This post picks up where I left off. Let’s dive into chapter 2 “The Police Are Not Here to Protect You”.
Hollywood, in the sixties and seventies, was helping the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) manufacture a professional image for itself in the wake of the 1965 Watts riots. Today, we are awash in police dramas and reality TV shows with a similar ethos and purpose.”
Of course mass media helps to reinforce the narrative. In elementary school, I remember a field trip to the police station. As a white boy, this event worked to indoctrinate me into the idea that the act of policing is something at my disposal. That police officers are available to me to draw down their power.
Right now, how are you explaining the brutality of the police officers actions around the United States? Those images in no way reconcile with the images that have been planted from mass media and our educational system.
It is largely a liberal fantasy that the police exist to protect us from the bad guys. As the veteran police scholar David Bayley argues,
“The police do not prevent crime. This is one of the best kept secrets of modern life. Experts know it, the police know it, but the public does not know it. Yet the police pretend that they are society’s best defense against crime and continually argue that if they are given more resources, especially personnel, they will be able to protect communities against crime. This is a myth.”
When the New York Police Department went on strike, crime went down.
The Liberal View of Policing
[Liberals] want the police to be better trained, more accountable, and less brutal and racist—laudable goals, but they leave intact the basic institutional functions of the police, which have never really been about public safety or crime control.”
The reality is that the police exist primarily as a system for managing and even producing inequality by suppressing social movements and tightly managing the behaviors of poor and nonwhite people: those on the losing end of economic and political arrangements.
To all of my liberal friends. Read the above again. We must do better than ask for what has already been done. We must dismantle a fundamentally flawed systems. The foundation of policing is rotten.
We’re seeing the policing system “suppressing social movements.”
Yesterday the Buffalo Police suspended two police officers. Those two police officers had shoved an elderly man, causing him to stumble and crack open his skill. In response, the 57 other police officers on the Emergency Resposne Team resigned from that team. Those 57 are still police officers receiving full pay.
Those 57 police officers didn’t resign because of the actions of the other 2. They resigned because the other two were suspended.
To “wake up” and realize you will be held to a small modicum of responsibility and accountability must truly be terrifying when you once had (and perhaps still do have) impunity. That moment of “terror” is what I hope to be an awakening of empathy. The very act of policing pits police against other poeple.
As Kristian Williams points out, “The police represent the point of contact between the coercive apparatus of the state and the lives of its citizens.” And they exist to “fabric social order.“
Policing is the physical force that preserves the many systems of inequality.
The Original Police Force
I’m going to refrain from quoting the whole section, becuase I do love history.
The first official police force was instituted by the British to better rule the Irish.
[The work Sir Robert Peel] led eventually to the creation of the Royal Irish Constabulary, which for about a century was the main rural police force in Ireland. It played a central role in maintaining British rule and an oppressive agricultural system dominated by British loyalists, a system that produced widespread poverty, famine, and displacement.
Seriously, read this section. Police have been built on the tenants of anti-labor and pro-capital. Look in these sections to learn hints of others who would be joining in today’s protests.
I’ve long heard of the Protestant work ethic, but this chapter again shined on the Protestant nativist. And how that moral high ground provides goes lock-step with policing.
The formation of police finally made possible the enforcement of vice laws.
These morality laws both gave the state greater power to intervene in the social lives of the new immigrants and opened the door to widespread corruption.
These early forms of policing were corrupt as hell.
Enter reform. And new models.
From the Philippines to Pennsylvania
To break labor and suppress worker movements politicians and employers constructed additional policing structures.
[The first state police (Pennsylvania)] was modeled after the Philippine Constabulary, used to maintain the US occupation there, which became a testing ground for new police techniques and technologies. The local population resented US occupation and developed anticolonial organizations and struggles. The national police force attempted to develop close ties to local communities to allow it to monitor subversive activities. The United States also moved quickly to erect telephone and telegraph wires, to allow quick communication of emerging intelligence. When demonstrations emerged, the police, through a huge network of informants, could anticipate them and place spies and agents provocateurs among them to sow dissent and allow leaders and other agitators to be quickly arrested and neutralized.
By now it should be crystal clear. Political systems introduce policing to control and subvert communities towards capitalist extraction. All through a legal framework.
This chapter skims the surface of the steady tightening and entwining of layers of state sponsored suppression of labor rights.
The Texas Rangers
Vitale goes into a history of the violence of the Texas Rangers against Texans of Mexican ancestry.
[The Texas Rangers perpetrated the 1918 massacre of Porvenir which] led to a series of state legislative hearings in 1919 about extrajudicial killings and racially motivated brutality on behalf of white ranchers. Those hearings resulted in no formal changes; the graphic records of abuse were sealed for the next fifty years to avoid any stain on the Rangers’ “heroic” record.”
A screaming example of whiteness and image mattering far more than justice.
There is a lot to unpack and read in this chapter. Much of which I haven’t previously learned. In part, my Yankee Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade education excluded workers rights discussions; Except for the enslavement of black people by southern states.
Looking at this historical tour of policing, I’m reflecting on my education. The strangest whitewashing of tought history has been pushing enslavement to the front of all conversations about race inequity.
Yes. Enslavement is a vile practice. And we should learn of the systemic and personal violence perpetrated by slavers.
And we should teach about the labor movements and ever tightening and enmeshing of the police state into our shared minds.
And it is very clear. The system of policing is most certainly working as intended. The goal of policing is to extract labour from the people and transfer the results of that labour to something other than the laborer (e.g., the capitalist).
When I pick up in my next post, I’ll address the last three sections of Chapter 2:
- The Role of Slavery
- Political Policing in the Postwar Era
- Policing Today