Like many Americans, especially those on the political left, I have a distrust of the police. I’ve had several negative experiences that have left me jaded, including one in which I am the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit. My brain defaults to thinking the worst of the men and women in blue. That’s often unfair, and it’s something that I’m trying to overcome. One thing I realized very recently was that, as in any other vocation, there are some police officers who are born whistleblowers. Like any others, they revealed the truth when they were witness to waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, or threats to the public health or public safety. That’s something to be celebrated. It’s hard to be (or to have been) a whistleblower in the intelligence community.
Almost all Latinos believe there are better ways to make their communities safer than simply funding police departments, according to a first-of-its-kind study conducted by Mijente and other groups. In “Futuro y Esperanza: Latinx Perspectives on Policing and Safety,” 93 percent of the Latinos surveyed believe that making their communities safer requires “investing money in things that prevent crime from happening in the first place, such as good schools, access to good-paying jobs, and affordable housing, instead of just funding police to respond to it.” Most Latinos (62 percent) also say they or a loved one have had negative or even “unsafe” experiences with police, though the prevalence of such experiences varies across race, class, and gender.
When the news got out that someone had shot people in New York City’s subway system, many of us knew just what would come next, and we were not surprised. Immediate, urgent calls for more police and more policing, for tougher treatment of homeless and/or mentally ill people. Forget tolerance or empathy or social services, because look where that gets us. It’s an argument that we’ve heard for decades, but it’s not an abstract debate. Just because patterns and practices are old doesn’t mean their harms are not fresh. So, yes, it matters very much whether the news convinces people that they’ve just been saved from lethal threat by, as the New York Times explained, “hundreds of officers from a multitude of agencies,” using methods “as modern as scrutinizing video from surveillance cameras and parsing electronic records, and as old-fashioned as a wanted poster.”
Bekah Hinojosa was still in her pajamas Wednesday morning when she heard a knock on the door. Probably just FedEx, she thought, though the knock did seem a bit loud. When she peeked through her peephole, she saw a swarm of men. “Who is it?” she inquired. They were Brownsville police officers, she soon realized, there to initiate what would become a traumatic 24 hours for Hinojosa that would end in her border city’s mayor posting her mugshot and employment status on social media—all for the alleged crime of a little protest graffiti. Hinojosa, a local environmental activist with the Sierra Club and Another Gulf Is Possible, says she cracked the door open and “they just pushed themselves into my apartment … grabbed me and handcuffed me.”
Minneapolis, MN - Around 5000 people marched in protest here February 5, to demand justice for Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man murdered by police on February 2. Police were carrying out a no-knock search warrant on the apartment where Locke was sleeping and shot him three times, nine seconds after they snuck open the door. Protesters demand jail, prosecution and murder charges for the officer who shot Amir and those who planned the raid; an end to no-knock warrants; and the resignation of the Minneapolis Police Chief Huffington and Mayor Frey. There have been multiple protests since the murder of Amir Locke, including a 100-plus vehicle car caravan through downtown, organized by CAIR-MN the night before Saturday’s protest.
Amir Locke was a 22-year-old registered gun owner with no criminal record. He was killed before 7 a.m. on February 2, 2020, when SWAT officers with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) executed a no-knock search warrant for the St. Paul Police who were doing a homicide investigation. Body camera footage showing the killing was released the next day. It showed a SWAT unit of police enter a downtown Minneapolis apartment with a key, shout “police search warrant,” kick a couch that Locke was sleeping in a blanket on, and kill him within two seconds. Locke had a handgun next to him as he was sleeping and rolled over to grab it after being startled awake. Locke never fully raised the gun and his finger never reached the trigger.
North Carolina - After a number of delays and questionable prosecutorial behavior in their attempts to force a plea-deal because of the weakness of their case, Dedan Waciuri, a resident of Greenville, North Carolina is scheduled to be tried December 7th in the city of Greenville on two charges: “damage to government property” and “inciting a riot.” These charges stem from a protest organized in Greenville on May 31, 2020, in relation to the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and police violence directed at members of the Black community in general. The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP), a national anti-war and human rights organization believes that the charges against Dedan, a member of BAP’s Coordinating Committee, are a blatant attempt to send a message to the Black communities in Eastern North Carolina that resistance to oppression and the fight for human rights will result in confronting the full weight of the power of the state.
