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This guest post is published as part of our blog series related to the American Studies Association annual meeting November 7-10 in Honolulu. #2019ASA
By Stuart Schrader, author of Badges without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing
I’m excited to visit Honolulu for my first time for the 2019 American Studies Association annual meeting. The city plays a tiny role in Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing. A look at how Honolulu pops up, however, reveals how networks of police experts connected cities across the United States and across the globe during the Cold War.
Honolulu’s police chief, both before and after statehood, was prominent among police professionalizers. His name was Daniel S.C. Liu (1908–1986). This Chinese-descended chief first appears in my book when one of the book’s main figures, Byron Engle, met with him while traveling across the Pacific in 1957, to meet with police executives in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Laos, South Vietnam, and Thailand. Engle became the director of the Office of Public Safety, in charge of U.S. police training and technical assistance in over 50 countries around the globe.
In 1957, Byron Engle was busy assembling this overseas police assistance operation. This period of his career was challenging to investigate because he was working on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency but detailed to other agencies. It’s notable that a figure working with the primary U.S. intelligence agency would be meeting with a municipal police chief at the time. Details like these reveal a little on their own, but the accretion of such connections indicates a vast and almost subterranean network that stretched across oceans, linking police and counterinsurgency experts from the United States to counterparts in many other countries. It turns out that Hawai‘i counted as a “third country” for training of police officers from other places around the globe. It was neither the United States nor the officers’ home country. Engle’s meeting with Liu concerned establishing the program in Honolulu. Training operations began soon thereafter. Within about a year, Engle’s closest subordinate, Theo Hall, whose career I examine in the book, also visited Liu, checking on the status of the training efforts Liu and Engle had discussed.
Daniel Liu and Byron Engle both belonged to a formal network, the International Association of Chiefs of Police. This professional organization is still around today—in fact, President Trump just spoke at the association’s annual meeting in late October 2019. The authority for the training program that brought foreign police to learn from Honolulu’s officers in the late 1950s and early 1960s was convoluted. As I mentioned, the CIA played an oversight role, but it was the responsibility of the development agency the International Cooperation Administration, which, in turn, subcontracted the mundane operations to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which coordinated the visits of police to various locales across the United States. Liu’s relationship with that association was crucial for both. He became the organization’s president in 1964, the year Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.
As a non-white police executive, Liu afforded the International Association of Chiefs of Police a modicum of diversity at a difficult moment, when both Cold War pressures and the civil rights movement gave police many reasons to be defensive about their role in racial oppression. In the book, I examine these challenges at length. Liu, however, was not shy about voicing stout anti-communist beliefs, or about declaring that the call for civil rights could not be allowed to interfere with police practices. From the perspective of the International Association of Police Chiefs, to have this non-white leader deliver this message conveyed moral authority, rather than chauvinism.
Just a few months after the Civil Rights Act passed, Liu addressed the police chiefs as their association’s president. He emphasized the global scope of the problems police faced, but he also focused on how the new U.S. civil rights law threatened to bring chaos if it undermined police authority or hampered police ability to deploy “traditional procedures.” He argued, “For our American way of life to continue, for freedom to continue, security must be maintained by the legally constituted authorities.” This attitude was consistent with the views of the historical actors Badges Without Borders investigates. Police and counterinsurgency experts believed that security was the precondition of all other values. They made no great distinction between national security in geopolitics and the most localized version of interpersonal public safety. Liu was one of many to operationalize this vision, by committing to strengthening police power. He helped police figure out how to fit the demand for security within the emerging ideology of racial liberalism attendant to the civil rights revolution, while ensuring that police could demarcate the limits of that revolution.