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Policing Communities of Color: An Historical Examination of Social Control and Protest Management Strategies

Political Authority, Social Control and Public Policy

ISBN: 978-1-78756-049-9, eISBN: 978-1-78756-048-2

Publication date: 4 July 2019


Law enforcement social control policies over black Americans can be traced back to early policing. From the development of the “patroller” system (established in 1794 to systematically police slaves) to contemporary police militarization, the relationship between black Americans and the police has been defined by bitter conflict that continuously results in outward expressions of discontent and protests. Recent examples abound, including the Los Angeles riots in the 1990s, the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as the protests sparked by the deaths of Eric Garner and Freddie Gray. Indeed, social, political, and media speculation has placed police behavior under heavy scrutiny. Questions abound regarding the fairness, appropriateness, legality, and legitimacy of police methods, as critics have accused policing agencies of adopting punitive and repressive measures that target communities of color (and act as provocation for rioting). This chapter will use a critical lens to first investigate the historical social control strategies used against communities of color by law enforcement (beginning with antebellum “beat companies” to more contemporary “broken windows” policies). Next, the author observes that, in addition to institutional evolution, police behavior (specifically related to community policing and responses to community protests) have accordingly shifted since the nineteenth century. For example, the author discusses the three current strategies of protest management (escalated force, negotiated management, and strategic incapacitation) that have all been embraced to varying degrees with relationship to police response to black community protests. Last, the author explores the iterative process of police “command and control” policies and black community protests, noting that these competing forces have “coevolved,” mirroring one another, and feature antagonistic attitudes from both sides.



Bryant, K. (2019), "Policing Communities of Color: An Historical Examination of Social Control and Protest Management Strategies", Rabe-Hemp, C.E. and Lind, N.S. (Ed.) Political Authority, Social Control and Public Policy (Public Policy and Governance, Vol. 31), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 43-61.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, by Kenneth Bryant Jr.