The Police Weren’t Created to ‘Protect and Serve.’ They Were Created to ‘Maintain Order.’ A Brief Look at the History of Police in America

Yves here. Tom mentions in passing the role of Pinkertons as goons for hire to crush early labor activists. Some employers like Ford went as far as forming private armies for that purpose. Establishing police forces were a way to socialize this cost.

By Thomas Neuberger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!

One version of the “thin blue line” flag, a symbol used in a variety of ways by American police departments, their most fervent supporters, and other right-wing fellow travelers. The thin blue line represents the wall of protection that separates the orderly “us” from the disorderly, uncivilized “them”.

[In the 1800s] the police increasingly presented themselves as a thin blue line protecting civilization, by which they meant bourgeois civilization, from the disorder of the working class.
—Sam Mitrani here

It’s a commonplace to say the primary job of police is to “protect and serve,” but that’s not their goal in the way it’s commonly understood — not in the deed, the practice of what they daily do, and not true in the original intention, in why police departments were created in the first place. “Protect and serve” as we understand it is just the cover story.

To understand the true purpose of police, we have to ask, “What’s being protected?” and “Who’s being served?”

Urban police forces in America were created for one purpose — to “maintain order” after a waves of immigrants swept into northern U.S. cities, both from abroad and later from the South, immigrants who threatened to disturb that “order.” The threat wasn’t primarily from crime as we understand it, from violence inflicted by the working poor on the poor or middle class. The threat came from unions, from strikes, and from the suffering, the misery and the anger caused by the rise of rapacious capitalism.

What’s being protected? The social order that feeds the wealthy at the expense of the working poor. Who’s being served? Owners, their property, and the sources of their wealth, the orderly and uninterrupted running of their factories. The goal of police departments, as originally constituted, was to keep the workers in line, in their jobs, and off the streets.

Looking Behind Us

The following comes from an essay published at the blog of the Labor and Working-Class History Association, an academic group for teachers of labor studies, by Sam Mitrani, Associate Professor of History at the College of DuPage and author of The Rise of the Chicago Police Department: Class and Conflict, 1850-1894.

According to Mitrani, “The police were not created to protect and serve the population. They were not created to stop crime, at least not as most people understand it. And they were certainly not created to promote justice. They were created to protect the new form of wage-labor capitalism that emerged in the mid to late nineteenth century from the threat posed by that system’s offspring, the working class.”

Keep in mind that there were no police departments anywhere in Europe or the U.S. prior to the 19th century — in fact, “anywhere in the world” according to Mitrani. In the U.S., the North had constables, many part-time, and elected sheriffs, while the South had slave patrols. But nascent capitalism soon created a large working class, and a mass of European immigrants, “yearning to be free,” ended up working in capitalism’s northern factories and living in its cities.

“[A]s Northern cities grew and filled with mostly immigrant wage workers who were physically and socially separated from the ruling class, the wealthy elite who ran the various municipal governments hired hundreds and then thousands of armed men to impose order on the new working class neighborhoods.” [emphasis added]

America of the early and mid 1800s was still a world without organized police departments. What the Pinkertons were to strikes, these “thousands of armed men” were to the unruly working poor in those cities.

Imagine this situation from two angles. First, from the standpoint of the workers, picture the oppression these armed men must have represented, lawless themselves yet tasked with imposing “order” and violence on the poor and miserable, who were frequently and understandably both angry and drunk. (Pre-Depression drunkenness, under this interpretation, is not just a social phenomenon, but a political one as well.)

Second, consider this situation from the standpoint of the wealthy who hired these men. Given the rapid growth of capitalism during this period, “maintaining order” was a costly undertaking, and likely to become costlier. Pinkertons, for example, were hired at private expense, as were the “thousands of armed men” Mitrani mentions above.

The solution was to offload this burden onto municipal budgets. Thus, between 1840 and 1880, every major northern city in America had created a substantial police force, tasked with a single job, the one originally performed by the armed men paid by the business elites — to keep the workers in line, to “maintain order” as factory owners and the moneyed class understood it.

“Class conflict roiled late nineteenth century American cities like Chicago, which experienced major strikes and riots in 1867, 1877, 1886, and 1894. In each of these upheavals, the police attacked strikers with extreme violence, even if in 1877 and 1894 the U.S. Army played a bigger role in ultimately repressing the working class. In the aftermath of these movements, the police increasingly presented themselves as a thin blue line protecting civilization, by which they meant bourgeois civilization, from the disorder of the working class. This ideology of order that developed in the late nineteenth century echoes down to today – except that today, poor black and Latino people are the main threat, rather than immigrant workers.”

