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Policing - Changes In Police Agencies

riots civil antiwar laws

A trend toward forming state police organizations grew throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Fifteen states established state police forces by World War II. State police forces first appeared in Texas and Massachusetts during the previous century. The Texas Rangers had existed off and on through the 1800s and were officially established in 1874. Massachusetts also experimented with a state police force beginning in 1865, primarily aimed at Irish immigrants and Irish Americans and enforcing liquor laws.

Following World War II the steady progress toward increased police professionalism continued through the 1950s among the nation's police departments as standards continued to rise. A leader at this time was Chicago police commissioner Orlando W. Wilson (1900–1972) who established a criminology program at the University of California at Berkeley.

Then came the 1960s, a traumatic period in U.S. history in many ways. Policing in the United States changed dramatically. Civil rights demonstrations were increasing, antiwar protests grew, and race riots erupted. These events brought new and staggering demands on police forces. The general crime rate doubled during the decade including a particularly steep increase in violent crime. Not only was the existing police system unable to deter crime, but police actions often triggered riots.

Beginning in the mid-1950s the Civil Rights movement involved black Americans fighting discriminatory laws and city ordinances limiting their use of public places like restaurants and hotels. The movement's civil disobedience (challenging rules of public behavior) included "sit-ins," which blocked access to places like offices, sidewalks, or streets; boycotts (getting groups of people to stop buying certain goods or services); and demonstrations in the streets. These activities led to direct confrontations or clashes with local police. They even led to conflicts between state police enforcing local laws and U.S. federal marshals enforcing federal court rulings. By being forced to uphold discriminatory laws passed by local politicians, the police themselves became a symbol of inequality.

By the late 1960s, race and antiwar riots erupted in various U.S. cities. The antiwar movement adopted many of the civil disobedience measures practiced by the supporters of civil rights. Well-known battles between police and antiwar protestors became common. The notable example was the Chicago riots in the summer of 1968 during the Democratic National Convention. An investigative commission after the riots was so critical of police reaction that they called the Chicago conflict a "police riot."

A number of race riots erupted in various cities across the nation including New York in 1964, Los Angeles in 1965, Newark and Detroit in 1967, and Washington, D.C., in 1968. Race riots were started by routine police traffic stops in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles and in Newark, New Jersey, while a police raid on a bar started a riot in Detroit. Police lost considerable respect among the public during the decade.

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