How do we get from Here to There
In 1991, after a high speed pursuit, police beat and clubbed motorist Rodney King. Little did they know that someone with a camcorder was recording the event. When the officers involved were acquitted of using excessive force it sparked the Los Angeles riots, which caused $1 Billion in damages.
At the time it was unusual for a witness to record video of police brutality, but with the advent of the smartphone we truly learned the extent of police violence when everyone started carrying video recording devices in their pocket, and in many cases uncovered a vast discrepancy between recorded video and the police report.
The Black Live Matter (BLM) movement was born after Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson Missouri police during a robbery investigation. However, supporters of the police quickly countered by saying Blue Lives Matter, and All Lives Matter.
Tensions were inflamed when a police officer allowed their dog to urinate on the memorial erected on the spot where Brown died. Later, police vehicles destroyed the memorial. This kicked off several days of increasingly violent protests.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Many people, including myself, have a problem when people say “All Lives Matter” in response to BLM. When someone says “Black Lives Matter” you can choose to either agree or disagree. Any comeback is a variation of these two responses. “All Lives Matter” is a not-so-subtle form of negating the message of BLM.
Blacks are 2.8 times more likely to be killed by police than whites are, and more likely to be unarmed. On average, more than 1,000 people per year are killed by police in the U.S.
The consensus is that the inordinate number of civilians killed by police here in the United States is a direct result of the shortened training period they undergo. On average, police in the U.S. get about 21 weeks of classroom training and 13 weeks of field training, while police in European countries get 2-3 years of training with a focus on de-escalation.
Whereas Rodney King ran from the police, gradually we began to see videos where the victim's culpability became less clear. In 2020 these incidents reached a head with the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.
Floyd, who was already handcuffed and laying prone, died of suffocation after an officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 41 seconds(WARNING GRAPHIC VIDEO) as fellow officers stood by. He was suspected of counterfeiting a $20 bill.
Taylor was shot 8 times in her own home when undercover police broke down her door with a no-knock warrant and her boyfriend opened fire on what he thought was a criminal home invasion.
JUNE 2013 Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino, age 35, shot 8 times by the Gardena CA police when he adjusted his ballcap. (WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO). His family was awarded $4.7 million.
In August 2019, Albuquerque, NM police were called about a man sleeping at a bus stop. A tactical unit of police showed up and opened fire on the unarmed man (WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO).
That same month, 23 year old Elijah McClain was killed by police in Aurora CO while walking home with a can of iced tea.
In 2018, police brutally beat a suicidal Andrew Casciano as he lay in a hospital bed. A year later, as he was suing the city of Patterson NJ for $4 million, Casciano was found dead in his apartment of apparent suicide.
Just a few weeks ago, security guard Andres Guardado was shot in the back by police who then broke the security cameras and confiscated the DVR only to later get a warrant.
The examples go on, and on, and on... and now just in the past two months there have been actual, modern day lynchings. 5 men have been found hanged. In every case the death was immediately ruled a suicide.
Beginning on May 27, 2020, protests erupted in Minneapolis and quickly spread to cities across the nation, and the rest of the globe. As of the writing of this essay, the protests continue daily and into the night. Many groups participated in these protests, with some sympathetic to the cause and others intending to discredit the cause.
Often, the protests are accompanied by anarchy, vandalism, and looting. Since these protests were infiltrated with agents provocateurs, there’s no telling who is instigating the damage, but the opportunity to loot exposes the achilles heel of our society as eloquently expressed by Trevor Noah.
What is society? Fundamentally when you boil it down society is a contract…
And as with most contracts, the contract is only as strong as the people who are abiding by it...
And then, some members of that society, namely black American people watch time and time again how the contract that they have signed with society is not being honored by the society that’s forced them to sign it with them.
When you see George Floyd on the ground and you see a man losing his life in a way that no person should ever have to lose their life - at the hands of someone who is supposed to enforce the law - what part of the contract is that?
And a lot of people say, ‘What good does it do to loot Target? How does it help you to loot Target?’