That “thin blue line protecting civilization” is the same blue line we’re witnessing today. Yes, big-city police are culturally racist as a group; but they’re not just racist. They dislike all the “unwashed.” A recent study that reviewed “all the data available on police shootings for the year 2017, and analyze[d] it based on geography, income, and poverty levels, as well as race” revealed the following remarkable pattern:

Police violence is focused overwhelmingly on men lowest on the socio-economic ladder: in rural areas outside the South, predominately white men; in the Southwest, disproportionately Hispanic men; in mid-size and major cities, disproportionately black men. Significantly, in the rural South, where the population is racially mixed, white men and black men are killed by police at nearly identical rates.”

As they have always been, the police departments in the U.S. are a violent force for maintaining an order that separates and protects society’s predator class from its victims — a racist order to be sure, but a class-based order as well.

Looking Ahead

We’ve seen the violence of the police as visited on society’s urban poor (and anyone else, poor or not, who happens to be the same race and color as the poor too often are), and we’ve witnessed the violent reactions of police to mass protests challenging the racism of that violence.

But we’ve also seen the violence of police during the mainly white-led Occupy movement (one instance here; note that while the officer involved was fired, he was also compensated $38,000 for “suffering he experienced after the incident”).

So what could we expect from police if there were, say, a national, angry, multiracial rent strike with demonstrations? Or a student debt strike? None of these possibilities are off the table, given the economic damage — most of it still unrealized — caused by the current Covid crisis.

Will police “protect and serve” the protesters, victims of the latest massive transfer of wealth to the already massively wealthy? Or will they, with violence, “maintain order” by maintaining elite control of the current predatory system?

If Mitrani is right, the latter is almost certain.

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46 comments

  1. MK

    Possible solutions? One, universal public works system for everyone 18-20. [Avoiding armed service because that will never happen, nor peace corp.] Not allow the rich to buy then or their children an out. Let the billionaires children work along side those who never had a single family house or car growing up.

    Two, eliminate suburban school districts and simply have one per state, broken down into regional areas. No rich [or white] flight to avoid poor systems. Children of differing means growing up side by side. Of course the upper class would simply send their children to private schools, much as the elite do now anyway.

    Class and privilege is the real underlying issue and has been since capital began to be concentrated and hoarded as the article points out. It has to begin with the children if the future is to really change in a meaningful way.

    Reply
    1. timbers

      I would add items targeted as what is causing inequality. Some of these might be:

      1). Abolish the Federal Reserve. It’s current action since 2008 are a huge transfer of wealth from us to the wealthy. No more Quantitative Easing, no Fed buying of stocks or bonds.

      2). Make the only retirement and medical program allowed Congress and the President, Social Security and Medicare. That will cause it to be improved for all of us.

      3). No stock ownership allowed for Congress folk while serving terms. Also, rules against joining those leaving Congress acting as lobbyists.

      4). Something that makes it an iron rule that any law passed by Congress and the President, must equally apply to Congress and the President. For example, no separate retirement or healthcare access, but have this more broadly applied to all aspects of legislation and all aspects of life.

      Reply
      1. MLTPB

        Abolish the Fed and/or abolish the police?

        Inbetween, there is

        Defund Wall Street
        Abolish banking
        Abolish lending
        Abolish cash
        Defund fossil fuel subsidies

        Etc.

        Broader, more on the economic side, and perhaps more fundamental???

        Reply
    2. TiPs

      I think you’d also have to legalize drugs and any other thing that leads creation of “organized ciminal groups.” Take away the sources that lead to the creation of the well-armed gangs that control illegal activities.

      Reply
      1. David

        Unfortunately, legalising drugs in itself, whatever the abstract merits, wouldn’t solve the problem. Organised crime would still have a major market selling cut-price, tax-free or imitation drugs, as well, of course, as controlled drugs which are not allowed to be sold to just anybody now. Organised crime doesn’t arise as a result of prohibitions, it expands into new areas thanks to them, and often these areas involve smuggling and evading customs duties. Tobacco products are legal virtually everywhere, but there’s a massive criminal trade in smuggling them from the Balkans into Italy, where taxes are much higher. Any time you create a border, in effect, you create crime: there is even alcohol smuggling between Sweden and Norway. Even when activities are completely legal (such as prostitution in many European countries) organised crime is still largely in control through protection rackets and the provision of “security.”

