In her new book, Vice Patrol: Cops, Courts, and the Struggle over Urban Gay Life before Stonewall, HLS Assistant Professor of Law Anna Lvovsky chronicles the tactics used to criminalize, profile, and suppress gay life from the 1930s through the 1960s, and the surprising controversies those tactics often inspired in court. It shows that the vice squads’ campaigns stood at the center of live debates about not only the law’s treatment of queer people, but also the limits of ethical policing, the authority of experts, and the nature of sexual difference itself—debates that had often unexpected effects on the gay community’s rights and freedoms.

In this conversation with Sandra Susan Smith, Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice at HKS, Professor Lvovsky discusses how this research came about and its relevance for current discussions of police discretion and abuse of power.