SUNY New Paltz Graphic Design BFA Thesis Show 2021

From Night Watch to Now: How the History of Policing Affects Modern-Day Law Enforcement

Julia Howard

The summer of 2020 highlighted the horrific acts of violence specifically white police officers commit against people of color everyday. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and many others, ignited public outrage, protests, and calls for defunding or abolishing America’s obviously broken law enforcement.

The unembellished history of policing in the United States gives us clear evidence as to why our police forces are operating as corrupt and dangerous organizations still to this day. From Night Watch to Now explores the impact preliminary forms of policing still has on America’s law enforcement. This project aims to tell the history of policing in the United States from the inception of the first night watch system to the present day, and gives the reader an understanding of how early policing continues to affect modern day law enforcement. This project consists of two main parts—a research essay and a set of three zines designed to accompany that essay. The three zines are categorized as follows: Early Northeastern Policing, Policing in the South, and How Modern Policing Perpetuates Slavery. While explaining the history of policing through not only the written historical accounts, but also through use of imagery that represents policing throughout the centuries, the reader leaves with a better understanding of our law enforcement and why it is still as corrupt as the first night watch in 1636.