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Modern policing was set up to protect the powerful from a ‘criminal underclass’

‘Move along there, please.’

In most parts of the world, a constant police presence is taken for granted – accepted as the cost of a safe, functional society. But a standardised and preventative police force is a relatively new phenomenon. The police state of today is partially rooted in the views of the 18th-century utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham on criminality, which were codified with the establishment of the Metropolitan Police force in London in 1829. This analysis from the English video essayist Lewis Waller explores the evolution of British policing through the lens of its development from the 18th century to the 20th. Synthesising archival footage, primary sources and original writing, Waller argues that the modern police state is rooted in an almost wilful misunderstanding of the root economic causes of criminality, and the will of the powerful to protect themselves.

Video by Then & Now

Director: Lewis Waller

23 June 2020

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