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Recently Mayor Cory Mason signed an agreement with the Racine Police Department which has been touted as offering the highest pay in the state. As a criminal defense attorney, I am often asked about my feelings toward the police. Some of the best people and some of the worst people I know have chosen law enforcement careers. The real problem is that the system is broken. It is important (and sometimes difficult) to remember that police officers are human beings and, like all of us, they have their own flaws and biases.

With this new contract, RPD and the City of Racine has an opportunity to improve the quality of the policing in our community and to help to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the community that they are tasked with protecting and serving.

It is unfortunate that members of our community have experienced both good and bad interactions with law enforcement officers. However, it is also true that the system itself can play a role in shaping the behavior of police officers.

The current policing system

The current system of policing in many countries has been criticized for being overly punitive, for being militarized beyond the needs of policing, and for disproportionately targeting marginalized communities, which can lead to a culture of mistrust and hostility between law enforcement and the public. Believe it or not, many of the issues in modern policing are rooted in the historic connection between slavery and modern policing. The relationship between slavery and modern policing is complex and multifaceted.

Reforming the system to make it more accountable and transparent, and to prioritize community-based policing practices could help to reduce incidents of police misconduct and improve the relationship between police and the communities they serve.

The history of the police system

Historically, the origins of modern policing can be traced back to the slave patrols that were established in the southern United States during the 1700s and 1800s. These patrols were tasked with capturing and returning enslaved people who had escaped from plantations. They were also responsible for enforcing slave codes, which were laws that governed the behavior of enslaved people and restricted their movements and activities.

After slavery was abolished, these patrols were gradually transformed into modern police departments, and many of the practices and attitudes that developed during the era of slavery continued to shape the behavior of law enforcement officers. For example, racial profiling, police brutality, and the use of excessive force have been used disproportionately against Black people and other marginalized communities, which has perpetuated a legacy of systemic racism within law enforcement.

In addition to these historical connections, there are also ongoing concerns about the ways in which the criminal justice system perpetuates modern-day forms of slavery through practices such as mass incarceration, mandatory minimum sentences, and the use of prison labor. These practices disproportionately affect Black and Brown people, who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and face longer sentences for the same offenses as white people.

An opportunity to rebuild for better

Racine Police Department: An opportunity to rebuild, address issues facing forward
Credit: Nur Andi Ravsanjani Gusma / Pexels

Overall, the relationship between slavery and modern policing is complex and multifaceted, and it underscores the need for ongoing efforts to address systemic racism within law enforcement and the criminal justice system as a whole.

Racine Police Department has the opportunity to rebuild and to address these issues face forward. The higher salary will hopefully allow the department to hire and train officers of the highest caliber. We should not have to find out that RPD hired any officers with disciplinary records regarding use of force or interactions with the public. We deserve to see an increase in the number of BIPOC and Queer officers. Officers who identify as people of color or gay are not a panacea, but if there are enough of them in a department, they can create change in the way the rest of the department behaves.

We will hopefully also see officers who are less tired, because they don’t have to work so much overtime. Hopefully, this means that more officers are making the best possible decisions from a place of rested awareness, rather than exhausted fear. Hopefully, with the improved contract, RPD will be able to hire and train top-notch officers to protect us. As the department rebuilds and develops its internal culture, I hope that they take the opportunity to face the past and do better for our community.

About David Patton and Patton Law Office, S.C.

David Patton is the founding attorney of Patton Law Office, S.C., a mission-driven law firm. David and his team provide holistic representation for Estate Planning, Small Business legal support, and in the areas of Criminal, Family Law, and Civil Rights cases in Racine, Kenosha and Federal Courts. Visit to learn more or schedule a consultation.

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Attorney David Patton

David Patton is the founding attorney of Patton Law Office, S.C., a mission-driven law firm. David and his team provide holistic representation for Estate Planning, Small Business legal support, and in...