Your browser is ancient!
Upgrade to a different browser to experience this site.

Skip to main content

Police Brutality in America Teach-Out

History & Evolution of Policing in America / Lesson 1 of 6

The Roots of Policing in the United States

0 minutes

Police violence impacting the Black community extends far beyond the deaths of George Floyd or the beating of Rodney King in 1992. The U.S. police system emerges from the combined histories of Southern slave patrols and early police departments arising in cities in the early 19th century. Slave patrols were groups of white men who volunteered to enforce the laws of slavery; returning escaped slaves to bondage and abuse, violently quashing uprisings, and maintaining a climate of terror to protect the institution of U.S. slavery. Though formal police departments first appeared in Northern cities hundreds of years after the formation of the first slave patrols many of the same themes defined early policing: the actions of predominantly white, male police forces were primarily directed towards lower and working class Americans, particularly Black, immigrant, and poor communities. Laws such as the Black Codes, Jim Crow, and other forms of state sanctioned segregation and violence enacted through the 20th century formalized these practices to reinforce a national culture of policing that was disproportionally directed at Black communities. Please explore the resources below for more information and context on the roots of policing and its afterlives that inform the current conversations around police brutality in this Teach-Out.

Article: The Racist Roots of American Policing

Podcast: Origins of American Police

Previous Next