        In effect, you’d need to abolish all borders, all import and customs duties and all health and safety and other controls which create price differentials between states. And OC is not fussy, it moves from one racket to another, as the Mafia did in the 1930s with the end of prohibition. To really tackle OC you’d need to legalise, oh, child pornography, human trafficking, sex slavery, the trade in rare wild animals, the trade in stolen gems and conflict diamonds, internet fraud and cyberattacks, and the illicit trade in rare metals, to name, as they say, but a few. As Monty Python well observed, the only way to reduce the crime rate (and hence the need for the police) is to reduce the number of criminal offences. Mind you, if you defund the police you effectively legalise all these things anyway.

        Reply
        1. km

          I dunno, ending Prohibition sure cut down on the market for bootleg liquor. It’s still out there, but the market is nothing like what it once was.

          Most people, even hardcore alcoholics, aren’t going to go through the hassle of buying rotgut of dubious origin just to save a few dimes, when you can go to the corner liquor store and get a known product, no issues with supply ’cause your dealer’s supplier just got arrested.

          For that matter, OC is still definitely out there, but it isn’t the force that it was during Prohibition, or when gambling was illegal.

          As an aside, years ago, I knew a guy whose father had worked for Meyer Lansky’s outfit, until Prohibition put him and others out of a job. As a token of his loyal service, the outfit gave him a (legal) liquor store to own and run.

          Reply
          1. David

            Yes, but in Norway, for example, you’d pay perhaps $30 for a six-pack of beer in a supermarket, whereas you’d pay half that to somebody selling beers out of the back of a car. In general people make too much of the Prohibition case, which was geographically and politically very special, and a a stage in history when OC was much less sophisticated. The Mob diversified into gambling and similar industries (higher profits, fewer risks). These days OC as a whole is much more powerful and dangerous, as well as sophisticated, than it was then, helped by globalisation and the Internet.

            Reply
        2. rob

          I think ending prohibitions on substances, would take quite a bite out of OC’s pocketbook. and having someone move trailers of ciggarettes of bottles of beer… big deal. That isn’t really paying for the lifestyle.and it doesn’t buy political protection. An old number I saw @ 2000…. the UN figured(guess) that illegal drugs were @ 600 billion dollars/year industry… and most of that was being laundered though banks. Which to the banking industry is 600 billion in cash… going into it’s house of mirrors. Taking something like that out of the equation EVERY YEAR is no small thing. And the lobby from the OC who wants drugs kept illegal, coupled with the bankers who want the cash inputs… equals a community of interest against legalization…
          and if the local police forces and the interstate/internationals were actually looking to use their smaller budgets and non-bill of rights infringing tactics, on helping the victim side of crimes… then they could have a real mission/ Instead of just abusing otherwise innocent people who victimize no one.
          so if we are looking for “low hanging fruit”…. ending the war on drugs is a no brainer.

          Reply
        3. mpalomar

          The rejoinder to the estimable Pythion insight, “the only way to reduce the crime rate (and hence the need for the police) is to reduce the number of criminal offences,” is from Tacitus and others, “the more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.”

          High liquor and tobacco taxes for countries with national health plans are understandable, if not wise public health policy. Whether they are as efficient and cost effective as education and social engineering is mooted.

          Creating a niche for criminal enterprise by raising sin taxes to the point that they engender a host of other societal problems can not be dismissed out of hand.

          Norway has the second highest liquor tax in Europe. Smuggling alcohol and cigarettes in the US across state borders due to arbitrage in taxation was mythologised by Hollywood in film including the Robert Mitchum vehicle ‘Thunder Road’.

          Prohibition may not have engendered criminal enterprise but it greatly exacerbated it and taxation at levels like Norway’s on alcohol probably has a similar effect.

          Reply
          1. Left in Wisconsin

            Yes, shouldn’t we be proposing a massive reduction in the number of criminal offenses? It seems the most obvious way to diminish the presence of police in our lives. And so much of the crime/prison system arises from giving cops a huge number of petty crimes with which to begin the terrorization of people and whole communities.

            Reply
    3. Steve

      I wonder if you have ever researched the outcome of children of differing means growing up side by side in poor school districts? I lived it first hand and no I would not put my children in that situation if I could possibly afford to do so. Why? Simple really. The children of families of low means did not raise their children to have aspirations for more in the vast majority of cases. It was disturbing. In some cases the parents did not want their children to achieve. Very disheartening!
      Children of low means who were “bookish” or highly intelligent were the butt of jokes, outcast and deliberately bullied. Solve that cultural expectation problem first my friend. Then consider the merit of of your social experiment.

      Reply
      1. Basil Pesto

        I wonder if you have ever researched the outcome of children of differing means growing up side by side in poor school districts?