On Tuesday, October 26, Black Lives Matter joined fellow civil rights leaders to engage with and discuss tangible policy proposals to transform current approaches to public safety with senior officials from the White House and the Department of Justice. While we appreciate the invitation to speak and discuss solutions, we call on the White House to be courageous as it moves towards Executive Action to move us towards the kind of transformation that this moment demands — the kind of transformation that the spirits of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Dijon Kizzee, Wakiesha Wilson, Andrew Joseph III, and so many others demand. A transformational approach to public safety requires that we not expend energy tinkering around the edges of a fundamentally unjust system, but we upend it and dare to imagine and build new systems that invest deeply in resources: like youth programs, good jobs, mental healthcare, housing…resources that actually make our communities safe.
The RCMP’s “Community-Industry Response Group” (C-IRG) could also be described as a resource extraction protection unit. It’s militarized responses to land defenders at Fairy Creek, Wet’suwet’en, or, most recently, Gidimt’en Checkpoint, have demonstrated which side of “community” versus “industry” the group is on. Here’s what we know: According to the RCMP: “The Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) was created in 2017 to provide strategic oversight addressing energy industry incidents and related public order, national security and crime issues.” The RCMP adds: “The C-IRG uses a measured approach in facilitating the peaceful resolution of public disorder issues. They proactively engage all stakeholders through open communication and meaningful dialogue.” This would not describe the experiences of Indigenous land and environmental rights defenders on their territories in Canada.
The New York Times and other outlets report that most police killings in this country are “mislabeled.” The sanitized language is worse than an understatement because it implies that these murders are categorized improperly due to ordinary human error. In fact, there is a long and sordid history of covering up these crimes. The initial coroner’s report for George Floyd, whose murder was witnessed by millions of people, reported drug use and underlying health conditions as the causes of death. According to a report in the Lancet , between 1980 and 2018 police in the U.S. killed an estimated 30,800 people. This number is 17,000 more than reported by the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), which is a misclassification rate of 55%. The deaths of Black people are the most likely to be undercounted, with 5,670 deaths missing out of an estimated 9,540.
Chicago - In January 2019, a cell phone video from inside Marshall High School on Chicago’s West Side was posted to Facebook. It shows a student, then-16-year-old Dnigma Howard, at the bottom of a staircase, and two Chicago Police officers trying to handcuff her. One of the officers fires his Taser at Dnigma as she’s on the ground. Now, more than two years and a $300,000 settlement with the school district later, many Chicago schools have opted to remove police from their hallways. At the same time, newly released body camera video sheds light on what happened to Dnigma, and data from the US Department of Education shows some schools send huge numbers of their students like her to the police. It all started at about 9:45 a.m. on January 29, 2019.
The NDP government can’t keep dodging responsibility for the debacle at Fairy Creek — or the much bigger questions about the RCMP’s role in the province. Especially as increasing RCMP resources — with provincial government approval — are devoted to shutting down protests, frequently by Indigenous people. Last week, the BC Supreme Court refused to extend an injunction against protesters blocking logging, citing RCMP civil rights’ abuses — facilitated by the provincial government — in enforcing the court order. The dispute is about old-growth forests on southern Vancouver Island. Protesters blocked licence-holder Teal-Jones from logging in late 2020. On April 1, BC Supreme Justice Frits Verhoeven granted the company an injunction preventing the protesters from blocking roads or interfering with company operations.
The long anticipated report on the deputy gangs inside the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was released on Friday, Sept. 10. And it has a lot to say. The 230-page report by the nonprofit RAND Corporation was commissioned by the LA County Board of Supervisors, who are fed up with the deputy gang issue, and it contains a list of interesting conclusions about what needs to be done about the problem of deputy cliques that has plagued the nations largest sheriff’s agency for approximately half century. “At their worst,” the authors write, these “sub-groups encourage violence, undermine the chain of command, and gravely harm relationships with the communities that LASD is dedicated to serve.” And, because these deputy gangs/cliques/subgroups have existed for so many decades, the report’s authors admit that efforts to change this deputy subgroup culture will likely be met with “internal resistance.”
Police killing Black and Brown people hasn’t let up even though the public's attention may have been diverted from it as a constant nationwide tragedy for which the federal government shares responsibility. Despite this, the feds have been working hard on reformism that will outfit the Democrats with something to campaign on in the next presidential election. The radically spontaneous uprisings in response to the murder-by-cop of George Floyd in Minneapolis that rocked the entire country during the spring and summer of 2020, compelled a response from the feds. Any response by the feds, however, can’t address the root causes of the problem. So Biden’s DOJ is doing it’s part to dress up the empire in a costume of genuine responsiveness to police reform.