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Jonah Goldberg: History of policing gets unfairly twisted – Akron Beacon Journal

“Policing itself started out as slave patrols. We know that,” Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) 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.

A story in Yahoo News makes a similar claim. Discussing police abuses, reporter Marquise Francis writes, “The injustice harkens back to the very origins of policing in the U.S., in volunteer patrols charged with keeping African-Americans in their place and hunting runaway slaves.”

A USA Today article headlined, “Law enforcement’s history of racism; First police departments date back to slave patrols”: “Across the U.S., black Americans lived in fear of law enforcement officials armed with weapons who monitored their every behavior, attacked them on the street and in their homes, and killed them for the slightest alleged provocation.”

Wenei Philimon, the author, continues, “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
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