Police provide an essential service for citizens – security and protection – without which the exercise of all other rights becomes heavily constrained. Police institutions are also the primary entity of the state with which most citizens come into direct contact. In practice, however, governments throughout the Americas (and beyond) have long struggled to organize police institutions such that they address societal demands for security, and that the deployment of coercion against citizens is applied equitably and constrained by law and external accountability. From São Paulo and Johannesburg to Chicago, police forces engage in widespread extrajudicial killings and torture that largely target marginalized sectors of society, including Afro-descendants, the poor, and those living in the urban periphery. At the same time, these groups are also underserved by their police, leaving them vulnerable to high rates of criminal violence. Through comparative analysis of police institutions in Latin America, the United States, and other regions, this course probes the ways in which police institutions shape the lived experiences of individuals and how police may help reproduce existing social inequalities.