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Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Dallas


Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Dallas

Linda Burnham

A thick strand in the history of U.S. policing is rooted back in the slave patrols of the 19th century. Patty rollers were authorized to stop, question, search, harass and summarily punish any Black person they encountered. The five- and six-pointed badges many of them wore to symbolize their authority were predecessors to those of today’s sheriffs and patrolmen. They regularly entered the plantation living quarters of enslaved people, leaving terror and grief in their wake.


Powerful essay, Ms. Burnham.

I think Malcolm X would applaud it, especially this:

"So today’s patty rollers are expected to contain any overflow of bitterness and anger on the part of the exploited, neglected and aggrieved, maintaining order in a fundamentally – and racially – disordered system. Their mandate is as clear as that of their forefathers: to constrain a population whose designated role is to absorb absurdly high rates of unemployment and make itself available for low-wage, low-status work without complaint, much less rebellion. Those who fear a spiraling descent into disorder, know this: We are merely witnessing the periodic, explosive surfacing of entrenched disorders we have refused to face or fix."

You nailed so much, yet I think one other area of intersection needs to be mentioned and indeed both Malcolm X and Dr. King made note of it: it's the relationship between violence practiced as a natural and defining component of U.S. (MIC-led) foreign policy, and the violence that necessary comes home. Call it a karmic boomerang.

I also think is poignantly true:

"Honestly, good people, did anybody in their right mind – that is, not troubled or demented – think that the police could continue to pick off Black people at will and on camera without producing a Micah Johnson? And is troubled and demented shorthand for “traumatized by repeated exposure to the graphic depiction of the murder of people who look just like me?” Or for “agonized by the fact that the officers of the law who placed a handcuffed man in the back of a van and snapped his spine in an intentionally ‘rough ride’ were neither held criminally accountable nor labeled troubled and demented?” Or for “depressed beyond imagining and haunted by the ghosts of the men and women whose lives were snatched by the side of the road, down back alleyways, and in precinct stations from one end of the country to the other before the era of cell phone video?”

Sadly, tragically, mournfully, shamefully... Strange fruit is still hanging from the Poplar trees.


Training and supervision of the cops is an area sadly neglected, but improving training will do absolutely nothing because the people being trained aren't susceptible to the training because of prior attitudes towards minorities. The people who self-select to become cops are the high school bullies who are of an authoritarian persuasion and who see the world in Manichaean terms of us against them. It is inevitable that they will abuse their authority to satisfy their own psychological proclivities.

If you want to change attitudes, you need to select people who have the attitudes you want. That means that anyone with a authoritarian attitude is automatically rejected at the job interview. It means that sadists don't get hired.

As for the good cop/bad cop, there are far and away too many bad cops. That includes not just the perpetrators of violence - beatings, killings - but also those who enable those behaviors. The cops who see another cop doing wrong and keep silent or worse, aid and abet that behavior, are just as bad as the cop himself and fall under the rubric of "bad cop."


This "cop policing themselves "is important, practical and specific, but we won't find it in the media or from political leaders. Alas, a good portion of our people have slave-owner mentalities, and I'm not black. A good example of this (I think) is we overly love our pets (slaves) but hate wild animals (free), so much so that we have a dept. of govt. who's mission is to kill them, and it kills over 3,000,000 every year. What kind of finances and morality it that?