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Good To Know

History Lesson #2: NIGHT WATCH to MODERN POLICE: History of the Beat

The first to police the colonies were called "night watch."  There were also private for-hire men called "The Big Stick." The Watchers were volunteers, sometimes people who'd been caught at a crime, and were often drunk or asleep. The wealthiest also hired men for protection, maybe not aware the these were often unscrupulous people. What we think of as our modern police force didn't get its start until the early 1900s. Also confirmed was that the first forms of policing in the South was "patroling," going after slaves. Here's an excerpt from "Civil War & Bloody Peace:"


Regulators, Loyal League activists, and Ku Klux (KK) klansmen, some of whom Democratic officials allied with, carried out lynch law in Kentucky before 1871. "Patrolers" had been in existence since long before the war and were considered one of the 'evils' of the slavery system. They were organized by law and protected by public sentiment; they could whip any Negro caught away from home, or for committing any supposed offense. They also tarred and feathered white men thought to be abolitionists. When they became "Ku Klux" after the war, they donned calico masks to avoid detection, especially after the federal government began to allow prosecution.


Kentucky bootleg whiskey (moonshining) was protected by the KK; an underground business, it emerged because of excise tax on liquor after the Civil War, even after many wartime levies had been repealed. Grains that made whiskey were Kentucky's main crop and most of the liquor industry was in the South. The KK protected moonshiners, and by extension, grain farmers; and certain leading Democrats protected the KK.  


There seems to be an inadvertent link to policing and liquor; connect this with the "night watch" in the first paragraph. Another source noted:


The first form of policing in the South was known as slave patrol, which began in the colonies of Carolina in 1704. The patrol was usually made up of three to six men riding horseback and carrying whips, ropes, and even guns.

On January 16th, 1871, a group of Blacks went to the capitol at Frankfort to complain. The two houses of the state general assembly announced that they would devise a plan to suppress the KK, even if it cost the state a million per year. But a month later the testimony bill, which would allow "persons charged with crimes and Negroes" to testify, was postponed.  


Back to CWBP:

Congress passed the Ku Klux Bill, also known as the 'Civil Rights Act.' This was meant to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment's right to vote regardless of race or former servitude. When Congress enacted this bill on April 20th, certain crimes were punishable under federal law: "Conspiracies to deprive citizens of the right to vote, hold office, serve on juries, and enjoy the equal protection of the laws, could now, if states failed to act effectively against them, be prosecuted by federal district attorneys, and even lead to military intervention and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus."


With this second bill President Grant could, according to one newspaper, "call out the militia, proclaim martial law, close up the courts, stifle the press, and exercise arbitrary and unbounded power at his discretion."


Between this act and the end of the century, then, we can imagine the military was often used to suppress this kind of policing activity, when it was suppressed at all. But Jim Crow laws were also put into place, giving this kind of policing more teeth.


In the North a more official police force was coming into fashion. Clashes between incoming immigrant groups were getting out of a control. Boston was first to implement a police force in 1838, following by New York City.

These "modern police" organizations shared similar characteristics: (1) they were publicly supported and bureaucratic in form; (2) police officers were full-time employees, not community volunteers or case-by-case fee retainers; (3) departments had permanent and fixed rules and procedures, and employment as a police officers was continuous; (4) police departments were accountable to a central governmental authority.


By the 1880s, almost every major city had a police force, all independently run and controlled, based on that city's needs. With their reporting to political heads, corruption came in the form of paying them off to not report some illegal activity.


August Vollmar was the creator of the modern police force. "He stressed the importance of sociology, social work, psychology, and management in police work. In this system, officers patrolled the neighborhoods they lived in on foot. Vollmer also made sure policemen went to college and even created a separate system for juveniles to be tried and punished instead of trying them as adults." His idealism was short lived, however. Prohibition required police to patrol in cars, and Hoover wanted them to be an active fighting force.


Defining social control as crime control was accomplished by raising the specter of the "dangerous classes." The suggestion was that public drunkenness, crime, hooliganism, political protests and worker "riots" were the products of a biologically inferior, morally intemperate, unskilled and uneducated underclass. The consumption of alcohol was widely seen as the major cause of crime and public disorder. The irony, of course, is that public drunkenness didn't exist until mercantile and commercial interests created venues for and encouraged the commercial sale of alcohol in public places.


