In July, Chicago’s city council passed a modified version of police accountability legislation that activists have spent years fighting for, backed by major public sector unions and Black labor leaders. Though stripped of some of its stronger measures, the new law is one of the most prominent pieces of police reform legislation to pass since last year’s uprisings after George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police. A civilian commission will now be empowered to pick the head of the police investigatory body and change the rules and policies under which the police operate. In Chicago, the law reflects increasing public scrutiny about how the police function. The city has seen a string of high-profile revelations of police killings, brutality, and general misconduct targeting Black and Latino people.
Community control of police
That Community Control Over Police campaigns (CCOP) are essentially neocolonialism is a rather wild claim that avowed abolitionist activists, like Dubian Ade applies to the articulation of CCOP by advocate Max Rameau, an organizer in Pan-African Community Action (PACA) to which this author also belongs. Understandably Ade avoids the rabbit hole of condemning the Black Panther Party as neocolonialist, the progenitors of CCOP. While the Democratic Party claims championship over congressional approval of police reform in the name of George Floyd, now awaiting a Senate vote, some Black circles are still debating the virtues or lack thereof in CCOP. Corporate media theater aids and abets the lopsided focus by blitzing the public with coverage of a partisan struggle over the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 .
One year ago, thousands of people engaged in protest in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer. A persistent protest demand was for defunding police departments. The appeal of this rallying cry was obvious. Police in this country are a law unto themselves, killing and brutalizing at will, and rarely being called to account. Often these fatal encounters occur after minor offenses are committed or in the case of black people, when a call for assistance instead leads to death. The premise of defunding police is well intentioned but faulty. In the past year we have seen sleight of hand in cities like New York where alleged funding cuts amounted to nothing more than budgetary trickery. Even in Minneapolis, where the movement began, defunding became nothing more than a name change.
In response to the persistent problem of state-sponsored violence against working class Black communities and the futility of police reforms, the contemporary calls for community control over police (CCOP) have garnered significant attention and support in Black communities. Consequently, the growing grassroots support for the concept of Black communities controlling their own security and safety has come under fire by a number of individuals and organizations advocating for the defunding and abolishing of police. Pan-African Community Action (PACA), an organization operating in the DC-Maryland-Virginia metropolitan area, supports CCOP, as does the National Alliance Against Racists & Political Repression (NAARPR) and a number of other organizations. PACA’s formation in November 2015 was in response to the killing of DC resident and educator Alonzo Smith at the hands of “special police.”
The Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations (BiBC) is calling on colonized and unrepresented people of the U.S. to join us November 6-8 for the Black Power Matters march on the white house opposing the reactionary U.S. agenda being imposed on Africans and others within the U.S. and around the world. Millions of people within the U.S. have been pushed out of legitimate political life by the rulers of this country. The two ruling parties have both put on their ritual shows called conventions, formally nominating their respective representatives for U.S. president and unveiling their two tame programs that represent the interests of one single white colonial-capitalist ruling class.
Despite the unprecedented wave of “Justice for George Floyd” protests that put more than 20 million people in the streets in every region of the nation in June, and the appearance of “Black Lives Matter” murals on the streets of Washington DC, New York City, Seattle, Oakland, Tulsa and other cities, police killings of Blacks have continued their grisly pace. Citing the subsequent murders of Trayford Pellerin in Lafayette, Louisiana, Miguel Vega in Chicago, Dijon Kizzee in Los Angeles, “the recent evidence of the murder of Daniel Prude at the hands of Rochester police and the continued denial of Justice for Breonna Taylor” in Louisville, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression is calling for a “national day of protests” on Saturday, September 19.
Cutting police budgets without establishing public control over their behavior doesn’t solve the problem, and invites politicians to shuffle budget numbers around like a three-card monte swindle. Unfortunately, a key demand of the new movement has led to confusion and to political defeats at a crucial moment. At first glance, the idea of defunding the police seems to have merit. Everyone who wants to end police brutality welcomes the idea that they might lose some of the resources they use in their terrorism spree. The police are the modern-day slave patrol and any effort to diminish their capabilities seems like a good idea. But the state doesn’t work that way.
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.
The recent protests across the country following the murder of George Floyd have elevated the demands to defund and abolish the police. This comes on the heels of the nationwide resurgence of a movement for community control of police led by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. We speak with author and activist Max Rameau of Pan African Community Action about the role of police in the bigger picture of the evolution of human beings as protectors of private property and wealth, the pitfalls of defunding police if this dynamic is not addressed and what community control of police looks like. Max is co-author with Netfa Freeman of an upcoming book, "Community Control over Police."
The National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression calls upon all its members, comrades, friends and allies to join a national day of action this Saturday, June 13ᵗʰ to call for direct democratic community control of the police, to continue the call for freedom for those caged in detention centers, jails, and prisons while the pandemic continues to spread, and finally to continue the call for justice for George Floyd and all other victims of police crimes from brutalization, illegal searches, torture, forced confessions, and murder. Community Control of the Police means more than attaching some new name on the same ineffective review boards filled with law enforcement officers and their sympathizers; it means direct, democratic control of police departments, policies, budgets, and officers with full subpoena power through a civilian council elected by the people of the community served by the police.
In Rojava, Asayish (Internal Security Forces) and HPC (Civil Defense Forces) forces work together in a symbiotic relationship to provide safety and security to the community. The Asayish work as traffic controllers, arrest criminals, protect victims of domestic violence, serve as security guards at main governing buildings and control the movement of people and goods from one canton to another. The HPC in contrast, are people trained in basic security who only patrol their own neighborhood. The purpose of both forces is explicitly to protect the people from outside threats such as terrorist forces. It is always the HPC that protects a neighborhood, never the Asayish. The Asayish protects the city while the HPC protects the community. Both organizations have a gender quota of at least 40 percent women, if not more. The people are protecting themselves. Security forces protect those who they live with and interact with daily in the neighborhood. This proximity ensures that violations occur only rarely. When they do occur, the neighborhood communes immediately activate community mechanisms of justice, honor, and restoration.
Black America is heartbroken and angered by the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. Floyd’s murder occurred in the third month of a pandemic that has taken over 100,000 lives overall and a disproportionate number of Black Americans. The Black masses in Minnesota have taken to the streets to not only call for justice for Floyd and his family but also to stand up to centuries of state sanctioned white supremacist violence. If George Floyd teaches us anything, it is that COVID-19 is not the only contagion in the U.S. that needs to be eradicated. Floyd’s close friend and former NBA player Stephen Jackson shared his heartfelt response to the tragedy, the content of which should spark a conversation about the kind of power that is needed to eradicate the centuries-old contagion of white supremacy.