The justification for the existence of police is that they exist to keep us, the citizens, safe. Ancient and modern history has shown time and time again that this is not the case. But, by definition, they are employees of the state. The supposed goal and purpose of the police is to be servants of the people. In the same way, politicians, who are elected to the positions they hold, are meant to be most beneficial to the people they serve. Politicians like police, are private citizens with political power, the difference between the two is that there is a system in place that makes sure politicians are able to be held responsible for their actions; be it checks and balances, federal prosecution, or simply not being reelected. The power police hold is only kept in check by their fellow officers. The two careers are similar in the way politicians end up looking out for their own well-being, interests, and motives, and police end up protecting themselves and their partners. Policing has become more than a job, being a police officer is a lifestyle that completely indoctrinates any person that partakes in any role in the system that has been created. There can be no good or bad cops when the act of being a police officer inherently corrupts any cop’s sense of morality.
In order to go through training the police develop an overtly strong sense of camaraderie rallying themselves against the people they have, apparently, been created to serve. The training environment creates a mentality within police officers that separates them from the people they serve. So, when they are serving they hold an Us Vs them or even us or them mentality. Pitting cops against the people they are ‘by design’ created to serve. The mentality created is one that changes law enforcement’s role from a servant serving the law and its people. To a role where they become the law, abiding by a higher jurisdiction where they create the rules they want to follow. If we look further into the history of police and how they came to be we can make the conclusion that this was no accident. Police are, by design, created to abuse and terrorize. In the previous portion of the essay I recognized the relationship between slavery and policing. To refresh these direct correlations I reintroduce, Gary Potter, a social justice professor at the University of Eastern Kentucky, he had the same questions I do when it came to the development of policing in the united states, he said this, “ Slave patrols had three primary functions: (1) to chase down, apprehend, and return to their owners, runaway slaves; (2) to provide a form of organized terror to deter slave revolts; and, (3) to maintain a form of discipline for slave-workers who were subject to summary justice, outside of the law, if they violated any plantation rules.” From this quote alone we can already see the way this mindset has been adapted to modern policing. They were told to deter slave revolts in the modern day, they brutalize protesters. They create and inspire fear. We as a society can fool ourselves into a false sense of morality when it comes to the police and lie about why they were made and why they still exist but the police’s own actions incriminate themselves.
People can hold the claim that it’s just a few bad apples that give policing as a career a bad reputation. I believe a tree with rotten roots can only ever produce bad apples. It’s been established that the ideas and expectations the police were created to continue into the modern day. From the National Law Enforcement Officer Fund, “Slave patrols were no less violent in their control of African Americans; they beat and terrorized as well. Their distinction was that they were legally compelled to do so by local authorities. In this sense, it was considered a civic duty—one that in some areas could result in a fine if avoided.” It was not only encouraged but expected of the police to be terrorist to the Black community. Terrorizing normal black people or even our most prominent figures, like Martin Luther King Jr., whose assassination has been confirmed to have been executed by law enforcement.
The police’s modern abuse of power can be traced back to the guidelines set by slave patrollers also, “-subject to summary justice, outside of the law-” In the times this quote was written the justice would be subjecting the escaped enslaved people to beatings, maulings or worse: death. In today’s times this mindset has only continued to be exasperated and utilized by government officials, police brutality in any form occurs because the police are making themselves the judge, jury, and executioner. Most often times, when someone has been killed by the police there, the justification given that they were committing a crime beforehand in the case of George Floyd, according to the APD News George Floyd was arrested, “about a possible counterfeit $20 bill being used at a corner store” It is a purposeful and deliberate endless chain of terror enacted by the police. It’s not a mistake of the lack of morality they’ve been trained to have when it comes to policing.
The idea of policing is one that continues to keep so much of this country in a wonderland. Full of false hope and dreams of the police being the country’s Knight in shining armor. The reality of police and the way they function is a much more grim truth. One that, I hope, would change your perspective on policing in this country permanently. Modern policing tactics and belief systems have been adopted and accepted by Slave Patrollers. People whose entire mission was to keep people enslaved. The police of the modern day continue on with the same mission as those that came before and shouldn’t continue to be able to exist. The police are brutal, inhumane, and violent.
National Law Enforcement Officers Funds, Slave Patrols an Early Form Of Policing, NLEOMF.org, Accessed 2023
News, APD, Timeline of Events since George Floyd’s Arrest and Murder, 2022
Potter, Gary, The History of Policing in the United States, Eastern Kansas University, 2013