I never liked teaching criminology. Usually, sociology departments get a former or off-duty cop to teach Crim. It works pretty much OK – he or she teaches the science of criminology to a room full of undergraduates. The problem is getting a scientist to teach criminology.
Criminology is a moving target. Last November the people of Montana voted to legalize marijuana. Harry Anslinger was appointed to head the Bureau of Narcotics in 1930, responsible for cocaine and heroin, and it just wasn’t enough to keep a bureau busy. In what we now term “mission creep” Anslinger managed to outlaw marijuana by 1937. Nobody cared before that.
In 1636, the Plymouth Colony made five crimes punishable by death:
1) willful murder, 2) making a compact with the devil by witchcraft, 3) arson (ships and houses), 4) sodomy, rape, and buggery, and 5) adultery. Well, Massachusetts still frowns on murder, rape and arson – but the rest are pretty much mainstream. It’s difficult to call it science when things change so much – in 1637, John Alexander was branded and banned from the colony for homosexual conduct. From 1981 to 2013, Barney Frank represented his part of Massachusetts in the US Congress. Nothing personal, but it’s hard to do science when the definitions keep changing.
Teaching Criminology did convince me that the whole concept of deviance is socially constructed. I could have probably got into teaching the social construction of deviance – but we had a good, reliable deviance guy in the department. He was still married to his high school girlfriend when he retired. About the only thing I could see deviant about Bob would have been what the texts call positive deviance.
When faced with losing federal highway funds, Montana’s legislature made the 55 mph speed limit state law, then fixed the fine at $5. It was a time when breaking the law wasn’t considered particularly deviant.
I can’t see where criminology is good science. That’s OK. Defunding the police seems even less scientific. In either case, politicians define crime and politicians determine police funding. Both change with the political winds.