Oregon Law Review : Vol. 89, No. 4, p.1257-1312 : Anti-Snitching Norms and Community Loyalty
Asbury, Bret D.
In recent years, a troubling trend has emerged within a number of poor, black communities. Termed “Stop Snitching,” it has manifested itself in the form of community members’ refusing to cooperate with police investigations of community crimes. The result of this widespread refusal to cooperate has been a reduced number of crimes solved within these communities; without cooperating witnesses, it has proven exceedingly difficult for police to make criminal cases. This Article suggests a different understanding of Stop Snitching, arguing that poor, black community members’ refusal to cooperate with police investigations should be viewed as neither ethically condemnable nor inexplicable, but rather as a natural extension of the innate human aspiration to be loyal. It does so by situating Stop Snitching within the existing literature on loyalty and asserting that the refusal to cooperate with police represents a privileging of community loyalty over loyalty to the state. Throughout the various strata of contemporary society, such privileging of the familiar over the remote is common, and Stop Snitching is neither puzzling nor reprehensible when viewed as a manifestation of this manner of prioritization. Once Stop Snitching is understood as a reflection of the weak loyalty bonds that exist between police officers and the poor, black communities they serve, it becomes clear that it can be curtailed and ultimately eliminated only through police efforts aimed atstrengthening these bonds. This Article closes with a discussion of the steps police should take in order to succeed in this regard.