|South Carolina creates the first “slave patrol,” a band of local volunteers who hunt down Black people fleeing enslavement. Virginia and North Carolina soon authorize their own versions.
|New York forms a municipally funded police force. Over the next decade, cities including Boston, Cincinnati and Chicago do as well.
|Pennsylvania inaugurates the first state police department, which is primarily used as a tool for breaking labor strikes in the coalfields during its early years.
|Police in Atlanta arrest a 28-year-old Black man named Thomas Finch, then beat, shoot and leave him outside the local hospital where he dies. Samuel Roper, the lead officer, goes on to head up the FBI in Georgia, and upon retirement, lead the state chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
|A violent interaction between two Black motorists and police in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles results in a six-day rebellion that claims the lives of 34 people and $40 million worth of property damage. Between 1964 and 1967, similar riots take place in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Newark and Detroit.
|The Supreme Court rules in Terry v. Ohio that officers need only a “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity or dangerousness to stop and search a person. It becomes the legal underpinning for the “stop and frisk” policy adopted by the New York City Police Department in the 1990s.
|President Richard Nixon declares an “all-out offensive” on drug abuse, laying the groundwork for a decades-long, trillion-dollar war on drugs that funneled tens of millions of people into jails and prisons.
|Bystander video shows police severely beating Black Los Angeles construction worker Rodney King during a traffic stop. The acquittal of the officers involved sparks the L.A. riots in 1992.
|Bill Clinton signs the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which is widely associated with mass incarceration, particularly for Black men. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, from 1990 to 1999 the number of police officers rises 28 percent, from 699,000 to 899,000, partly funded by the crime bill.
|New York City settles a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights claiming that the NYPD’s use of stop and frisk is a form of racial profiling.
|The police killing of Mike Brown, an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, catalyzes the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement founded after the 2013 acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman.
|National attention on race and policing is reanimated by the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. The resulting protests and activism focused on abolishing or defunding police departments in ways that were previously considered too radical for mainstream political consideration.