight.”

Additionally, Dr. Noakes’ research was quoted by The Smithsonian on Dec. 20 about the FBI investigation in the late 1940s into It’s A Wonderful Life, which at least one special agent believed promoted Communist ideals and was anti-American. Dr. Noakes noted that in the post-war paranoia of the time, anything that didn’t conform to ideal America was considered Communist– such as George Bailey’s unhappiness with small town America, criticism of large banks, and the portrayal of the “Scrooge”-like banker, Mr. Potter.