You Need To Know The Devastating Origins Of The Police Force

Slave Patrols/Leslie/Wikimedia/CC0

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Some may believe that police forces - the group that is supposed to protect and serve - were birthed with pure intentions. But did you know that police troops in the South can actually be traced back to the slave patrols?

Let’s take a look at the origins.

Prior to organized police forces, communities depended heavily on neighborhood watch organizations. In Northern states, this practice began in the mid-1600s. The neighborhood watch job was volunteer-based; though, ironically, it was sometimes reserved as a form of punishment for common criminals.

Fast forward to 1838. Northern cities began experiencing rapid economic growth. Realizing the need to protect their economy, Boston became the first city to transition to a publicly funded police force. Officers were mainly tasked with protecting business facilities and products.

But in the South, things operated differently. In 1704, the first slave patrols were created in the Carolinas to ensure order amongst enslaved people and for catching runaways. During the Reconstruction Era, the South adopted an organized police force. Yet, unsurprisingly, many officers maintained their attitude toward, the now free, Black Americans.

Just over 150 years have passed since the end of slavery. Yet, the tense stigma of police relations within the Black community hasn’t waned. Knowing the root of the problem is a good start; but, if we want to change the narrative for the next 150 years, it's time to get solution-oriented.

To learn more about the history of the police force and slave patrols, check out Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas.

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