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9 Jun, 2020 21:04

‘Community policing’ is a trick – new enforcers for the same oppressors, not a dismantling of tyranny

‘Community policing’ is a trick – new enforcers for the same oppressors, not a dismantling of tyranny

As the massive anti-police-brutality protests sweeping the US are diverted into calls to “defund the police” and to replace them with community-based enforcers, Americans would be wise to keep an eye on “who benefits.”

There’s no question US police departments have become too militarized, too much like occupying armies, when the cities they patrol truly need engagement and accountability. Police in some areas pose more of a threat to residents than criminals, seizing a bigger chunk of Americans’ assets via civil asset forfeiture in 2014 than were stolen by burglars that same year. Certainly outfitting cops with military surplus equipment, sending them to Israel to learn chokeholds like the one that killed George Floyd, and then deploying them in American schools to keep the kids safe is not a workable model.

Most people concerned with the police brutality problem would support demilitarizing the cops, retraining them, even holding them accountable to the many laws already on the books. Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed George Floyd, had already racked up a number of brutality complaints and been involved in several shootings. In a functioning system, he would not have been on the street on Memorial Day.

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But, if nothing else, the George Floyd killing has reminded Americans that we don’t have a functioning system. US police kill an average of 1,000 civilians every year, with just one percent of those killings leading to an indictment – never mind a conviction. Cops typically receive many more hours of training in target practice than in conflict de-escalation.

Yet many countries manage to operate police forces that maintain a semblance of order without racking up a four-digit body count every year. There are plenty of reform strategies US police forces could adopt, starting with holding cops accountable to the same laws as citizens (i.e. murder and theft are illegal).

So why has the conversation been wrenched to the extreme of “defund the police”? As a solution, it’s wildly unpopular, with two thirds of Americans opposed. Even if it doesn’t catapult the US into a privatized dystopia in which the billionaire class is protected by Blackwater mercenaries equipped with the best facial recognition-enhanced “precrime” surveillance tech money can buy – and that’s a big ‘if,’ given how many pieces of such a future are already in place – scrapping the police without dramatically overhauling the political system that produced its worse abuses guarantees that whatever arises to fill the role of “law enforcement” will be just as oppressive – if not more so – than today’s bumper crop of “bad apples.”

Community policing” appears at first glance far superior to the current model. Officers who live in the communities they serve are less likely to mistreat their charges, more personally invested in neighborhood quality of life, and so on. Properly done, community policing results in a drop in crime and declining prison populations. What’s a corrupt politician with extensive investments in private prisons and mercenary firms to do, especially if his constituents are no longer fighting each other and instead comparing notes regarding how best to depose him on election day?

In practice, “community policing” is likely to empower the worst impulses of neighborhood busybodies. “Digital Stasi” apps like NextDoor, Neighbors, and Citizen are already rife with petty racism and classism. Doling out morsels of authority to those unaccustomed to possessing any is a quick and easy way for the corrupt ruling class to create loyalty for life in their newly-minted enforcers, who’ll absorb the brunt of any rebellion should the downtrodden proles decide the new arrangements aren’t working out.

This isn’t mere speculation. The “contact tracing” programs rolled out on the back of the coronavirus pandemic as gainful employment for the “lockdown Karens” previously restricted to posting shaming photographs of ‘social distancing’ violators online have already been superseded by “contact tracing” for unruly protesters in Minnesota. 

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Just as Democrats donning traditional African Kente cloths and getting down on one knee to shill for the usual incremental (read: useless) legislative solutions prioritize performative virtue over substantive change, cries to “defund the police” advocate a flashy superficial fix while the same hands keep their grip on the reins of power. That this rallying cry should be suddenly ubiquitous, surfacing all at once on the lips of celebrities as well as on thousands of screen-printed face masks worn by demonstrators, proves there is big money backing it.

Drafting a new class of civilian enforcers to do the bidding of the same corrupt ruling class will not repair a broken system, and the legions of protesters currently flooding American streets shouldn’t let their uprising be co-opted by apologists for that system.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.