A Trip to 8th and Race: Hyper-Policing, False Arrests, and Racial Capitalism in Philadelphia, 1970-1978

Menika Dirkson, Temple University

In the 1970s, many Philadelphians harbored criticism and animosity toward the police because anyone, from a doctor to juvenile delinquent, could experience excessive and authoritarian police power and violence during this tough on crime era. The Philadelphia Police Department often made the newspapers (locally and nationally) for its many cases of alleged police brutality. Residents throughout the city regularly petitioned the police department to investigate officers and detectives for manhandling, verbal abuse, false arrests, torture-filled interrogations, and deadly force. These cases publicized the evolution of how commonplace excessive force against African American males (particularly near housing projects) was prevalent in the city. In June 1972, the Pennsylvania State Committee published an investigative report on the use of excessive force against other socioeconomic groups and corruption by the Philadelphia Police Department. This was the beginning of a series of investigations on police brutality conducted by government and non-profit organizations in Philadelphia. By April 1977, local journalists were publishing groundbreaking articles on how Philadelphia beat officers and detectives were profiting from the existence of “crime” by arresting marginalized citizens: the non-white, poor, or “displaced” from their real or perceived neighborhood of origin. Nevertheless, from 1970 to 1978, state investigations into police brutality revealed police and city officials’ biases, insecurities, and improprieties, while serial exposés written by investigative journalists in Philadelphia revealed a system of racial capitalism where many police officers falsely arrested, interrogated, and brought people to lengthy court trials to gain financial rewards like paid overtime as salaried government officials.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 202. The Carceral State and Crises of Capitalism and Governance in 1970s America