By Duncan Riley and Marco Dávila
The great problem with the police is not the supposed “bad apples,” rather, it is that the police exist as an institution to maintain a political and economic order that is profoundly racist and unequal. The first police departments in the United States were founded during the 19th century, growing out of two primary sources. In the large cities of the north, during the epoch of emerging industrialization and the subsequent massive increase in inequality, the big capitalists needed a regular and organized force to watch for signs of discontent and repress strikes. On the other hand, on the plantations of the south, slave owners needed patrols and guards to control their slaves and chase after runaways. As such, from these two economic necessities of the ruling class, distinct but interrelated, the police were born (Vitale, 37-39; 45-46). Considering this, when we talk about the police it is impossible to separate them from their role as the violent enforcers of the hierarchies of race and class in current capitalist society.