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Despite popular belief, the police were not created to equally protect everybody

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While America in its whole is having a conversation that is long overdue about defunding its many police departments, others might not be fully aware of exactly how and why the police came to be a thing in the first place.

The city of Berkeley ‘s police department is pictured circa 1905.
City of Berkeley, Credit

This might get a little uncomfortable for some. But in the wake of repeated police brutality, this might serve as a wake up call to those who need it most.

Contrary to popular belief, the origins of the US police force (no matter the city) didn’t quite actually begin with the idea of generally protecting communities. In fact, according to historical documents reviewed for this project the police came to be in an effort to protect white people and their properties aka the ruling class.

Now this is not me saying that I am in any way biased against white people, however, this arguably is the beginning point if not one of many that the ‘Defund the Police’ movement might just have actual grounds. If the force was never intended to protect and serve everyone (except the ruling class) what exactly was the force designed for?

According to Brittanica, early Americans were pretty weary of creating a standing police force presumably because nobody knew or understood how it would alter civilisation as they knew it. Beginning as early as 1631, the first U.S police popped up in Boston [at a time when Boston perhaps was one of the biggest $ makers in the U.S and property needed a sense of protection.]

Following the creation of Boston ‘s police force in 1631, New Amsterdam (wildly now New York City) came to have their own roughly around 1647. Initially, “police” were widely paid by private citizens in a mirroring action like that of their English counterparts.

It is and has long been argued that the U.S got the idea for the police force by following the idealisms of the Anglo-Saxon doings and teachings that later engulfed much of Europe and what would become of the Americas. (In 1631 and 1647 “America” was a not quite America yet as that didn’t happen until 4 July 1776.)

This is where it might get uncomfortable for some because some they argue Law & Order but then others realise where that might come from. During the initial creation of police forces and departments, even dating back centuries, the cops were not designed to protect everybody and instead were designed to keep slaves and minorities in check and control their behaviour.

In 1793 and 1850,Congress passed numerous laws that led to the ability for police forces and slave owners to have their “escaped slaves” forcibly returned to where they came from. This would later become known as the Fugitive Slave law.

Throughout that century, this among other slave-related laws was originally entrenched in the very idealism held by law enforcement. it was so enforced that it helped many slave owners throughout the century control and erode the otherwise forgotten rights of the minorities around them.

It wasn’t until 1871 that Congress at the time attempted to pass the Ku Klux Klan Act hoping to stem racial injustices against black people and the abuse they endured. However, that did next to nothing as violence continued and people ultimately including the police department resisted the aftermath of the reconstruction era.



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