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A Night To Remember

Articles by David M. Kennedy

State Violence, Legitimacy, and the Path to True Public Safety

by David M. Kennedy, Niskanen Center (
Executive Summary: I work with cops, and I support this movement.

Police Violence Is State Violence

Let’s be clear about what’s been happening in the country these last few weeks. Policing is an arm of the state. Police departments and police officers operate under the color of law and as agents of the state, with authority granted by their nation’s citizens. That gives their actions special meaning. George Floyd was—literally—killed by his government. Over and over again in America, Black people have been killed, beaten, and otherwise abused by their government through its agents: the police. In the modern era, Rodney King was beaten by his government. Michael Brown was shot and killed by his government. Walter Scott was shot in the back and killed by his government; his government then falsified the shooting scene and lied about what had happened.

This has always been an outrage. But the last several weeks in America have been transformative for how the nation thinks about and responds to police violence. A short time ago—before a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd—it would have been unimaginable that hundreds of thousands of both Black and ...



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