We Need Demands and Plans to Fight Police Violence

270905police_stateAs 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 This information will prepare you to demand information about the equipment, implementation plans for its use, and the extent of officer training
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
About Community Movement Builders (159 Articles)
Community Movement Builders (CMB) is a member-based collective of black people dedicated to being a force for creating sustainable self-determining communities through cooperative economic advancement and collective community organizing. Our mission is rooted in Black love and equity. Grassroots Thinking is our newsletter/community blog about our work and movement activity

1 Comment on We Need Demands and Plans to Fight Police Violence

  1. Dred-Scott Keyes // December 27, 2014 at 2:19 pm // Reply

    Those of all faiths and beliefs who are celebrating the holidays, well believe this…..police forces and their co-conspirators, the media, are beginning their campaign to discredit, disrupt and eventually destroy the movement against police misconduct and for social democracy.
    Malcolm X said, “ If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are oppressed and loving those who are doing the oppressing”. It is just a matter of fact that there are 1500 newspapers, 1100 magazines, 9000 radio stations, 1500 television stations and 2400 publishers in the United States and they are all owned by 6 (yes,six) corporations. These same corporations also have a significant amount of influence, space and ownership of the internet.
    And while, the U.S. rails against the alleged North Korean hacking of SONY’s computers, the government is hacking into our lives with surveillance-literally- of almost every move we make. If you own a cell phone or computer, consider yourself surveilled!
    As recent events have shown, the political and organizational forces of the nation’s police are flexing their muscle, following the viral reaction to the non-indictment of police officers involved in the killing of unarmed Black people. The subsequent surfacing of a myriad of videos depicting the use of extreme police force, the once glamorous picture of policing has begun to fade and they have lost their moral authority.
    The recent murder of two NYC police officers, served as an impetus for police to try and re-assert their moral authority over their citizens and re-invent their image. Leading up to the murder, was the emergence of pro-police rallies across the country.
    In NYC-at one of those rallies- the police had the audacity to print black t-shirts with the words “I CAN BREATHE”- a crass, unsophisticated, insensitive reference to Eric Garner’s last words, “I CAN’T BREATHE”.
    NYC mayor, Bill DiBlasio- realizing how important the police is to his political career, responded to the killings by calling for calm and a suspension of protests, after the police union’s president, Patrick Lynch, said the mayor’s hands were bloody because he has allowed a soft-glove approach to the persistent, daily protests against police brutality and the killing of Mike Brown and Garner.
    In fact, after the death of the two officers, police officers were put on high-alert- not only in NYC but across the country. Meanwhile, another youth, was shot dead by police in a town near Ferguson for allegedly pointing a gun at the officer. Again, the officer was placed on paid administrative leave.
    Meanwhile, in NYC, six men have been arrested for threats and false reports since the murder of the two police officers. Devon Coley, 18, and Yasin Shearin, 16, were charged with making “terroristic threats,”. Police said Coley posted a photo on his Facebook page with a comment threatening his local police precinct in Brooklyn.
    Tyrone Melville, 41 and Pliston Jean-Pierre, 36 were also arrested for allegedly “threatening” remarks over the telephone towards the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn. Also arrested were Robert Bowman, 52, and Roberto Labita, 46, charged with making false reports over telephone and on Facebook.
    Now, just how did they arrest these men and what challenges lie before us? Even before 9/11, the NYC police used surveillance and the infiltration of Black, activists or religious organizations to disrupt or destroy them….do you remember the Panther 21, the assassination of Malcolm X, COINTELPRO, the Black Desk or the spying on Muslims after 9/11?
    In the decade after 9/11, Americans’ privacy rights have been violated in a variety of technologically intrusive ways, with the help of everything from spy drones to wiretaps to computer hacking.
    The Domain Awareness System, (DAS) was created by the NYPD in partnership with Microsoft and has developed into an insidious tool for the para-military organization. Among its abilities is that it is able to collect footage from closed circuit cameras all over the city, checking the information against multiple databases, arrest records and 911 calls, and running it through license plate reader software with the capability to track the movement of cars, and can even take radiation readings.
    It is no secret that the “security industrial complex- which includes the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security) has developed software that listens and scans computers for the use of certain terms that will trigger investigations of the site or individuals.
    And so it seems that this type of technology was used in the arrests of these men for “threatening” police, which is an oft-used phrase to justify just about anything under the sun- including murder.
    There is no doubt that the police are on the offensive and they are garnering support in their attempt to link the protests and the murders of the two police officers to regain their moral authority. They have obviously stepped-up their surveillance while trying to convince folks they are the ones “under siege” and not communities of color.
    Meanwhile, The New York City Fire Department confirmed that a fire truck and about 25 firefighters assigned to Engine Co. 222, moved out of its headquarters adjacent to the NYPD’s 81st Precinct building in Bed-Stuy. The police station house has been allegedly “threatened” by the so-called Black Guerrilla Family. Two Emergency Service Unit cops wearing helmets and body armor — and armed with assault rifles — can be seen standing guard outside the 81st, where the entrance was surrounded by metal barricades.
    Security was also beefed up at the 79th Precinct Tuesday night after a “confidential informant” told cops about overhearing that the Black Guerrilla Family was plotting to “shoot it out” with officers there. Really!!This is just the beginning of a “State of Siege” mentally that is permeated police forces across the nation. Will they become the new “Brown Shirts” in blue. Stay Tuned.

    Dred-Scott Keyes is the producer of “The Cutting Edge”, a weekly news magazine where “Journalism, Culture, Polics and Activism Converge”. It has been on the air for 20 years over Pacifica Radio station, WBAI in New York City

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