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Published:February 26th, 2010 22:21 EST

18TH & M: What is the difference between vigilante justice and street justice?

By Garrett Godwin

When reading the book 18TH & M, you may think along the lines of Dirty Harry, Batman, Death Wish, and the CBS late night crime series Dark Justice, where the main character is a Washington, D.C. police officer who walks a thin line between hero, criminal, or vigilante -- but think again.


"It`s like a story within a story. It points out the good and the bad of the justice system. It never says, `Hey, this is a right thing to do`" said the author Derek Brooks.

Brooks, a criminal justice professor, can understand the influence these characters have had over the arguments of defending the victims` rights against the rights of the criminals. "The thing is, that`s one of the things you talk about, the Dirty Harry syndrome" he continued. "But then, on the other note ... It will provide that kind of thought."

18TH & M was already in the works when Brooks was enlisted for a year and a half in Iraq. "I actually did the book in my spare time" he remembers. "I would go out every day and spend time with my assigned Iraqis just mentoring and trying to help out become a better, effective police force and root out corruption. I always wanted to write this book."

Brooks` experiences with law and justice have been firsthand, thanks to his 11-year career on the force, which is all more the reason for this book, for cops are his critical audience first and foremost. Still, he understands the anger people feel whenever guilty people go free due to legal technicalities and high-powered, high-priced lawyers, as well as the politics and injustice that go with it.

That may sound like Detroit, right? For instance, you had the notorious former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his story of infidelity, lies, and corruption that has plagued the Motor City in the media, but is Detroit now under CCP: CRIME, CORRUPTION, AND POLITICS?

Brooks, whose wife`s grandmother was born in Detroit, had the opportunity to stay there and visited the Motown Studios, can understand why people would think that way over the last year. "I think a lot of that is hype. When it comes to that," Brooks answers, "I think it`s a lot of hype in the media."

So, the question in 18TH & M: what is the difference between vigilante justice and street justice? "For the most part," Brooks comments, "vigilante justice is carried out by law-abiding people. Street justice is carried out by lawless people. They recognize the fact that it`s wrong."

In other words, the ends never justifies the means -- no matter what we`ve seen on shows like 24, despite being helpless and frustrated with an imperfect system.

"I hope the first thing [for my readers] is enjoyment. I hope they can get a different sense of lawlessness and crime and justice. I hope that when people read, it made them realize that they work together as a community and become a voice" Brooks concludes.