        I wonder if you have, Steve. The plural of anecdote is not data.

        Reply
  2. flora

    Thanks for this post.

    “What’s being protected? The social order that feeds the wealthy at the expense of the working poor. ” – Neuberger

    In the aftermath of these movements, the police increasingly presented themselves as a thin blue line protecting civilization, by which they meant bourgeois civilization, from the disorder of the working class. – Mitrani

    I think this ties in, if only indirectly, with the way so many peaceful recent protests seemed to turn violent after the police showed up. It’s possible I suppose the police want to create disorder to frighten not only the protestors with immediate harm but also frighten the bourgeois about the threate of a “dangerous mob”. Historically violent protests created a political backlash that usually benefited political conservatives and the wealthy owners. (The current protests may be different in this regard. The violence seems to have created a political backlash against conservatives and overzealous police departments’ violence. ) My 2 cents.

    Reply
  3. John Anthony La Pietra

    Sorry, but the title sent my mind back to the days of old — of old Daley, that is, and his immortal quote from 1968: “Gentlemen, let’s get the thing straight, once and for all. The policeman isn’t there to create disorder; the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”

    Reply
    1. Adam1

      LOL!!! great quote. Talk about saying it the way it is.

      It kind of goes along with, “Police violence is focused overwhelmingly on men lowest on the socio-economic ladder: in rural areas outside the South, predominately white men; in the Southwest, disproportionately Hispanic men; in mid-size and major cities, disproportionately black men. Significantly, in the rural South, where the population is racially mixed, white men and black men are killed by police at nearly identical rates.”

      I bang my head on the table sometimes because poor white men and poor men of color are so often placed at odds when they increasingly face (mostly) the same problems. God forbid someone tried to unite them, there might really be some pearl clutching then.

      Reply
      1. rob

        yeah, like Martin Luther King’s “poor people’s campaign”. the thought of including the poor ,of all colors….. just too much for the status quo to stomach.
        The “mechanism” that keeps masses in line…. is one of those “invisible hands” too.

        Reply
      2. run75441

        Great response! I am sure you have more to add to this. A while back, I was researching the issues you state in your last paragraph. Was about ten pages into it and had to stop as I was drawn out of state and country. From my research.

        While not as overt in the 20th century, the distinction of black slave versus poor white man has kept the class system alive and well in the US in the development of a discriminatory informal caste system. This distraction of a class level lower than the poorest of the white has kept them from concentrating on the disproportionate, and growing, distribution of wealth and income in the US. For the lower class, an allowed luxury, a place in the hierarchy and a sure form of self esteem insurance.

        Sennett and Cobb (1972) observed that class distinction sets up a contest between upper and lower class with the lower social class always losing and promulgating a perception amongst themselves the educated and upper classes are in a position to judge and draw a conclusion of them being less than equal. The hidden injury is in the regard to the person perceiving himself as a piece of the woodwork or seen as a function such as “George the Porter.” It was not the status or material wealth causing the harsh feelings; but, the feeling of being treated less than equal, having little status, and the resulting shame. The answer for many was violence.

        James Gilligan wrote “Violence; Reflections on A National Epidemic.” He worked as a prison psychiatrist and talked with many of the inmates of the issues of inequality and feeling less than those around them. His finding are in his book which is not a long read and adds to the discussion.

        A little John Adams for you.

        The poor man’s conscience is clear . . . he does not feel guilty and has no reason to . . . yet, he is ashamed. Mankind takes no notice of him. He rambles unheeded.

        In the midst of a crowd; at a church; in the market . . . he is in as much obscurity as he would be in a garret or a cellar.

        He is not disapproved, censured, or reproached; he is not seen . . . To be wholly overlooked, and to know it, are intolerable.”

        Reply
        1. likbez

          That’s a very important observation.

          Racism, especially directed toward blacks, along with “identity wedge,” is a perfect tool for disarming poor white, and suppressing their struggle for a better standard of living, which considerably dropped under neoliberalism.

          In other words, by providing poor whites with a stratum of the population that has even lower social status, neoliberals manage to co-opt them to support the policies which economically ate detrimental to their standard of living as well as to suppress the protest against the redistribution of wealth up and dismantling of the New Deal capitalist social protection network.

          This is a pretty sophisticated, pretty evil scheme if you ask me. In a way, “Floydgate” can be viewed as a variation on the same theme. A very dirty game indeed, when the issue of provision of meaningful jobs for working poor, social equality, and social protection for low-income workers of any color is replaced with a real but of secondary importance issue of police violence against blacks.

