Community Control Of The Police – And A Whole Lot More

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Abolition of the police begins with community control, in which community representatives not only hire, fire and oversee the cops, but decide the nature of the policing that is necessary and acceptable.

“Movements are about amassing power to the people, not collecting promises from corporate flunkies.”

The wave of people’s protests across the nation, backed by solidarity actions in cities around the world, has caused the corporate oligarchy and its servants to make promises they can’t keep and give lip service to programs they have always resisted. The Congressional Black Caucus, the vast bulk of whose members backed militarization of local police and elevation of cops to the status of “protected” class, now claims to favor limits on police arsenals, less legal immunities for cops and a grab-bag of other reforms they previously dismissed out of hand. Mayors that know damn well they will have to cut spending across the board due to catastrophic loss of tax revenues during the current, Covid-induced Great Depression, now profess that they plan to withhold funds from cops in deference to the “defund the police” movement. They’re a bunch of Kente-clothed liars, of course, but movements are about amassing power to the people, not collecting promises from corporate flunkies. That means demanding community control of the police, and of those funds that local governments are supposedly diverting from the police to social programs.

If anything has been learned from the past half century of Black reliance on Democratic Party politicians, it is that no lasting victories can be achieved without the transfer of control of public resources directly to the people. That was the meaning of “All Power to the People” when the phrase was coined, and must remain the goal of the movement, today.

“No lasting victories can be achieved without the transfer of control of public resources directly to the people.”

Although there is no intrinsic contradiction between the three most-voiced demands of the current movement — community control of police, defunding the police, and abolition of policing as we know it – only proposals for community control of the police directly confront the issue of power in the here and now, and also address demands for direct democracy and Black self-determination. Community control of the police was essential to the formation of the Black Panther Party, and has been an active demand of Chicago organizers since 2012.  Support for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) has grown from only one of the 50-member city council (board of aldermen) to 19 co-sponsors  of the enabling legislation. Last fall, more than a thousand activists from across the country met in Chicago to endorse the concept of community control of police, and pledged to fight for its enactment in 22 cities – a list that has grown with the wave of George Floyd protests.

Although community control of the police is within reach of becoming law in Chicago, a majority Black and brown city with the second largest concentration of Blacks in the nation, the demand has gotten less traction in nationwide demonstrations than the call for defunding the cops, or eventual abolition. That’s undoubtedly because Black Lives Matter demands have been pervasive in the current demonstrations, and BLM supports defunding of police. However, Black Lives Matter is more a quilt than a monolith, and many Black Lives Matter chapters and individuals also support community control of the police, while CPAC activists also back defunding and abolition of the cops as a logical outcome of community control. The elements of Black Lives Matter that are resistant to community control of police are those under the influence of hashtag founder Alicia Garza, who is now a Democratic Party political player and go-to person for corporate philanthropy.

“Black Lives Matter is more a quilt than a monolith.”

A serious, methodical program of defunding the police requires a community control approach. Ninety percent of actual police duties do not involve making felony arrests, and there is a consensus that cops should not deal with domestic disputes, mentally disturbed people, or a host of social contradictions – and maybe not even traffic control, which long ago devolved into pretexts for criminal charges. Therefore, defunding of police leads directly to the funding of specific public services, some of them currently badly performed by cops and all of which should be overseen by the publics most directly affected. Absent community control, defunding of police will only result in a shrinkage of the domestic army of occupation, not a change in the lethally oppressive relationship, and any social services that receive new funding will be answerable only to the legislators that had previously starved the community of services.

Abolition of the police begins with community control, in which community representatives not only hire, fire and oversee the cops, but decide the nature of the policing that is necessary and acceptable. Community control is a prerequisite to communities policing themselves to the greatest degree possible.

Indeed, communities should control, not just the police, but much of the rest of their neighborhoods’ vital services and resources. The right to self-determination is not confined to the criminal justice system. Therefore, community control of police advocates would be in principled agreement with the Los Angeles Movement 4 Black Lives position : “The most impacted in our communities need to control the laws, institutions, and policies that are meant to serve us – from our schools to our local budgets, economies, and police department.”

Abolition of the police begins with community control.”

Community control is how we build socialism within the framework of people’s right to self-determination – the principles by which, along with solidarity, we de-colonize and dis-imperialize our world. ”Power to the People” means disempowering the capitalist and white supremacist. Everything else is a diversion, conjured up by the Kente cloth-soiling Black Misleadership Class in service to their bosses, the oligarchs. They have betrayed us repeatedly and laughed at our willingness to trust them yet again. In George Floyd’s name, let this be the end of it.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

  • jim james

    Devastating, absolutely devastating.

    I’d raised the fact that BLM took 100 million dollars from the Ford Foundation, while I was called out on the actual dollar figure, which may be more or less than 100,000,000.00, mr. Glenn Ford clarifies the record and establishes the point I was making beyond peradventure.

    “The elements of Black Lives Matter that are resistant to community
    control of police are those under the influence of hashtag founder
    Alicia Garza, who is now a Democratic Party political player and go-to
    person for corporate philanthropy”.

    The people who take corporate, foundation funds are not for real, should not be taken for real and should be considered your enemy. Something that should be obvious to anybody but rarely is.

