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HISTORY OF AMERICAN POLICE

Let’s start here: American policing was built on policing enslaved Black folks; the police system is built to protect and preserve institutions of slavery, racism, and white supremacy. Keep reading for the history.

In 1704, the Carolina Colony formed the first Slave Patrol, designed to keep enslaved Africans and African Americans from running away as well as finding and punishing them if they did. Slave patrols overflowed into the formation of Night Watches as slavery became the backbone of the US economy.

Slave patrols & Night Watches later became police departments.

e.g. New England settlers appointed Indian Constables to police Native Americans. St. Louis police was founded to protect residents from Native Americans. Many Southern Police departments were literally founded as slave patrols.

Policing has preserved the institution of slavery for centuries. Congress’s Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 incentivized law enforcement to capture runaway Black folks. Even after the supposed abolishing of slavery in 1864, Black Codes and the Jim Crow laws quickly formed, designed to keep Black folks enslaved in indentured servitude legally.

Learn more:

TIME Magazine: How the U.S. Got Its Police Force

A Brief History of Slavery and the Origins of American Policing

If you're surprised by how the police are acting, you don't understand US history