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Do you know of any good sources on the history of policing?

+2 votes
I'm speaking about the origins of modern policing, particularly in England and America. Wikipedia is bland on this subject and nearly every 'authoritative' source I could find is pro-cop, or at least, we-gotta-have-cops-cuz-what-if-the-bad-guys-take-over...

I'm looking for something which demonstrates the link between (early) capitalism and (early) policing.
asked Nov 25, 2014 by AmorFati (8,720 points)
[edit:  seems i was only off by a century.  :)
 see amorfati's excellent reference below...]

I can't give you published works on the subject, i will offer a few thoughts for what little they're worth.

During the Enclosures in greater Britain, and the subsequent Industrial Revolution, (from what i gather) the main use of the Law was to evict the peasantry and harass recalcitrant workers - through the Court's bailliffs and sheriffs, direct force was applied by locally hired thugs - backed up as necessary by regular army troops when things got out of hand.  I don't recall 'police' forces being relevant before say the world wars (when they were integrated as part of the domestic paramilitary apparatus).  It is relevant to remember that the same people writing the laws in the House of Commons, were the very same people benefitting from the Enclosures and the Factories laws, were the same people sitting as Magistrates to condemn any who opposed them, were the same people who served as officers commanding the armies of the State --- i speak not of class 'sameness', but of individuals, and of individuals related by blood, marriage, and close social relations.

Given Imperial Britain's policies of expulsion and colonial domination - the forms and actions of their paramilitary forces in their colonies (especially the prison colony of Australia) would probably yield more grist - since all the trouble makers were shipped out for a century, how did the empire deal with them where they landed?  (You can be sure the reports from the vicious experiments made their way back to the mother land, all the better to domesticate the grumbling masses too numerous to expel en-masse.)
other paramilitary forces:
  the actions of  the Irish Constabulary in occupied Ireland (who served as the model for the canadian federal police), and the colonial forces in imperial India.

The American model seems to be for the capitalists to hire their own agents of violence, while paying off the elected officials (in one way or another) to look the other way.  The agents of violence may be local thugs (various strikes and 'range wars'), or existing paramilitary organisations such as the Pinkerton Agency [a pox upon their withered souls] or the American Legion (who volunteered to machine gun the families of striking mine workers, among other atrocities).  Only occasionally did the capitalists have to resort to calling up militias or regular troops, as a last resort  (though their complete control of the organs of propaganda ensured they suffered no discomfort from the murder of the inconvenients).
The expansion of domestic police would seem to be tied to foreign conflicts, combined with the personal ambition of certain vicious individuals in the state bureaucracy.  Again the integration of domestic police into a national paramilitary framework would seem to  blend with the world wars; followed by the use of local police by the federal state to surveil/harass/murder those the State (and its conjoined twin- Capital) deemed 'undesirable', or deviant, or just unconvenient.

I wish you luck on your search.
(Okapy:: can you give some insight on French/continental developments? )
Thanks for your well-thought out comment, cb.
as an addition to clodbuster's comment: if I'm not mistaken, the history of policing in the United States was thoroughly intertwined with organizations that hunted down runaway slaves and otherwise repressed slave unrest.
r.b.:  can you offer any more specific comment about this?  My recollections on this are really thin and vague.

1 Answer

+4 votes
the most obvious (to me, anyway) is kristian williams' Our Enemies In Blue, out of southend press.
i haven't read it, but kw is pretty good and likely to have the best politics of any author on policing you're likely to find.

for a more academic take (which presumably should mean, you know, "objective" -- ha ha) there's The History of Policing
which i've never heard of before but seems intended to be very thorough at least for england (so it would depend on the focus of your interest).
answered Nov 25, 2014 by dot (57,810 points)
Yes, I've run across William's book, but haven't read it yet, but will. Being the son of a cop, early on I grew distrustful of them. Even back in the 70s and 80s, I saw firsthand, their contempt for 'civilians,' even while my dad noticed the rise of trigger-happy militants coming into 'the force.' I have no hatred toward my dad, but we're not close either. Far too much authoritarianism for me to stick around much, even back then.

Thanks for the answer!
af, there was a series of articles in the old "green anarchy" magazine, maybe 10 years ago, that focused on exactly the history of police. it might have been called "operation civilization" if i remember correctly. in fact, i just searched t@l, and i found it. i thought there had been a second part and possibly a third, but i could be wrong.

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/saura-agni-operation-civilization-the-war-that-is-all-wars
thanks, funky@.
that filled in a lot of blanks in my readings/memory.
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