The police invention of humanity: Notes on the “thin blue line”

  title={The police invention of humanity: Notes on the “thin blue line”},
  author={Tyler J. Wall},
  journal={Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal},
  pages={319 - 336}
  • T. Wall
  • Published 1 December 2020
  • Art
  • Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal
This article unpacks the idea of police as a “thin blue line” as narrating a story about the police invention of the human through a civilizing and exterminating war against beasts. To speak in the name of the “thin blue line,” then, is to articulate the police as the primary force which secures, or makes possible, all the things said to be at the core of “human” existence: liberty, security, property, sociality, accumulation, law, civility, and even happiness. The current project is less a… Expand

Figures from this paper

‘Fight the reds, support the blue’: Blue Lives Matter and the US counter-subversive tradition
In the wake of the rightwing siege of the US Capitol, which put ‘Blue Lives Matter’ supporters at odds with police protecting the Capitol, the authors look to the history and contours of theExpand
Reel cruelty: Voyeurism and extra-juridical punishment in true-crime documentaries
This paper takes as its point of departure the newly resurgent controversy about whether the possible civic or pedagogical functions of true-crime documentaries outweigh the harm they areExpand
Violence, crime dystopia and the dialectics of (dis)order in The Purge films
Crime dystopia is the cultural site where some of the most gripping fears around the failure to order, civilise and make life secure are expressed. In The Purge film franchise, crime becomes legal inExpand
Police Union Political Communications in Canada
The political communications of police unions in the digital age deserve more attention from criminologists. This article examines the communications of two Canadian police associations in TorontoExpand
Normalizing counterinsurgency in the United States: first responders as the first line of defense
In this article, I elaborate on the thesis that counterinsurgency has become a ‘new governing paradigm’ in the United States. I first argue that the DoD redefinition of terrorism blurred the concep...
Point and shoot: Police media labor and technologies of surveillance in End of Watch
This article analyzes the 2012 found-footage buddy-cop film End of Watch. The author analyzes the film’s production, plot, para-textual materials, audience reviews, and audience-generated media to ...


The Fabrication of Social Order: A Critical Theory of Police Power
This is a highly stimulating book that sets out to challenge conventional ideas about the role and function of the police. It questions both liberal conceptions that relate the role of the police toExpand
The Police Power: Patriarchy and the Foundations of American Government
Among the powers of government none is greater than the power to police, and none less circumscribed. For centuries, it has been a commonplace of American legal and political discourse that theExpand
“For the Very Existence of Civilization”: The Police Dog and Racial Terror
Abstract: This essay maps the emergence of police dogs in the mid-1950s and 1960s United States in relation to white bourgeois fears of black criminality and insurgency. Although widely circulatedExpand
States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity
Whether in characterizing Catherine MacKinnon's theory of gender as itself pornographic or in identifying liberalism as unable to make good on its promises, this text pursues a central question: howExpand
No-bodies: Law, Raciality and Violence
When has it become a matter of fact - more than evidence, and yet not a self-evident 'truth' - that a (perhaps never to be known) number of young males and females perish as subjects of law'sExpand
When has it become a matter of fact — more than evidence, and yet not a self-evident ‘truth’ — that a (perhaps never to be known) number of young males and females perish as subjects of law’sExpand
A Critique of Violence
When, in 1968, Hannah Arendt posthumously published her friend Walter Benjamin’s essays in Illuminations, she excluded his now-famous, enigmatic work, “A Critique of Violence.” “A Critique ofExpand
“It all started with Eddie”: Thanatopolitics, police power, and the murder of Edward Byrne
On February 26, 1988, rookie New York City police officer Edward Byrne was shot dead while guarding a material witness in a drug trafficking case in South Jamaica, Queens. This article considers howExpand
Arbitrary Rule: Slavery, Tyranny, and the Power of Life and Death
Slavery appears as a figurative construct in countless cultural and historical contexts, especially during the English revolution of the mid-seventeenth century, and again in the American and FrenchExpand
More than Cosmetic Changes: The Challenges of Experiments with Police Demilitarization in the 1960s and 1970s
In response to civil unrest, many U.S. police forces in the 1960s and 1970s adopted more aggressive postures, including “militarized” uniforms and tactics. A few, however, directed reform effortsExpand