From the Polk Award–winning investigative duo comes a critical look at the systematic corruption and brutality within the Oakland Police Department, and the more than two-decades-long saga of attempted reforms and explosive scandals.
No municipality has been under court oversight to reform its police department as long as the city of Oakland. It is, quite simply, the edge case in American law enforcement.
The Riders Come Out at Night is the culmination of over twenty-one years of fearless reporting. Ali Winston and Darwin BondGraham shine a light on the jackbooted police culture, lack of political will, and misguided leadership that have conspired to stymie meaningful reform. The authors trace the history of Oakland since its inception through the lens of the city’s police department, through the Palmer Raids, McCarthyism, and the Civil Rights struggle, the Black Panthers and crack eras, to Oakland’s present-day revival.
Readers will be introduced to a group of sadistic cops known as “The Riders,” whose disregard for the oath they took to protect and serve is on full, tragic, infuriating display. They will also meet Keith Batt, a wide-eyed rookie cop turned whistleblower, who was unwittingly partnered with the leader of the Riders. Other compelling characters include Jim Chanin and John Burris, two civil rights attorneys determined to see reform through, in spite of all obstacles. And Oakland’s deep history of law enforcement corruption, reactionary politics, and social movement organizing is retold through historical figures like Black Panther Huey Newton, drug kingpin Felix Mitchell, district attorney and future Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, and Mayor Jerry Brown.
The Riders Come Out at Night is the story of one city and its police department, but it’s also the story of American policing—and where it’s headed.
About the Author
Ali Winston is an independent reporter covering criminal justice, privacy, and surveillance. His work has been rewarded with several awards, including the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. Ali is a graduate of the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in New York. You can follow him on Twitter @AWinston.
Darwin BondGraham has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was an enterprise reporter for the East Bay Express. BondGraham’s work has also appeared with ProPublica and other leading national and local outlets. He holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He lives in Oakland, California. You can follow him on Twitter @DarwinBondGraha.
“Devastating and illuminating. Winston and BondGraham chronicle, in excruciating detail, just how extraordinary the injustice must become before the arc finally begins to bend the other way. It’s an effort worthy of immense recognition —let the Pulitzer Prize buzz commence.”—San Francisco Chronicle
"As thrilling as the best noir fiction, The Riders Come Out at Night lays bare the horrors of police brutality with careful and unflinching courage. It stands to inform one of America’s most urgent debates, providing insight into the culture of a police department in freefall." —Whiting Foundation, 2021 Creative Nonfiction Grant Jury
“A culture of corruption and violence keeps flourishing despite repeated good faith efforts to stop the bad apples, who continue to show up, generation after generation, to spoil the barrel. And yet the authors make a case for civilian oversight by presenting civilians—civil rights lawyers, community activists, grieving parents of those killed by police—as the heroes of their stories. Winston and BondGraham treat episodes with a granularity that is a strength of the book. The opportunism and hypocrisy are often galling if not surprising, but the authors break newer ground by chronicling what happened after the [federal] monitor came in. Every city contemplating the future of its police force could use a book like this.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Two of the best police reporters in Oakland’s recent history have put together a meticulously researched and enraging account of a police force rotten to its core. The Riders Come Out at Night is a poignant illustration of an undeniable fact: that the problem with policing in America isn’t just about crooked cops. The problem is with the police departments themselves.” —Shane Bauer, New York Times bestselling author of American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment
"A fiercely argued case that the police can’t be trusted to police themselves—and that such policing is essential." —Kirkus Reviews
"In this spell-binding expose, crack investigative journalists Winston and BondGraham uncover the malign collusion between segregation, police corruption, and gentrification in the Jerry Brown era. A stunner." —Mike Davis, recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and author of Set the Night on Fire and City of Quartz
"Ali Winston and Darwin BondGraham's The Riders Come Out at Night asks national questions through the history of one especially vivid and eventful city. Whether birthing the Black Panther Party, or swinging back and forth between progressive bastion or law-and-order stronghold, Oakland has been at the mercy of policing. This book asks who law enforcement really serves--in Oakland and across America--and if the institution can be reformed."—Elon Green, author of Last Call