This led to the change of the police preventing crime, rather than just responding to it. To give cops more to do, they once again (as in the south's patrolers) began to patrol, looking for trouble, as a means of keeping the population safe. Dr. Gary Potter in his article at PLsonline.com emphasized how easy these early police forces could be corrupted. They became part of a corrupt political partnership, and ran rampant during Prohibition.


During the 1960s, the black communities began to question the way they were treated and had been suppressed under Jim Crow laws. Under Jim Crow in the south, segregation became acceptable and black people were harassed and denied equal rights. Most presidents feared taking on any states that imposed Jim Crow laws; the Republicans didn't care and the Democrats feared their own voting base. John Kennedy finally actively went for Civil Rights, but was killed before passage. Lyndon Johnson picked up the mantle but was hard to say "there goes the deep south." You can see more on this in "From Lincoln to Trump."


In 1915, the midst of this corruption in many places, the Fraternal Order of Police was founded by two police offers in Pittsburgh, as a means of airing their grievances. They went national in 1917, becoming the largest police organization in the country. Both Bobby Kennedy and Barrack Obama tried to take them on, with changes needed to police training.


"President Obama initiated the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which developed a set of recommendations to improve procedural justice in police-citizen interactions and enhance the perceived legitimacy of the police." But when Trump was elected, the FOP requested that he de-prioritize what Obama's initiative had implemented; Trump excelled at reversing much of Obama's work.


And we all know what happened to Bobby Kennedy. In "From Lincoln to Trump," you'll find out that the police there doctored the murder scene.


I wish I was the type to infiltrate. But the Fraternal Order of Police, which considers itself along the lines of Freemasons, needs to take responsibility for those police still acting like White Supremacists and accuse and kill black people without due process. Because one of the things we've noticed in our current police force is their brotherhood, and not turning on one who's doing something that's obviously not under the motto of "to protect and to serve."

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Healing a Racist USA

I posted on how police who deliberately kill unarmed blacks need to be held accountable if we are ever going to begin to purge this country of racism. George Floyd's death under the knee of a cop spurred protest around the country, and the world, in support for justice. But here in the USA, these peaceful protestors are being infiltrated by white supremacists determined to undermine their efforts and turned the country into a volcano, still happening at the time of this post.

Though the cop has been arrested, it is yet to be determined if he will be acquitted.

My post brought out the comment that racism is systemic in this country and a lot more needs to be done to stop it. I posted the following link I was given. I share it here because I want these efforts to continue: https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234?fbclid=IwAR0ph0JOTlnH6XZVjE44hsZufzmj01zdGOWlsKpX87ceWuoAgOKsfBvPgPk (copy and paste)

But one comment made took me by surprise, and is worth further exploration: That I, and everyone else in this country, has benefited from this racism.

Just what does that mean – benefitted? We all know what capitalism is like. We know that the rich get richer off our backs, and we know that they rarely allow new rich to join their ranks. The black population joined the rest of us after the civil war to be exploited as laborers. Many white laborers hated this competition in the struggles to rise above laboring to "make it" and politicians found ways to keep them from mingling. Blacks struggled to make it, too, but our white dominant society made their struggles so much harder. They are, for instance, incarcerated at much greater rates for longer times for lesser crimes. And no president has spoken out against this – not even Obama.

So yes, many things need to change, not just this strike against racists cops. But to date, only one woman cop has been found guilty, to my knowledge. And this cop who killed George already had 18 complaints against him. Why was he still on the force? All polices forces in the USA need to take a good hard look at the records of every officer. This needs to be done today.

What this post on Facebook, where I felt I was being called racist just for being white, made me realize that there really are two different definitions we're talking about. I'm going to share my responses to these comments, but not the original comments as I don't have permission. [] indicates excerpted from another opinion. () is some cleanup and clarification of my posting texts.


