Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America
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Let's begin with the basics: violence is an inherent part of policing. The police represent the most direct means by which the state imposes its will on the citizenry. They are armed, trained, and authorized to use force. Like the possibility of arrest, the threat of violence is implicit in every police encounter. Violence, as well as the law, is what they represent.
Using media reports alone, the Cato Institute's last annual study listed nearly seven thousand victims of police "misconduct" in the United States. But such stories of police brutality only scratch the surface of a national epidemic. Every year, tens of thousands are framed, blackmailed, beaten, sexually assaulted, or killed by cops. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on civil judgments and settlements annually. Individual lives, families, and communities are destroyed.
In this extensively revised and updated edition of his seminal study of policing in the United States, Kristian Williams shows that police brutality isn't an anomaly, but is built into the very meaning of law enforcement in the United States. From antebellum slave patrols to today's unarmed youth being gunned down in the streets, "peace keepers" have always used force to shape behavior, repress dissent, and defend the powerful. Our Enemies in Blue is a well-researched page-turner that both makes historical sense of this legalized social pathology and maps out possible alternatives.
Kristian Williams is the author of several books, including American Methods: Torture and the Logic of Domination. He co-edited Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency, and lives in Portland, Oregon.
Under apartheid, the police estimated there were 400 Street Committees operating throughout the country.115 In many places, the organizations have survived into the post-apartheid era. According to a 1998 survey of Guguletu, Cape Town, 95 percent of respondents reported that there was a Street Committee on their street, 58 percent said they attended the Street Committee’s meetings, and 69 percent thought that the committee did a good job. When asked, “Where do you go for help if a young man in
processes as they are typically implemented, including: open-ended timelines and unclear standards for success (or failure); unrealistic expectations; inadequate counseling, mediation, and conflict resolution skills; activist burn-out; the “disproportionate time and energy” required; cultural norms that “encourage and excuse unaccountable behavior”; the “residue of the adversarial justice system”; and the misapplication of language, concepts, and methods in contexts and circumstances unlike those
A few years later a statewide nine o’clock curfew was established. Free Black people were required to carry a pass from their employers, and patrols beat those who didn’t have their “free papers.”121 A stricter law was passed in Pendleton in 1835, instructing the patrol to “apprehend and correct all slaves and free persons of color” on the streets after nine at night, “whether such slave or free person of color have a pass or not.”122 In Charleston the law requiring passes gradually gave way to
for murder. Most of these cases involved personal disputes, and the victims were frequently cops themselves.178 “Less severe episodes of violence were legion,” Dennis Rousey notes: In a sample of cases covering a twenty-one-month period during 1854–1856, the Board of Police adjudicated forty-three cases of assault, assault and battery, or brutality by policemen, dismissing thirteen of the accused from the force and penalizing nine others with fines or loss of rank.179 Of course it is still
accountable): Although racial profiling data reported by federal and state governments is rarely, if ever, disaggregated by race and sex, racial profiling studies which do analyze the experiences of women of color separately from those of men of color conclude that “for both men and women there is an identical pattern of stops by race/ethnicity.” For instance, in New York City, one of the jurisdictions with the most extensive data collection on police stops, rates of racial disparities in stops