Matthew Guariglia

Oct 21, 2023

Police and the Empire City

Race and the Origins of Modern Policing in New York

Duke University Press 2023

During the years between the Civil War and World War II, police in New York City struggled with how to control a diverse metropolis. In Police and the Empire City: Race and the Origins of Modern Policing in New York (Duke UP, 2023), Matthew Guariglia tells the history of the New York Police Department to show how its origins were built upon and inseparably entwined with the history of race, ethnicity, and whiteness in the United States. 

Guariglia explores the New York City Police Department through its periods of experimentation and violence as police experts imported tactics from the US occupation of the Philippines and Cuba, devised modern bureaucratic techniques to better suppress Black communities, and infiltrated supposedly unknowable immigrant neighborhoods. Innovations ranging from recruiting Chinese, Italian, and German police to form “ethnic squads” to the use of deportation and federal immigration restrictions to control local crime—even the introduction of fingerprinting—were motivated by attempts to govern a multiracial city. Campaigns to remake the police department created an urban landscape where power, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, crime, and bodies collided and provided a foundation for the supposedly color-blind, technocratic, federally backed, and surveillance-based policing of today.

Jeffrey Lamson is a PhD student in world history at Northeastern University. His research focuses on the history of police technology, its relationship to the history of police reform, and its place at the intersection of U.S. domestic policing and global counterinsurgency.

Listen to more episodes on:

Your Host

Jeffrey Lamson

Jeffrey Lamson is a PhD student in world history at Northeastern University. His research focuses on the history of police technology, its relationship to the history of police reform, and its place at the intersection of U.S. domestic policing and global counterinsurgency.

Learn More

Also Hosted By Jeffrey Lamson