Yeah, but how does it help you to not loot Target? Answer that question! Because the only reason you didn’t loot Target before was because you were upholding society’s contract. There is no contract if law and people in power don’t uphold their end of it.
If the example that law enforcement is setting is that they do not adhere to the laws, then why should the citizens of that society adhere to the laws when in fact the law enforcers themselves don’t?
54% of the annual federal budget is spent on the military.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton signed the National Defense Authorization Act, also known as the 1033 program, which allows excess military supplies to be passed on to local law enforcement. Between 1997 and 2014, $5.1 billion in military surplus was distributed via the 1033 program until it was curtailed after the Ferguson riots.
In 2017, Trump renewed the program and by the end of 2018 he had transferred $600 million worth of equipment over to local law enforcement.
WHY NOT REFORM?
What we have here is a police system that is run amok. They are at war with the populace (NOTE: Thread has grown to more than 700 instances). They have weaponized their powers and are selectively investigating and prosecuting crimes. On the first day of the BLM protests in Louisville, Kentucky, 7 people were shot, and no arrests have been made. There has been no announcement of an investigation. But police are able to use surveillance photos of a protestor to trace a logo seen on their clothing back through their Etsy retailer to identify the suspect.
In Warren MI, an Amazon driver was arrested for parking on the wrong side of the street during a delivery, presumably because he was black.
Being able to call the police is a form of white privilege. For many Americans, inviting the police into their homes is not an option because it would cause more problems than it would solve. For many people, there is no such thing as a positive encounter with the police.
Police reform and accountability have been tried in countless ways with little effect. The ‘bad apple’ argument and proposed remedies will always fail because they do not account for the systemic corruption that allows police brutality to continue. The Fraternal Order of Police is a tight knit organization that protects its own. When there are so many bad apples, there is no room for the good apples. Qualified immunity shields officers from personal responsibility. Higher justice demands the cooperation of prosecutors and judges, none of whom wish to become an adversary to law enforcement.
Thus began calls to defund the police as the only viable solution. Defund, disband, abolish and demilitarize have all been used interchangeably to describe a process of disempowering the police, but their meanings are easily distorted by critics since they do not clearly denote that the process would entail limiting the scope and purpose of the police.
The problem with “defund the police” is it requires a complete retooling of our society. Scaling back police powers can not be done in a vacuum. It’s like a doctor who stops treating the symptoms of disease without a newfound focus on treating the causes of disease.
Police have become a tool of feudal-capitalism whose job is to protect the assets of the rich by keeping the rest of us in line. A new approach to policing must be accompanied by a new approach to capitalism.
We need to address poverty by increasing the minimum wage and giving all adults a Universal Basic Income. We need universal healthcare. We need to shift the tax burden onto the rich, and away from the poor and middle class. We need to stop printing money to bail out failed 'zombie' companies whose income can not service the interest on their debt. A lot of crime is drug related but it’s not enough to simply legalize drugs, we need to reduce the stigma of addiction and increase the availability of treatment.
We need to start with term limits for elected politicians, but we will never be able to achieve that without changes to the electoral process: The requisite precursors are verified voting, ranked choice voting, vote by mail or online, an election day holiday, not to mention the contention by one of the political parties that they have the right to rig their taxpayer funded primary elections.
As we near the 2020 presidential election, if we’re going to overthrow a fascist, it looks like we will have to choose someone who has made a career out of codifying white privilege, is campaigning on his resistance to progressive ideals, and receives campaign donations from manufacturers of riot gear and tear gas.
The Democratic caucus wants a weak implementation of reform that creates a national registry to track police misconduct.
"No, I don't support defunding the police. I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness," he said.
"I’m proposing an additional $300 million to reinvigorate community policing in our country. Every single police department should have the money they need to institute real reforms"
What are we to do? How can we even start? When faced with a the choice of a President who empowers white supremacists, and one who is anti-progressive I suppose I'll choose the latter as it minimizes the damage, but in the long run it might actually delay any changes.