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Law Enformcement Office with a Protective Shield

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The Black community has had a long and contentious history with law enforcement, stemming back to the early 1600s when members from the British colony implemented watch guards to patrol towns and cities for burglaries and arson. Patrol guards would also track down runaway slaves to maintain order and prevent rebellion. They were notorious for attacking and beating runaway slaves, a harsh and often cruel punishment for resisting authorities. Sadly, as slavery expanded throughout the south, the presence of the patrolmen increased.

“Everything that you can think of that a police officer can do today, they did it,” said Sally Hadden, a history professor at Western Michigan University told USA Today of Black people’s historic mistreatment by law enforcement. “The biggest thing is that they were race-focused as opposed to the police today, who should be race-neutral in their enforcement of law.”

When slavery was abolished in 1865, following the institution of the 13th Amendment, slave patrols turned into modern-day police departments and as Black people slowly began to obtain more rights, law enforcement officials implemented other ways to criminalize the Black community by restricted access to homeownership and even employment in some states.

Today, the police department’s inherently racist past continues to plague the Black community resulting in historic injustices of police brutality and unlawful sentencing of Black men in particular throughout the United States. According to the NAACP, statistics show that a Black man is five times more likely to be stopped without just cause than a white person. Sadly, Black men and women are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than their white counterparts. We’ve seen the harrowing statistic play out with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and more recently Patrick Lyoya, who was shot in the back of the head by a Michigan police officer earlier this month as he was surrendering.

Naturally, Black people have developed ways to protect themselves from the police through the use of slang. You made have heard of the terms “F*ck 12” or “5-0” but where do they come from and what do they even mean?

Let’s dissect a few police officer slang words below.