          This is another way to explain “What’s the matter with Kansas” effect.

          Reply
        2. John Anthony La Pietra

          I like that one! — and I have to admit it’s not familiar to me, though I’ve been a fan since before I got to play him in a neighboring community theater. Now I’m having some difficulty finding it. Where is it from, may I ask?

          Reply
            1. John Anthony La Pietra

              Thank you again! (Ah — the “Discourses on Davila” . . . haven’t gotten through those yet.)

              Reply
      3. Carla

        MLK Jr. tried, and look what happened to him once he really got some traction. If the Rev. William Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign picks up steam, I’m afraid the same thing will happen to him.

        I wish it were only pearl-clutching that the money power would resort to, but that’s not the way it works.

        Reply
    2. JacobiteInTraining

      Yeah – that quote struck me too, never seen it before. At times when they feel so liberated to ‘say the quiet part out loud’, then as now, you know the glove is coming off…and the vicious mailed fist is free to roam for victims.

      Those times are where you know you need to resist or….well, die in many cases.

      That’s something that really gets me in public response to many of these things. The normal instinct of the populace to wake from their somnambulant slumber just long enough to ascribe to buffoonery and idiocy ala Keystone Cops the things so much better understood as fully consciously and purposefully repressive, reactionary, and indicating a desire to take that next step to crush fully. To obliterate.

      Many responses to this – https://twitter.com/oneunderscore__/status/1273809160128389120 – are like, ‘the police are dumb’, ‘out of touch’, ‘a lot of dumb gomer pyles in that room, yuk yuk yuk’. Or, ‘cops/FBI are so dumb to pursue this antifa thing, its just a boogieman’…thinking that somehow once the authorities realize ‘antifa’ is a boogieman, their attitudes towards other protesters will somehow be different ‘now that they realize the silliness of the claims’.

      No, not remotely the case – to a terrifyingly large percentage of those in command, and in rank & file…they know exactly where it came from, exactly how the tactics work, and have every intention of classifying all protesters (peaceful or not) into that worldview. The peaceful protesters *are* antifa in their eyes, to be dealt with in the fully approved manner of violence and repression.

      Reply
    3. km

      In most countries, the police are there solely to protect the Haves from the Have-Nots. In fact, when the average frustrated citizen has trouble, the last people he would consider turning to are the police.

      This is why in the Third World, the only job of lower social standing than “policeman” is “police informer”.

      Reply
  4. cripes

    The anti-rascist identity of the recent protests rests on a much larger base of class warfare waged over the past 40 years against the entire population led by a determined oligarchy and enforced by their political, media and militarized police retainers. This same oligarchy, with a despicable zeal and revolting media-orchestrated campaign–co-branding the movement with it’s usual corporate perpetrators– distorts escalating carceral and economic violence solely through a lens of racial conflict and their time-tested toothless reforms. A few unlucky “peace officers” may have to TOFTT until the furor recedes, can’t be helped.

    Crowding out debt relief, single payer health, living wages, affordable housing and actual justice reform from the debate that would benefit African Americans more than any other demographic is the goal.

    The handful of Emperors far prefer kabuki theater and random ritual Seppuku than facing the rage of millions of staring down the barrel of zero income, debt, bankruptcy, evictions and dispossession. The Praetorians will follow the money as always.

    I suppose we’ll get some boulevards re-named and a paid Juneteenth holiday to compensate for the destruction 100+ years of labor rights struggle, so there’s that..

    Reply
  5. Boatwright

    Homestead, Ludlow, Haymarket, Matewan — the list is long……

    Working men and women asking for justice gunned down by the cops. There will always be men ready to murder on command as long as the orders come from the rich and powerful. We are at a moment in history folks were some of us, today mostly people of color, are willing to put their lives on the line. It’s an ongoing struggle.

