Policing started in these two cities and must be changed by them

By Lloyd “Rip” Lazard

Wall Street got its’ name from an actual wall that was built by the Dutch to protect New York from the British and Native Americans.  The phrase, “being sold down the river” refers to enslaved people being shipped to the more dangerous and brutal sugar cane and cotton plantations in Louisiana.  The two cities, New York and New Orleans would be the anchors of the greatest atrocity in American history – the centuries of free labor, stolen wages and profit from African Americans. Each city would develop a police force to protect and serve their interests. The history of police brutality is linked to these two cities.

Land and Inventions

The 1803 purchase of the Louisiana Territory by the United States gave rise to the use of the port of New Orleans as the cradle of the slave trade.  Sugar and cotton were grown and harvested by enslaved Africans across Louisiana.  In Louisiana tall ship hulls were filled with sugar and cotton and sent to New York on credit then shipped to England on credit birthing the first international financial market. The Louisiana Purchase provided more land and increased the need for both slaves and slave catchers. Slave catchers were the first police.

Inventions, for example the cotton gin, created by enslaved men though patented by Eli Whitney increased not only profits for Southern plantation owners but the need for more enslaved people. Plantation owners biggest problem was daily slave escapes. More land meant more enslaved men which required more police.

In New York, the wall was patrolled by a police force who stood guard and protected the city from outsiders.  Their job was to ensure that the city’s occupants were safe.  In New Orleans pathways between plantations were patrolled by a police force to capture and return enslaved men and women who sought freedom and left their enslavers. 

Slave Catchers – The Original Police

From its earliest iteration, police were designed to protect and serve white people and capture, brutalize and incarcerate black people.  Most often in the north, police saw African Americans simply as cargo to be properly transported.  In the South, African Americans were seen as profit centers.  The humanity of the African American was never even an inkling for most white Americans. And the police were given complete discretion to resolve any situation with any African American as he deemed necessary.  This notion colored the law, policies, and police behavior for centuries in this country.  And we see this happening today across America.

For instance, there are 5 cases in Jefferson Parish of questionable murders of unarmed black men and children. Even though there has been progress, policing in America still resembles the 1800’s when the humanity, rights and respect for black men was inconsequential.  However, instead of going from ships to work in fields, now black men are herded into jails. Officers know simple arrests disrupt lives. A month in jail creates job loss and homelessness. Still, those viewed as troublemakers are often killed on the street.

Life, Liberty and…..Not for Blacks

Through the years, African Americans were given access to liberty and the pursuit of happiness deemed inalienable for white men.  Yet, for African Americans, these rights had to be appended to the original document which proclaimed these truths to be self-evident. Most importantly and despite the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution, police brutality remained commonplace. Officers maintained the centuries old tradition of dehumanizing African American men.  Today, New Orleans and New York are once again leaders in changing the world.  Each department is working to change policies and practices to protect the lives of their African American citizens. 

Each department leads the country in new training and strict policies that protect the lives of black men and prosecutes officers who must walk the streets of each city.  Full circle is still probably not enough.

4 thoughts on “How New Orleans to New York fueled slavery and police brutality”
  1. Rip has always grasped that understanding how we got to this point (history) is required to pinpoint precisely what must be changed (behavior) and how to do it (policy).

  2. I could have sworn that police existed in other parts of the world prior to the United States becoming a thing. I stand corrected!

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