As part of a work project I recently participated in writing a statement addressing racism in the United States and against police violence and militarization in black and brown communities, see complete statement here – AFSC statement. In addition I worked on these demands post the police killing in Ferguson of Mike Brown.
A section of the written statement lists short term-demands (see below) that I believe are needed in this current movement moment. The lack of cohesive demands leaves us only with slogans and no short term gains for the community. Any moment that wants to be a movement needs to win concessions as it plans out a larger vision. Many of us seem to be solely focused on street demonstrations with no tangible goals insight. Some are spouting revolutionary rhetoric in which they have no ability to bring to fruition. Lacking a dialectical approach, they believe that the current street protests will lead to some magical change in policing.
To prove our usefulness to the community and show our power, we must either wring concessions from the state (as Frederick Douglas says “power concedes nothing without a demand) and/or create alternative institutions to the current ones. The idea that our anger and street demonstrations alone will make the state crumble seem sophomoric in nature, leaving me with the thought ‘everyone has an opinion, few have a plan’.
Below is a list of short/medium term demands that youth-led groups primarily in the south, but across the US, will use in the ongoing struggle to end to police violence in our communities on January 15, 2015, “Day Against Police Violence and Militarization in the Community.” We will use the day to confront and strategize ongoing attacks against black and brown youth by the police. To learn more about the day visit http://soar.afsc.org
- The Department of Justice must fully investigate and bring civil rights charges when applicable against officers that have broken the public and community’s trust. Only through a justice system that recognizes that “black lives matter” can we achieve even a sense of fundamental balance and institutional fairness.
- Individual states, through the Governor’s office and/or through state assembly, must appoint special state prosecutors who can fairly judge these matters without the burden of institutional relationships with the police. A special prosecutor who does not rely on the police for information and witnesses in other cases has less of burden to side with the police and have grand jury’s that are operated to vindicate the police version of events.
- Local police departments and the department of defense must end the insidious supply of military grade equipment and weapons for use in local policing. The more pervasive this weaponry is and the more widespread the training in its uses, the easier it is for police to look upon community members as enemy combatants. Police officers refereeing to the public as “civilians” is one illustration of how this military mindset is evident in into local police vocabulary.In order to hold police accountable, we must know more about our local police departments, their policies and procedures, complaints against them and the level of military grade weaponry they possess. Recently, the Pentagon released a report detailing all military equipment deployed through bill 1033 to various counties, cities, states, Federal departments, and school. Easy access to find information about where you live can be obtained through the Marshall Project website https://www.themarshallproject.org/2014/12/03/the-pentagon-finally-details-its-weapons-for-cops-giveaway. This information will prepare you to demand information about the equipment, implementation plans for its use, and the extent of officer training
- Civilian review boards must be strengthened with the power to subpoena officers and compel testimony; to complete independent investigations and offer findings; to hold fair and impartial administrative trials; and to enact penalties independent of police department/chief review. These boards should be completely independent from the police department with board members appointed by city councils, mayors and/ or a direct vote.
- Independent monitoring of public police behavior must be employed. The technology of dash and body cameras should be implemented to give an extra layer of safeguard to the community that the police interact with. These videotapes can help make officers more aware and reserved in their behavior and can provide important evidence and indicate need for future training in proper police protocols and conduct.
- Community Police Boards must be created where members of the community can serve and play a significant role in reviewing complaints and making recommendations for how policing should be done in their communities. Re-imagining the relationship between the police and the community is an important step in moving forward. The community must feels empowered to direct police actions as opposed to having police feel no accountability to the communities they serve. Creating a more horizontal police structure de-militarizes the structure and brings the community directly involved in how policing should be done in their/our communities where broken relationships and flawed policies too often result in the feeding of mostly black and brown youth into the prison pipeline.
- Legislators must prioritize spending on building relationships between people, and allowing more communities to lead themselves. This means more diversity and more training in many police departments; more community policing and civilian review boards. By reducing military spending by even a small percentage, resources could be supplied that build not only more accountability but also peaceful and better-resourced communities.
- End the Broken Windows program and the profit motive in the criminal justice system. Recent events have shown that targeting people for ticketing either in the street or in vehicles does not bring down crime, but adds to the frustration of people feeling over-policed and harassed. Cities and counties should not be taxing the community through tickets, court fines and fees to keep a bloated criminal justice and mass incarceration system operating.