  • Stephen Morrell

    How many revolutions that have been successful ever had in their slogans, agitation or propaganda in the months leading up to the taking of power, ‘Community control of the police’? How many examples exist of actual, successful community control of the cops that resulted in the oppressed trumping the interests of the ruling class? Zero on both counts. Community ‘control’ of the cops has been tried too many times and it’s been an abysmal failure. To argue that community control is some kind of way station toward the abolition of the cops is disingenuous, and to then claim that those who want the cops ‘abolished’ or ‘defunded’ (eg, tendencies within BLM) are funded by sections of the big bourgeoisie and therefore such ‘militancy’ is wrong and misguided and dubious, is beyond disingenuous. It simply shows the bankruptcy of sub-reformism in its arguments against reformism.

    If the protests get bigger — which appears likely given the upcoming expiry of rent and mortgage moratoria in July — and pitched battles on the streets ensue between protestors and the cops, then the notions of ‘community control’, ‘defunding’ and ‘abolition’ will all become academic.

    To make this clearer, imagine in the midst of the Civil War that instead of continuing to wage the war against the Confederacy Lincoln and the Union Army hierarchy decided to embark on a program of community ‘control’ of the Confederacy or campaigned for their ‘abolishment’ or ‘defunding’. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it, but imagine the Southerners going for that one, let alone the Black Regiments in the Union Army. Pass the bong.

    Now, if pitched battles likely break out on the streets — and given that the cops have already thrown down their gauntlet there’s a high chance of that — can anyone imagine in the heat of battle that the cops would then submit to any kind of community ‘control’ by the same people they’re clubbing on the streets? Especially if they’re winning? Hardly. Conversely, possibly after much blood is spilt but after much heroic persistence and organising, would the protesters simply allow the cops to return as a ‘legitimate’ player if they’ve managed to drive them off the streets and have areas under their control by well-organised mass mobilisations and militia? Hardly. But the cops will then certainly support community ‘control’. And How receptive is Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone collective to community ‘control’ of the cops there, with the cops gone? Anyone from there voicing support for this? Most there would know that allowing the cops back, under community ‘control’ or not, will spell immediate doom for that little experiment.

    There’s lots of talk about the ‘ruling class’ and their state in all this, but without much apparent understanding of the nature of the bourgeois state. Community ‘control’ of the cops depends on this same state, on its legal and bureaucratic machinery along with its repressive core somehow all cooperating and coming under the ‘control’ of the community that it normally represses. Implicitly or explicitly, this is being painted as a gradual taking over of the state through the agency of community ‘control’ of the cops. ‘A whole lot more’ as it were. Instead, what would happen under such a scenario is that some measure will be proposed that finally breaks the patience and forbearance of the ruling class, especially when the balance of forces have shifted in their favour, and they’ll simply send in the cops and national guard to put a stop to all the childish notions of the community holding ‘power’ over its rulers and oppressors. This is a reformist illusion and a dangerous one.

    And at ‘best’, all community ‘control’ of the cops will achieve is the oppressed being complicit in their own repression. A lovely state of affairs indeed.

    The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (not ‘Black Panther Party for Community Control of the Police’) exercised ‘community control’ of the cops by patrolling black neighbourhoods with open-carry, loaded weapons and were effective in keeping the cops at bay. They certainly weren’t so naive to believe that the cops would ever be brought under the control of the community, let alone any black community. It’s thus simply a lie to claim the Black Panthers were for community ‘control’ of the cops by conflating their physical and armed resistance, as partial and flawed as it was, with the peaceful, ‘legal’ sub-reformist chimera proposed here.

    ‘Community control’ is not ‘how we build socialism’. On the contrary, socialism is how we build community control, and the first necessary condition for socialism is a workers revolution that smashes the capitalist state and replaces it with a workers state. Otherwise, the ‘same old crap’ remains, with China 1927-28, Spain 1936-38, Indonesia 1965, and Chile 1973 serving as exemplary and bloody object lessons for those thinking the community can ever ‘control’ the repressive core of the bourgeois state.

  • Nylene13

    We all take corporate money, one way or another. Rather hard not to, when we live under a capitalist system.

  • daedalus43

    Thanks, Stephen..

    I was about to point out that ‘community control’ has been the apologist’s half-measure for a number of years, with the result you now see. It is time to try something else, and that ‘something’ involves changing the system that controls the police, the current ruling class, which happens to be a handful of capitalist owners.

    Don’t forget, though, that the ‘police’ were also around at the time of royalist Europe, so the rulers always have their henchmen (usually men). Remember the ‘Sheriff of Nottingham’? It’s not strictly a problem of capitalism.

  • daedalus43

    The more this can be framed as a strictly ‘Black’ issue, the weaker will be the chance for significant change. Certain Black ‘leaders’ see the opportunity to gain political leverage from the outrage. The ‘Democratic’ Party leadership sees the same opportunity. It’s a balancing act with them. How do we appear to be for change without actually allowing it to happen?

    On a related note, the ‘kente cloth’ event was just as disgusting as the Trump ‘bible incident’, the only difference being that the police weren’t needed to clear out the protesters for a ‘kente cloth’ display.

    Billionaires play many different games, but all designed to promote the same goal. They want to ensure that they protect the wealth and power of their ruling class. Their hirelings act accordingly.