University of Michigan


Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Planning

David received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Masters of Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. His work aims to develop and apply a morally engaged approach to policy research that draws from the humanities as well as the social sciences. Most of his research focuses on criminal justice policy, where he examines the historical and philosophical roots of contemporary policy dilemmas. He has also done research and teaching on public management, urban public space, low-income housing policy, and professional ethics.

Curriculum Vita

Writings about police history:

"How the Public Became the Caller: The Emergence of Reactive Policing, 1880-1970", Law and Social Inquiry, forthcoming (with Jessica Gillooly) preprint

"The Emergence and Spread of the Summons in Lieu of Arrest, 1907-1980", Journal of Criminal Justice,, Vol. 85 (March/April 2023). Published version; preprint

"How law shapes policing: the regulation of alcohol in the U.S., 1750‐1860", Policing and Society, Volume 30, no. 10 (December 2020). Published version; preprint

"Olmsted's Police", Law and History Review, Volume 33 (August 2015), pp. 577 -620

 “The Rise of Criminal Background Screening in Rental Housing”Law and Social Inquiry, March 2008

Writings about policing and mental illness:

David Thacher. "Policing a Neurodiverse World: Lessons from the Social Model of Disability", Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, vol. 18 (2024). Published version; preprint

David Thacher. "Resisting the Asylum's Pull", Vital City, May 17, 2023.

David Thacher. "Ghosts of Deinstitutionalization", Vital City, December 16, 2022.

Writings about police reform:

"Two Kinds of Problem-Solving", Policing, forthcoming (2022). Published version; preprint

"Shrinking the Police Footprint", Criminal Justice Ethics, Volume 41, no. 1 (April 2022). Published version; preprint

"The Learning Model of Use-of-Force Reviews", Law and Social Inquiry, Volume 45, no. 3 (August 2020). Published version; preprint

"The Limits of Procedural Justice", in eds. David Weisburd and Anthony Braga. Police Innovation: Contrasting Perspectives.. (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2019). Published version; preprint

"The Aspiration of Scientific Policing", Law and Social Inquiry, Volume 44, no. 1 (February 2019). Published version; preprint

"Channeling Police Discretion: The Hidden Potential of Focused Deterrence", University of Chicago Legal Forum, (November 2016), pp. 533-577. Published version

Writings about order maintenance policing:

Don’t End Broken Windows Policing, Fix It”, The Marshall Project, September 9, 2015

"Perils of Value Neutrality", Research in the Sociology of Organizations, vol. 44 (2015), pp. 317-352

"Order Maintenance Policing", in ed. Michael Reisig and Robert Kane. The Oxford Handbook of Police and Policing (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2014), pp. 122-47.

"Community Policing Without the Police? The Limits of Order Maintenance by the Community", in ed. Peter Grabosky, Community Policing and Peacekeeping (London: Taylor and Francis, 2009)

Is Broken Windows Policing Broken?”, Legal Affairs Debate Club, June/August 2005 (with Bernard Harcourt)

"Order Maintenance Reconsidered: Moving Beyond Strong Causal Reasoning", Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Winter 2004

Work about community policing:

“The Local Role in Homeland Security”Law and Society Review, September 2005

“Interorganizational Partnerships as Inchoate Hierarchies: A Case Study of the Community Security Initiative”Administration and Society, March 2004

"Conflicting Values in Community Policing", Law and Society Review, vol. 35, 
no. 4 (2001), pp. 765-798

"Equity and Community Policing: A New View of Community Partnerships", Criminal Justice Ethics, vol. 20, No. 1 (Winter/Spring, 2001), pp. 4-16.

Work about the moral role of social research:

"The Perrception of Value: Adam Smith on the Moral Role of Social Research", European Journal of Social Theory, forthcoming

"Cognitive Foundations of Humanistic Governance", International Public Management Journal, vol. 12, No. 2 (June 2009), pp. 261-85.

"Research for the Front Lines", Policing and Society, vol. 18, No. 1 (March 2008), pp. 46-59.

"The Normative Case Study", American Journal of Sociology, vol. 111, no. 6 (May 2006), pp. 1631–76.

“The Casuistical Turn in Planning Ethics: Lessons from Law and Medicine”Journal of Planning Education and Research, Spring 2004

 "Policing is Not a Treatment: Alternatives to the Medical Model of Police Research", Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, vol. 38, no. 4 (November 2001), pp. 387-415.

Work on inequality in crime and justice:

"The Distribution of Police Protection", The Journal of Quantitative Criminology, vol. 27 (2011)
“The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Robbed: Inequality in U.S. Criminal Victimization, 1974-2000”The Journal of Quantitative Criminology, June, 2004

From Racial Profiling to Racial Equality: Rethinking Equity in Police Stops and Searches”, Working Paper, Ford School of Public Policy, August 2002.

A couple of miscellaneous pieces:

“Managing Value Conflict in Public Policy” (with Martin Rein), Governance, October 2004

"The Professional Association's Role", Cities, vol. 32 (June 2013)