    Reply
  6. rob

    So how can a tier of society(the police)…. be what a society needs…?
    When as this story and many others show how and why the police were formed…. to break heads.
    When they have been “the tool” of the elite…forever.
    when so many of them are such dishonest,immoral ,wanna be fascists.
    and the main direction of the US is towards a police state and fascists running the show…. both republican and democrat. With technology being the boot on the neck of the people… and the police are there to take it to the streets.
    Can those elusive “good apples” turn the whole rotten barrel into sweet smelling apple pie? That is a big ask.
    Or should the structure be liquidated, sell their army toys. fill the ranks with people who are not pathological liars and abusers and /or racists; of one sort or another. Get rid of the mentality of overcompensation by uber machismo. and make them watch the andy griffith show. They ought to learn that they can be respected if they are good people, and that they are not respected because they seek respect through fear and intimidation.
    Is that idiot cry of theirs, .. the whole yelling at you; demanding absolute obedience to arbitrary ,assinine orders, really working to get them respect… or is it just something they get off on?
    When the police are shown to be bad, they strike by work slowdown, or letting a little chaos loose themselves. So the people know they need them… So any reform of the police will go through the police not doing their jobs…. but then something like better communities may result. less people being busted and harassed , or pulled over for the sake of a quota…. may just show we don’t need so much policing anyway. And then if the new social workers brigade starts intervening in peoples with issues when they are young and in school … maybe fewer will be in the system. Couple that with the police not throwing their family in jail for nothing, and forcing them to pay fines for breaking stupid laws. The system will have less of a load, and the new , better cops without attitudes will be able to handle their communities in a way that works for everyone. Making them a net positive, as opposed to now where they are a net negative.
    Also,

    The drug war is over.
    The cops have only done the bidding of the organized criminal elements who make their bread and butter because of prohibition.
    our representatives can legally smoke pot , and grow it in their windowboxes in the capital dc., but people in many places are still living in fear of police using possession of some substance,as a pretext to take all their stuff,throw them in jail.
    but besides the cops, there are the prosecutors…. they earn their salaries by stealing it from poor people through fines for things that ought to be legal. This is one way to drain money from poor communities, causing people to go steal from others in society to pay their court costs.
    and who is gonna come and bust down your door… when you can’t pay a fine and choose to pay rent and buy your kids food instead…. the cops. just doing their jobs..
    Evil is the banality of business as usual

    Reply
  7. Tom Stone

    The late Kevin R C O’Brien noted that in every case where the Police had been ordered to “Round up the usual suspects” they have done so, and delivered them where ordered.
    It did not matter who the “Usual suspects” were, or to what fate they were to be delivered.
    They are the King’s men and they do the King’s bidding.

    Reply
  8. The Rev Kev

    To have a reasonable discussion, I think that it should be recognized that modern police are but one leg of a triad. The first of course is the police who appear to seem themselves as not part of a community but as enforcers in that community. To swipe an idea from Mao, the police should move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea. Not be a patrolling shark that attacks who they want at will knowing that there will be no repercussions against them. When you get to the point that you have police arresting children in school for infractions of school discipline – giving them a police record – you know that things have gotten out of hand.

    The next leg is the courts which of course includes prosecutors. It is my understanding that prosecutors are elected to office in the US and so have incentives to appear to be tough on crime”” . They seem to operate more like ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ from what I have read. When they tell some kid that he has a choice of 1,000 years in prison on trumped up charges or pleads guilty to a smaller offence, you know that that is not justice at work. Judges too operate in their own world and will always take the word of a policeman as a witness.

    And the third leg is the prisons which operate as sweatshops for corporate America. It is in the interest of the police and the courts to fill up the prisons to overflowing. Anybody remember the Pennsylvania “kids for cash” scandal where kids lives were being ruined with criminal records that were bogus so that some people could make a profit? And what sort of prison system is it where a private contractor can build a prison without a contract at all, knowing that the government (California in this case) will nonetheless fill it up for a good profit.

    In short, in sorting out police doctrine and methods like is happening now, it should be recognized that they are actually only the face of a set of problems.

    Reply
    1. MLTPB

      How did ancient states police?

      Perhaps Wiki is a starting point of this journey…

      Per Its entry, Police, in ancient Greece, policing was done by public owned slaves.

      In Rome, the army, initially.

      In China, prefects…leading to a level of government called prefectures .

      Reply
  9. Pookah Harvey

    I spent some time in the Silver Valley of northern Idaho. This area was the hot bed of labor unrest during the 1890’s. Federal troops controlled the area 3 separate times,1892, 1894 and 1899. Twice miners hijacked trains loaded them with dynamite and drove them to mining company stamping mills that they then blew up. Dozens of deaths in shoot outs. The entire male population was herded up and placed in concentration camps for weeks. The end result was the assassination of the Governor in 1905.
    Interestingly this history has been completely expunged. There is a mining museum in the town which doesn’t mention a word on these events. Even nationwide there seems to be a complete erasure of what real labor unrest can look like..

