History of policing gets unfairly twisted – Boston Herald

“Policing itself started out as slave patrols. We know that,” Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., declared in an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. Clyburn, the House majority whip is the third highest ranking Democrat in Congress. He’s widely respected. And he’s wrong. Or, to be more generous, he’s being irresponsibly sloppy in making a point he’s right about.

But he’s not alone.

In a USA Today article headlined, “Law enforcement’s history of racism; First police departments date back to slave patrols”  Wenei Philimon writes, “These organized groups of white men known as slave patrols lay at the roots of the nation’s law enforcement excesses, historians say, helping launch centuries of violent and racist behavior toward black Americans, as well as a tradition of protests and uprisings against police brutality.”

One has to read deep into the piece to discover the important caveat to a legitimately significant historical fact. Yes, policing in Southern slave states has some roots in slave patrols.

But policing doesn’t.

Policing — enforcing the law, preventing crime, apprehending criminals — has a very long tradition of existence. I don’t know where it started, but for our purposes we can note that Augustus Caesar, born in 27 B.C. created the cohortes urbanae near the end of his reign, to police ancient Rome. Policing in England takes rudimentary form with Henry II’s proclamation of the Assize of Arms of 1181. In the 1600s England established constables and justices of the peace to oversee them. The Metropolitan Police Act created the first recognizable