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Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America
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Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  246 ratings  ·  33 reviews
“Should become mandatory reading for all police academy students.”—Damon Woodcock (Ret.), Portland, Oregon, Police Bureau

“A well-researched, historically grounded, and mordant critique of American policing past and present.”—Christian Parenti

Even critics have a difficult time imagining a world without police. But just what is the role of police in a democracy: to serve the
Paperback, 400 pages
Published August 1st 2007 by South End Press (first published June 1st 2003)
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4.30  · 
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 ·  246 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is not some emotional anti-police rant/manifesto. It is a very measured and well researched piece of theory. Police are a relatively new phenomenon in human society and Kristian Williams shows how they are only necessary to protect capitalist elites. Our Enemies In Blue Traces the genealogy of the police state from its beginnings from antebellum slave patrols to the modern monolith we know it as today.

Police in America got boosts in legitimacy and power during the machine politics of the ea
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Our Enemies in Blue makes a five-star case. As a methodical, scathing indictment of the history, purpose, and origin of the U.S. police, I have never seen such a well-researched and calculated primer from Day 1 to Day Now. The case is so startlingly made that certain facets of it seem somewhat gratuitous, but if you do enjoy a lacerating parade of absolutely damning critiques with accompanying evidence, there's much schadenfreude in which to relish while reading the book.

There are different arc
Dan Sharber
Oct 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
this is a must read. couple with The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and you will have a clear understanding of many aspects of the current criminal justice system from cops to courts to prisons and beyond. this book in particular is very enlightening and gives great ammo against the mainstream view of the nature and the role of the cops. they are, in fact, not our friends and this book will explain why and more importantly, how this is not accidental.
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since I have no clue how to start a review let me just begin by saying that I don’t just love this book but I also think it’s about an important and overlooked aspect of our society. One that hopefully is getting more attention these days. It’s one thing to adopt a hashtag mentality when approaching social issues, and another to actually look more in-depth at the origins and causes of a problem like the policing institution.

Throughout this book Kristian Williams does a thorough job (almost a qu
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite it's inflammatory title this is a well researched, incredibly detailed, and methodical analysis of the history of policing in the US and the current role of police in our society. As someone with a police officer in my family, I think it would be hard for someone who works or has worked in a police organization to pick up this book and not feel criticized. But of course this book is not about individual police, it is about the establishment and current operations of police organizations ...more
Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea
IN-FUCKING-CREDIBLE! As I was writing a 50+ page report on the history of rochester's police accountability systems, I had the pleasure of finally getting to read this gem. If you want a solid analysis and history of the origins of police and where they are headed, from an abolitionist position, READ THIS BOOK.

The "Rotten Apple" theory...

“Given such pervasive violence, it is astonishing that discussions of police brutality so frequently focus on the behavior of individual officers. Commonly call
Nov 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Here's a list of the chapters:
Police Brutality in Theory and Practice

The Origins of American Policing

The Genesis of a Policed Society

Cops and Klan, Hand in Hand

The Natural Enemy of the Working Class

Police Autonomy and Blue Power

Secret Police, Red Squads, and the Strategy
of Permanent Repression

Riot Police or Police Riots':,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Police State

Making Police Obsolete

I really enjoyed the read, finally helped me to ma
Sep 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
While I've always theoretically understood that police were created by many white power nationalists and slave patrols this book really helped me contextualize and understand it historically. Although the title of the book seems like it would be a theoretical tirade and rant against police- this is a well documented and very thorough research study that proves the case that the police are created to repress and oppress the people. As a labor organizer, the police as strike breakers paid by the p ...more
Cooper Williams
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anarchism
a very soft 4/5. The book is very well-sourced and presents damning evidence against basically every incarnation of American police forces. The chapter about the Klan's involvement with the police is truly horrifying. However, it gets a little slow after the first half.

I'd recommend this to anyone who doubts that elitism, authoritarianism, retributivism, and white supremacy are integral components of the modern police institution.
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
A really well written analysis of police brutality in the United States. While this book cannot document every case, it shows clearly that police brutality is a problem beyond severity. It (police brutality) is a fundamental flaw of the United States police system. This book should be on the literature lists of every high school in the United States, and beyond that it should be a requirement for criminal justice majors and police academy cadets.
Jun 06, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An excellent exploration of the history of police brutality in America, with careful attention paid to the politics of race. This is not a topic in which I am organically interested, but the book is well-written enough that I stuck with it, and I learned a great deal about both history and current events.
Kate Press
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sep 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Kristian Williams' book combines a penetrating critical history of the police with a lucid analysis of their role in the modern capitalist state.
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
militarization is a key component of community policing.

KRS-ONE- Sound of the Police
Kyle Mytruk
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books on the subject
May 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nation-state
"if we are to understand the phenomenon of police brutality, we must get beyond particular cases. we can better understand the actions of individual police officers if we understand the institution of which they are a part. that institution, in turn, can best be examined if we have an understanding of its origins, it social function, and its relation to larger systems like capitalism and White supremacy" (9).

i really like kristian! his analysis is steady and consistent in that he does not stray
Jul 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: prisons-police
this book is amazingly researched. many US statistics and anecdotes of police brutality and murder and the recurrent predictable official responses and impunity to these. theoretically, it moves through the origins of modern policing (developed in England) to contemporary manifestations of policing today (paramilitary + community policing initiatives) with much inbetween (slave patrols + cointelpro). though it is very US specific, a lot of the analyses are internationally relevant, especially th ...more
Dec 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: youth, copwatchers, organizers
Shelves: police-state
The history of policing section was a little dry, but did show connections between class formation and urbanization with the forms that state repression took and how it got to be more and more formalized, better funded, and more totalitarian from town guards to slave patrols to the klan to red squads to paramilitaries.