    Reply
    1. rob

      Yeah, labor unrest does get swept under the rug.
      Howard zinn had examples in his works “the peoples history of the United States”
      The pictched battles in upstate new york with the Van Rennselear’s in the 1840’s breaking up rennselearwyk…. the million acre estate of theirs . it was a rent strike.
      people remembering , we have been here before doesn’t help the case of the establishment… so they try to not let it happen.
      We get experts telling us…. well, this is all new… we need experts… to tell you… what to think.
      It is like watching the footage from the past 100 years on film of blacks marching for their rights… and being told.. reform is coming.. the more things change, the more things stay the same. decade after decade.century after century…
      time to start figuring this out people.
      so, the enemy is us….
      now what?

      Reply
    2. The Rev Kev

      That is a remarkable story that ending in martial law. You won’t see Hollywood making a film about that incident. You’d sooner see a film about the Wall Street bombing of the 1920s first.

      Reply
  10. Carolinian

    Doubtless the facts presented above are correct, but shouldn’t one point out that the 21st century is quite different from the 19th and therefore analogizing the current situation to what went on before is quite facile? For example it’s no longer necessary for the police to put down strikes because strike actions barely still exist. In our current US the working class has diminished greatly while the middle class has expanded. We are a much richer country overall with a lot more people–not just those one percenters–concerned about crime. Whatever one thinks of the police, politically an attempt to go back to the 18th century isn’t going to fly.

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    1. Pookah Harvey

      ” the 21st century is quite different from the 19th ”
      From the Guardian

      “How Starbucks, Target, Google and Microsoft quietly fund police through private donations”

      More than 25 large corporations in the past three years have contributed funding to private police foundations, new report says.

      These foundations receive millions of dollars a year from private and corporate donors, according to the report, and are able to use the funds to purchase equipment and weapons with little public input. The analysis notes, for example, how the Los Angeles police department in 2007 used foundation funding to purchase surveillance software from controversial technology firm Palantir. Buying the technology with private foundation funding rather than its public budget allowed the department to bypass requirements to hold public meetings and gain approval from the city council.

      The Houston police foundation has purchased for the local police department a variety of equipment, including Swat equipment, sound equipment and dogs for the K-9 unit, according to the report. The Philadelphia police foundation purchased for its police force long guns, drones and ballistic helmets, and the Atlanta police foundation helped fund a major surveillance network of over 12,000 cameras.

      In addition to weaponry, foundation funding can also go toward specialized training and support programs that complement the department’s policing strategies, according to one police foundation.

      “Not a lot of people are aware of this public-private partnership where corporations and wealthy donors are able to siphon money into police forces with little to no oversight,” said Gin Armstrong, a senior research analyst at LittleSis.

      Maybe it is just me, but things don’t seem to be all that different.

      Reply
    2. rob

      While it is true, this is a new century.
      knowing how the present came to be, is entirely necessary to be able to attempt any move forward.
      The likelihood of making the same old mistakes is almost certain, if one doesn’t try to use the past as a reference.
      And considering the effect of propaganda and revisionism in the formation of peoples opinions, we do need ” learning against learning” to borrow a Jesuit strategy against the reformation, but this time it should embrace reality, rather than sow falsehoods.
      But I do agree,
      We have never been here before, and now is a great time to reset everything. With all due respect to “getting it right” or at least “better”.
      and knowing the false fables of righteousness, is what people need to know, before they go about “burning down the house”.

      Reply
      1. Carolinian

        You know it’s not as though white people aren’t also afraid of the police. Alfred Hitchcock said he was deathly afraid of police and that paranoia informed many of his movies. Woody Allen has a funny scene in Annie Hall where he is pulled over by a cop and is comically flustered. White people also get shot and killed by the police as the rightwingers are constantly pointing out.

        And thousands of people in the streets tell us that police reform is necessary. But the country is not going to get rid of them and replace police with social workers so why even talk about it? I’d say the above is interesting….not terribly relevant.

