Patrick Blanchfield in Bookforum:
The first test call using America’s 911 emergency system was placed on February 16, 1968. To fanfare in the press, a state legislator sitting in the City Hall of the small Alabama town of Haleyville dialed in to the local police station. His call was answered by a group of august notables—a US representative, a telephone-company executive, and president of the Alabama Public Service Commission Theophilus Eugene Connor. Better remembered today by his nickname, “Bull” Connor was an outspoken white supremacist who believed desegregation was a communist plot; just five years earlier, as commissioner of public safety in Birmingham, he had notoriously unleashed riot police, fire hoses, and attack dogs on nonviolent civil rights protesters.
That such a man should have been on the receiving end of America’s first 911 call is fitting. As Stuart Schrader reveals in his new book, Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing, the United States’ 911 system was modeled on an earlier program pioneered by American-funded police forces fighting a Marxist insurgency in Caracas.