You blame people for living within a society in which they were raised? [That systemic view of racism] seems kind of unfair. I agree that the more we learn about these issues, the better able we are to deal with them. But what does dealing with them mean? I read every one of those 75 points (shared in the link above), many of which I already do or am involved in. But to blame each of us as individuals for the evils in our society today (can cause) a guilt complex that (some) people would not be able to overcome. And I don't think that would help BLM or any of our black friends one bit. (Would we just give up and say to hell with the help, then?)

When I think back to the '60s and (those attempts at civil rights) it causes a pain that gets harder to deal with every time it hits. So much hope was lost. So much fear rose up in its place.

Of course I blame society. But to blame kids who got a good education and used it to get a good job because that's what society demands of all of us [as taking part in a racist society] just seems a little harsh. To my knowledge I never pushed a minority out of the way for a job that they could have done better. I was born and raised in Green Bay. The only blacks we knew played football. The key is and always has been integration. Until we can truly create a society where all people ARE (treated) equal, and that means getting rid of the people hired to protect and to serve who only protect and serve whites, we can't even begin to get that society.

I am to this day so horrified at how many of my old classmates (in Green Bay) are trump supporters.

You (cannot) think that each of us (today) created this (old system) in our society. I was not in the Civil War, nor were you. We each had to be raised in what our parents dealt with. The main point is how we move forward from here, not each of us taking blame for what our forefathers did. We have to address today. Now. As we tried in the 60s, but so many of our ideals were assassinated. We cannot go backward into fear again. We have to go forward with courage.

I am not complicit. I am trying to change things. I have always been trying to change things. And I will always try to change things. I suggest you, and everyone else, do the same.


Don't throw history at me. I know history. (This is where I realize that all my opponent in this debate was trying to do as to get me to see how long the USA has been racist. I'm a historian. I write about these issues. We had been defining racism differently.)

She sees it as part of being human, as in we're all racist, showing preference for whatever system favors us. (If I'm understanding right.)

My definition is simply to apply the word to the more violent among us - those who cannot stand having "others" around them. Those who are willing to act out their hate is some perverse way. And those that think they can get away with it because their dominant society will support them.

Many of us (today) are not racist, but humanist - it's knowing that we are all human inside, despite our differences, and accept being among others as the natural order of things. We still might more overly associate with "our own kind" but that's more a matter of being used to people we understand (not that I understand my husband all the time.) The need in our society is to turn racists into humanists.

And I think we're getting there a little bit more, every day. I am not my grandfather, and my granddaughters will not be me.

(I reject being called a racist because of how I define the term. I would never violate anyone else's space or rights. Because I don't have that right. None of us do.)

But I will make sure I distinguish the difference in the two definitions in my book so I don't confuse anyone. The problem [of systemic racism] is similar to how (some) native American Indians hate ALL whites because they think we're all the same. It's not true, and it wasn't true historically either.

(I err on the side of) how the term racist is most obviously used in the country (today). When we call white supremacists racist, it's a negative. If we call all of us racist, that makes us feel we're all wrong. We're not and believe it or not, our attitude does change things. We are making progress.

I completely understand this history of our racism. I'm talking about the changes that need to be made to address what's happening today. We cannot erase that history. My book is going to show how we got where we are today. And my initial comment on my other post stands. We have to start with cleaning up our police departments. Holding them accountable. Until that changes, nothing changes. (They are our most public servants, paid by our taxes to protect and defend ALL of us. Until we make sure that happens, we can't find that equality.)

You are all right in understanding that our country is white-dominated since its formation. The trick today is changing that. It's not easy. But it can be done, and we can all take steps to do that. That's what this post is all about.

Many of us want our centuries-long system of oppression to end. That's what this is all about. Changing our history. Let's not fight each other but join hands and know what we're fighting for. True equality.


So no, I don't feel I've benefited. Like anyone else, I worked to survive, as we all must. But I didn't benefit because all the pain and suffering by other people around me, needless suffering, breaks my heart every time I see it. It's a truly helpless feeling, and not a gift, at all. I speak up against it wherever I can. Whenever I can. But I will not carry a gun, and I will not protest in a pandemic.

I am not happy to be part of white skin history.

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