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        1. rob

          I agree that alot of white people don’t want ANY contact with the police either. I am one of them. The police in general are rude and aggressive to everyone. I would generally say they are a-holes…but trying not to include my own “meetings” with the cops… all have been anecdotes of other police “fails”.
          I actually was trying to be race -non-specific…. which is why I think there is a lot of room for improvement in policing.
          WE all have gripes about the police. It is just that now, I wouldn’t pretend my worries are greater than someone who wears their color of skin around. I would have to open my mouth first before they realized they didn’t like me.
          I also wouldn’t think that replacing police with social workers alone is the issue.
          It is not allowing the police to routinely violate the 4th amendment as a matter of course.That is why we need to end the drug war, because it is the first excuse cops use to “look for something”… that doesn’t really matter anyway. and it brings people into the system, who don’t belong there.And the people who need help with their substance issues should be able to reach out without fear of incarceration or penalties. again , social workers….
          i would say that one thing to do is to get ALL police officers/sheriffs out of the schools.We should make sure schools have an assistant principle on the grounds every day for discipline issues, rather than having someone who lets every little issue possibly become an “infraction”… that is written up by someone who can bring you into the criminal system with the stroke of a pen; by just doing their job. An asst. principle isn’t a social worker ,per se; but close enough for this piece of the pie.
          and the ratcheting down of budgets have forced many with mental issues to be “handled” by the police… again.. another instance to get the cops out… of the mental health business.
          And right now, I consider all cops to be members of a “gang”. A gang, who I don’t like. And would not help. This type of dislocation from otherwise “non-criminal” citizens makes them less effective. They have ostracized themselves from large sections of the population, and that doesn’t really help anyone..
          All of this in the 21st century, because we as a society would create police, if there was nothing there. We just have the ability to see how it was mishandled in the past. We don’t have to limit ourselves to what has been.just because.

          Reply
  11. Mattski

    Straight-up fact: The police weren’t created to preserve and protect. They were created to maintain order, over certain subjected classes and races of people, including–for many white people, too–many of our ancestors, too.*

    And the question that arises from this: Are we willing to the subjects in a police state? Are we willing to continue to let our Black and brown brothers and sisters be subjected BY such a police state, and to half-wittingly be party TO it?

    Or do we want to exercise AGENCY over “our” government(s), and decide–anew–how we go out our vast, vast array of social ills.

    Obviously, armed police officers with an average of six months training–almost all from the white underclass–are a pretty f*cking blunt instrument to bring to bear.

    On our own heads. On those who we and history have consigned to second-class citizenship.
    Warning: this is a revolutionary situation. We should embrace it.

    *Acceding to white supremacy, becoming “white” and often joining that police order, if you were poor, was the road out of such subjectivity. My grandfather’s father, for example, was said to have fled a failed revolution in Bohemia to come here. Look back through history, you will find plenty of reason to feel solidarity, too. Race alone cannot divide us if we are intent on the lessons of that history.

    Reply
  12. Susan the other

    It’s a good argument for keeping business small and evenly distributed. Promote the distribution of small enterprises all around the countryside and it’ll be a preventative against mergers and monopolies and giant corporations. Legislate for small business everywhere. When mega corporations turn into godzilla they are no longer efficient. They just tweak the statistics to imply that they are making such a profit that that means they are efficient. Maybe their robots are. Maybe their security forces are. But rapacious capitalism is almost comical, if not pathetic, when there is nothing left to rape. Which is where we now find ourselves. They’ve been allowed to evolve into private monopolies and have sucked the life out of the rest of the economy because they provide no employment, no training, no health care, no responsible maintenance for themselves; they set up tax havens, etc. And they produce way too much crap. We need far less consumption to save the planet. If we need monopolies to create equal distribution let them be state-owned monopolies. States do a good job. I’m thinking here of the State owned liquor stores in Utah. Even tho’ it’d be nice to buy wine in the grocery store, the state does a good job of supplying booze at a good price. (They are in the process now of setting up marijuana stores. Yes, Utah.) And they hire lotsa people. And they generate a nice tax revenue. I think medical care should be the same way – but on a national scale. This way we don’t need to bludgeon the poor. Until we can turn things around, we need to give the poor a state owned and controlled place to live – commonly thought of as a house. We’re gonna need to do food stamps too. If we must put up with private enterprise at the expense of public welfare, just so that we keep a certain optimism toward “free enterprise” and keep it nurtured because: sometimes a great notion, then let’s restrict it from becoming a plague. But let’s not kill capitalism just because it almost killed society. Let’s remake it. As it is now it’s just dragging itself around like a cave troll. It is no longer fit for purpose.

    Reply
  13. K teh

    Protect and serve MMT to the 10%. And no, the answer can not be give MMT to everyone and complain about automation replacing the population. Also, slavery is not a white issue; it’s a control issue, going back to Africa, which is once again being pumped with debt.

    Looking at how the term redneck was twisted to serve it’s current function is revealing. Fear, insecurity, control. Educate your own.

    Reply
  14. sierra7

    De-militarize the police…..
    No tear gas
    No rubber bullets
    No pepper spray
    No pepper bullets
    No more police cars “patrolling”
    Get the police out of their cars and on “beats” like decades ago.
    Police must live within the communities they oversee.
    Stop the “20 years and out” policies.
    It is more dangerous to be a coal miner than a policeman in America.
    That might be a start……
    But, to begin we must start to kick out the corrupt politicians…….

    Reply

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