Slave Patrols Are The Blueprint For Modern American Policing

illustration of slave patrols
Via flickr
Tremain Prioleau II
April 18, 2023

Policing as we know it today started in the form of slave patrols in the Carolinas in the early 1700s. Their mission was to terrorize and prevent slave uprisings and capture any runaway slaves and return them to their oppressors. From the beginning, it was made clear that policing meant power over our people.

Slave patrols ended with the passage of the 13th Amendment giving enslaved people freedom. Local militia groups would take their place and enforce Black Codes that would restrict the freedoms of formerly enslaved people.

Despite the 14th Amendment granting equal protection and abolishing Black codes, local municipalities established police departments by the 1900s to enforce their replacement, Jim Crow laws. They lasted until the 1960s.

Today, policing has resulted in creating a system of prison, parole, and probation that costs U.S. taxpayers $81 billion a year. That’s a lot of money to target a community and the system against us thinks it’s money well spent.

Despite the high cost of policing our people, the system will do whatever it takes to demean us and use our bodies as labor for its purposes. Policing was never meant to serve us, so how can we protect our own communities ourselves?

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