The evolution from keeping the peace to counterinsurgency was the most interesting part of the book for me. The notion that community policing was the soft/preventative face of cou
Shay Gabriel
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An exhaustive examination of the trajectory of policing in America. Unlike most critics of our police system, Williams is not afraid to point out that what the mainstream sees as regrettable flaws are actually features built into the fabric of the police — whether that's the origin of the police as a racist institution designed to reinforce slavery, the inherently authoritarian nature of preventative policing, or how tactics for policing protest inevitably lead to brutality and violence.

Each cha
Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea
I read the original of this book a year ago and recently finished the 10 year update and revision version.

See my original review here:

Three things I love about this book:
1) Williams updates the book through the early 2010s which is awesome as he was able to incorporate the start of the Black Lives Matter movement and other pertinent cases seen in the papers and online today
2) He takes some of his concepts and theories, such as his section on police viole
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was pleasantly surprised by this well-thought out and thoroughly researched book. As my 1980’s studies in criminology were anything but radical, I thought (and kind of hoped) that I was ordering an anarchist polemic against the police. This book is not such a screed. It is a very informative book that uses historical examples and current events to make a very reasonable point: the police in the USA are a self-interested arm of the capitalist state …an arm this is growing in influence, autonom ...more
Mar 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
An important read, the kind of book that draws the veil back on an institution we take for granted in society. It is a bit of a slog. At 238 pages it feels much longer, and at times the book becomes bogged down in details (the amount of footnotes and research is commendable). So, it's not an easy, pleasurable read, but it is enlightened, informed, caustic, self-reflective, and conscious of the dangers of alternatives to the police model as well.
Sep 18, 2016 rated it liked it
If you're completely new to the subject, it's full of extremely useful and exhaustively-researched data and historical examples. If you're already anti-police, even if you're not fully an abolitionist, I think you can reasonably just read the Afterword ("Making Police Obsolete") and refer to earlier in the book as needed.
Panashe M.
An important, thoroughly researched and persuasive book about the institutionalized violence of the state.
Dec 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
A well researched exposition of the origin and history of policing.
Matt Sautman
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title's provocative nature may put off some potential readers of this book, but I feel that Williams's prose style is far less confrontational than the title itself is. This book in many ways resembles the writings of Foucault, with Williams' providing a high level of scrutiny into the history of policing in the United States that also interrogates the theoretical motivations for policing. (Unlike Foucault, Williams is a bit more readily accessible in his prose.) I feel that this is a book t ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Very Thorough Research. This book both predates and succeeds (and even cites) Radley Balko's stronger work RISE OF THE WARRIOR COP: THE MILITARIZATION OF AMERICA'S POLICE FORCES. While it cites *volumes* more incidents than Balko's work, and is thus very illuminating because of it, this book has a fatal flaw that is lacking in Balko's work - namely, that it constantly comes at the issue of police brutality as a form of racial and/ or class warfare/ oppression. Its discussions of Anarchism and th ...more
"What are police for?

Everybody thinks they know. But to assume that the police exist to enforce the law or fight crime is akin to beginning an analysis of military policy with the premise that armies exist to repel invasions. The ends an institution pursues are not always the same as those it claims to pursue.


We should ask, always, who benefits and who suffers? Whose interests are advanced, and who pays the costs? Who is protected and served? Who I'd bullied and brutalized?"

so begins this
Oct 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: police, history
I recently finished the updated (2015) version of this book, having previously read the older version that came out in the mid-2000s. It still is an important read for anyone who doesn't already know the problems with the police. As a reader who was already familiar with the topic, I found that the book was a bit slow in parts and tended to drag, but if I was approaching the topic for the first time, it would probably be better.
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Our enemies in blue explores history of modern policing from slave catchers to enemies of industrial unionism. It's wealth of knowledge about intricacies of counterinsurgent vs community policing approaches and how both are about social control. It explores tenacious history of police unionizing efforts and the legal/political challenges.
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member of Rose City Copwatch in Portland, Oregon, and of the National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981)
“The police cannot be considered simply the custodians of the legal order, but must be seen as the guardians of the social order as well. That they defend it wearing blue uniforms rather than white sheets is a matter of only minor importance.” 4 likes
“It is shameful, I feel, that we even have to make this point. That it is necessary to say, even once, that Black lives matter is itself a testimony to the racism of our society. It ought to be obvious that Black lives matter, that Black people matter, and by implication, that their murder, especially at the hands of the state, cannot go unanswered. And yet it is not obvious. It the context of the legal system, the recent evidence suggests that it is not even true. The slogan represents, then, not simply a fact, but more importantly a challenge. If we believe it, we must make it real.” 2 likes
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