Cops, Teachers, Counselors

Stories from the Front Lines of Public Service
Steven Maynard-Moody and Michael Musheno
A penetrating look at how government workers make sense of their work, ascribe identity to the people they encounter, and account for their decisions and actions


Whether on a patrol beat, in social service offices, or in public school classrooms, street-level workers continually confront rules in relation to their own beliefs about the people they encounter. Cops, Teachers, Counselors is the first major study of street-level bureaucracy to rely on storytelling. Steven Maynard-Moody and Michael Musheno collect the stories told by these workers in order to analyze the ways that they ascribe identities to the people they encounter and use these identities to account for their own decisions and actions. The authors show us how the world of street-level work is defined by the competing tensions of law abidance and cultural abidance in a unique study that finally allows cops, teachers, and counselors to voice their own views of their work.

Steven Maynard-Moody is Director of the Policy Research Institute and Professor of Public Administration at the University of Kansas.

Michael Musheno is Professor and Chair in the Department of Criminal Justice Studies at San Francisco State University and Distinguished Affiliated Scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society at the University of California at Berkeley.

Praise / Awards

  • "This is a beautifully written book that allows street-level bureaucrats to speak in their own voices and explain their own work. The authors have listened carefully and with great attention to the drama of everyday decision-making. Their passion to show that street-level workers often go out of their way, put themselves at risk, or bend rules to help their clients goes a long way toward giving these undervalued civil servants the dignity they deserve."
    —Ann Chih Lin, Associate Professor, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, The University of Michigan

  • "Cops, Teachers, Counselors does what too few books about public administration do: bring it to life. Maynard-Moody and Musheno bring us real people, whose stories have the unmistakable ring of truth. A revelatory contribution to the field."
    —Camilla Stivers, Managing Editor, Public Administration Review

  • "It's a pleasure to have these compelling accounts of street-level bureaucrats' interactions with citizens. They present a clear picture of the special logic of decision making in public services, and of the unheralded people who play these crucial roles."
    —Michael Lipsky, Peace and Justice Program, Ford Foundation
  • ". . . the authors show convincingly in story after story how moral judgment informs street-level decision making and they show how good practice is always about going beyond the rules. . . . The prominent role that character judgments play in the book's stories is important because it flies in the face of most modern conceptions of public administration. Whether they emphasize morality or law, contemporary students of government generally think government should attend to what citizens do, not who they are. . . . In the meantime, Cops, Teachers, Counselors has immediate implications for policing. One important (though often underappreciated) theme in recent police literature holds that patrol officers must place behavior in its context to make defensible decisions about what should be done. . . . [T]he authors argue convincingly for the value of storytelling at work as a way of 'heightening moral sensitivity and deepening moral understanding'. "
    Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences

  • ". . . a short, powerful, interpretive account of how street level public workers make judgments and deliver services to clients. The book sets a high standard of scholarly work that shows the value of story-based narrative and analysis. The authors provide the reader with one story after another of how police, teachers, and counselors bring their own views of fairness into their assessment of clients and exercise their discretion, or at times bend and break the rules to do what they believe is right. . . . Interspersed with fascinating stories, the authors bring out theoretical insights that contribute to theories of bureaucracy and public management, policy impacts on citizens, implementation, and the relationship between law and culture. . . . This book has important insights for a number of new and older theoretical perspectives linking policy and democracy, law and culture, the state and its citizens, bureaucratic rules, and case worker discretionary judgments. Street level workers are absolutely central to the important theoretical questions about who gets what from government and how and why policy has such dramatic impacts on citizen perceptions of government and their assessment of themselves as citizens. The book also makes important methodological contributions."
    —Anne L. Schneider, Law and Politics Book Review

  • "If you are going to read a public administration book ... let it be Cops, Teachers, Counselors: Stories from the Front Lines of Public Service. It will challenge your thinking about the field, and you will never forget it."
    PA Times

  • "Not since Lipsky's pioneering work, Street-Level Bureaucracy (1980), has there been such an insightful, thoughtful examination of the important role that street-level bureaucrats play in the public policy process. . . . Cops, Teachers, Counselors is a tremendous piece of scholarship that contributes greatly to the body of work on street-level bureaucrats. It should be required reading for public administration and public policy students, and even for social work and criminal justice students. It is readable, informative, and illuminating. Moreover, it clearly illustrates the invaluable contributions that street-level workers make in our society."
    Public Administration Review

  • ". . . an excellent book. . . . [T]his is a thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis of government through front-line decision making which makes a very useful contribution to the field."
    Social & Legal Studies

  • Winner, Hebert A. Simon Award (APSA), 2005
  • Winner, Hebert A. Simon Award (APSA), 2005

Look Inside

Copyright © 2003, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 216 pages.
  • 5 drawings, 1 table.
Available for sale worldwide

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  • 2009
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  • 978-0-472-02387-5

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