Police through the ages

There was Mickey through the ages, here is the police throughout history and the world, in a formless and suggestive comic strip. There are so many ways to maintain order.

Global police is a book UFO. There is neither a university-style book nor any other comic strip that has such a broad ambition, and/or that would like to make the question of there police. The work is not a classic comic strip with a plot, and a character that we follow in a trajectory or a story (even though, as in the film Visitors, find temporal spatial holes to move). It is rather a succession of fixed shots with off-screen comments if you like, and shifts in angles of view on the reality depicted. There is no chronological order, apart from the fact that the starting point is old, and the arrival point is tomorrow, in the ordering of the pages. Because this is not a story about the police, but about dealing with the police question in the world and historyas the subtitle indicates.

This is why it is difficult, which does not diminish its interest, to account for it. what yardstick should we read this UFO by?? It does not seem to me that there is an easy solution to this dilemma. Perhaps we need to adopt a double standard of discussion? That of making available in a pleasant way knowledge accumulated by the social sciences for more than seven decades now, on the one hand. And that of the interpretive and illustrative choices made by the authors among all those that would have been possible, on the other hand.

All the ways to maintain order

Regarding the dissemination of knowledge through comics, it seems to me that the bet has paid off. The authors transport us from one era to another, from XVIIIe At XXIe century, and on several continents. Everyone will learn something about the police. Their idea is to make people understand that there are different mechanisms for maintaining social order, and that they are more or less diffused in society, or more or less hidden.

For this purpose, Jobard and Calvez also take us through space, from one continent to another. In European societies, until a period not so long ago, there were no uniformed police responding to administrative operating rules. The codification movement is asserting itself in the city with the Parisian, London and Berkeley police forces. Their approach, effective pedagogically, consists each time of focusing on emblematic figures of their time: the prefect Lpine Paris in 1896 and his more balanced approach to street control, Commissioner Vollmer, first chief of the Berkeley police in 1909 (with a typographical error which places it in 1809) which militarize the chain of command, or Sir Robert Peel, member of the Tory party, Home office Minister from 1822, and great architect who unified and rationalized the London police from 1829. These characters created the bases of current Western police: uniform, rules, motorcycle or car, telephone which connects them to the central office.

But, in the previous stage, we find urban rounds of notables first, then extended to other inhabitants, we are reminded, the Night watch by Rembrandt (1642) in support. And, we find in many African countries the role of local elites gradually but not totally erased in Europe, and above all the authors suggest to us that there is a modernity in tradition. Thus, the presence of corner boys who secure the streets of Niamey in Niger: these are young boys paid by traders who work on good terms with the uniformed police, well aware of their limits. How different from a public-private partnership?, the authors implicitly question. This is well seen.

European models

The origins of European fonts remind us that there are models contrasts. The authors say how Sir Robert Peel wanted a police force for the English that was not a weapon, and not made of spies like the French. Thus, they would have a uniform to distinguish them from ordinary citizens, and no gun at their belt (when Peel codified this unarmed police, it was common in Europe to open fire on the hostile crowd, that is to say if what appears today as a tradition owes its boldness and freedom from the rules in force at the time). A characteristic that continues today.

The Americans spread this community policing influenced by the British in the Japanese Koban (small community stations with three unarmed agents) after 1945. And the approach across the Channel also influenced the German police from the 1960s, turning away from as well as its Nazi authoritarian heritage and the personnel who had served the regime and remained in place. But without getting rid of his service weapons.

The link with political authority is addressed through the stimulating comparison of France and Germany during the war and post-war period. In France, the police were subdued by Ptain in 1941, largely pure of liberation (the question of the sanction for having obeyed orders is pointed out in passing), but did not hesitate to exert pressure (or even force in certain years) against the institutions in 1958, in 2001, in 2016 and in 2021 when thousands of police officers gather in front of the entrance to the National Assembly while they attack the judiciary head-on, shouting The police's problem is justice (and also in 2023; the authors not taking into account the declarations of the DGPN against justice and the fundamental principles of law, probably due to the manufacture of the work).

In Germany, the police are not very pure, and the Cold War forces the federal police (BKA) was even set up by former Nazis, before being transformed. And don't confront the institutions. China, and its he is celestial made of 400 million cameras, with its social credit provides the authors with another illustration of the link between political order and police, through the prism of technology. New York and the accounting, the managerial management of police objectives (the numbers policy) constitutes another variant of the links between police and politics that we are reminded of. In short, the comics is composed as a sort of well of information, and by diving into it we are exposed to the thousand reflections of the diversity of the world's fonts.

The police before the police

Concerning the interpretive angles, if we now look at the comics as if it were an essay on the sociology of the police, which it is not, while having adopted a scenario which mimics the said exercise, we can discuss certain points. Why did you start the police in the West?? Because, without definition and in a very educational way the book addresses this difficulty of the impossible definition in conclusion it seems delicate to assert it. If the police are a form of ordering social relations, the traceability of its origins is as old as civilization. And besides, p. 165, the authors trace community policing back to the Quin dynasty 2,000 years ago.

It is moreover this reading which justifies all the pages on Africa, a continent where the police are hardly present outside the cities, and rarely equipped with capacities comparable to the administrations we know. If the police are a rationalized uniformed organization, we can then better justify this choice, but at the risk of not understanding that there was a police force before the police force, to which the authors are rightly attached. The police are mainly present here in their public security aspect, the daily police, the streets. The other functions, such as crowd management or even criminal investigation, are ultimately not very present. However, they are not absent (with the pages on Bertillon and judicial identification), or the Manchester massacre in 1819, the equivalents of which can be found in France during the same century.

There comics makes you think, the reader never gets bored due to the play of mirrors and contrasts in action contexts and font forms, and sometimes would like to know more. Isn't that the point?