Thursday, November 5, 2015

Stephen L. Carter — Policing and Oppression Have a Long History

 via Bloomberg View

In my previous column, I promised to take up the topic of the historical roots of the continuing mistrust between law enforcement and the black community. My intention in setting forth the background is not to impugn the integrity of police officers anywhere. Yet if we don't study the past we'll never understand the present, and the history of policing in America is deeply intertwined with the violence of racial oppression.

Those are not words I use lightly. Yet hard though it might be to believe, most historians nowadays accept that among the direct precursors to the modern police force were the slave-catching patrols of the old South. That doesn't mean that other events had no influence. It does mean that we need to understand the patrols to understand where we are now.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, most Northern communities used a night-watch system, adopted from England, to keep order. The night watchman rarely made a circuit of the town, but stayed at his post, prepared to be summoned when a crime occurred. Where sheriffs existed, they were, in the 18th century, essentially tax collectors.

Read the full article HERE.