A History of Militarized U.S. Policing: Ferguson and Beyond

Understanding Empire: Technology, Power, Politics

[This essay is a shortened version taken from a book project I’m working on called The Predator Empire]

A History of Militarized U.S. Policing

ferguson-mike-brown

American policing was shaped by colonial contact with the British. Without evidence of criminal activity, British soldiers in New England searched through homes under a general warrant known as a “writ of assistance.” And under the Quartering Act of 1765 and 1774, colonists were required to house and feed British soldiers. This came despite Britain’s own aversion to the “quartering” of soldiers in its towns and cities—a practice banned under the English Bill of Rights in 1689. As Radley Balko explains in his book Rise of the Warrior Cop, “Bostonians were British subjects, but they were being treated like enemies of the state” (p.14). And so, the early founders were profoundly aware of the toxicity of militarism. The aversion to quartering and general warrants was…

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