Tag Archives: african-american

If You Want True Reform, Abolish The Police!

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Ferguson, Accept No Substitutes: Abolish the Police!” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: some links have been inserted, although no edits to the original text were made.)

Back in August 2014 a man named Michael Brown was shot by a police officer, Darren Wilson. Brown was unarmed and found himself in the hostile climate that exists between people of color and the police. His resulting death was the spark that lit the fire. Protests for #BlackLivesMatter began in earnest, people rallied for justice for Brown (Wilson was eventually acquitted of any wrong-doing) and in general, folks were deeply upset with the city of Ferguson.

Whether Brown’s actions warranted the almost 10 shots he received by officer Wilson, the background context of the event couldn’t be denied. Even the Department of Justice (DoJ) noted, to quote CBS, “a portrait of poor community-police relations, ineffective communication among the more than 50 law enforcement agencies that responded, police orders that infringed on First Amendment rights, and military-style tactics that antagonized demonstrators.”

The DoJ also remarked on a broad pattern of discrimination by the Ferguson police, particularly towards people of color.

What has changed in over a year and a half?

In September, CBS reported that, “Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon recommended the consolidation of police departments and municipal courts in the St. Louis area, and decreasing the use of police force.”

But more recently and perhaps more promisingly to some, there has been a proposed agreement between the DoJ and the City of Ferguson. If approved, this agreement would postpone any sort of federal lawsuit and make changes to local policies concerning the police. CBS reported that the proposal was even brought before the public for “feedback” before its approval.

Policy changes could include mandatory body cameras and microphones for police and their cruisers. In addition, there could be more thorough training of police and possible revisions of municipal codes that allow the City of Ferguson to jail people who can’t afford fines.

All of these things, if actually implemented, might sound like decent reforms.

But as fellow C4SS writer Thomas L. Knapp wrote back in December of 2014, when it comes to body cameras and the like, “Video technology is certainly part of the solution to police violence, but that solution should remain in the hands of regular people, not the state. … Cops need to be on cameras they don’t control.”

Why would we want the police to regulate themselves on how well they’re doing? A recent example of Chicago police officers tampering with their dash cams is just the tip of the iceberg. Somehow police often “mysteriously” can’t find evidence against themselves. It seems unlikely that it’d be any different in Ferguson.

Likewise, though there’d be more thorough training of the police, who would it be by? Other police? That’s likely the end result of this supposed “thorough” training that may teach “tolerance” for the disabled and marginalized. But acceptance is a lot more meaningful than tolerance, and how can we expect either to be taught to the police in any case?

They operate in an institution founded on “I was just taking orders” as a legitimate defense to wrong-doing. They operate in an institution that, if it really only had “a few bad apples”, would’ve done something more drastic than putting murdering cops on paid vacations. They operate in an institution that lacks any sort of communal competition in many areas, giving them de facto monopoly provision of defense. This monopoly leads not only to a lack of accountability but also violence on the part of the police.

Lastly, it seems unlikely that the city would, for some reason, stop imprisoning less fortunate citizens. If they’re able to make money off of these prisoners, why would they stop it? It seems akin to asking cops to stop profiting from traffic stops.

It’s a nice gesture to let the public “look” at the document before it’s actually passed.

But that’s all it is, a gesture.

Real change won’t come from the fox guarding the hen house. Real change will come from communities coming together and modeling their efforts less on busy-body neighborhood watches and more like the Black Panthers.

Further, community involvement shouldn’t aid prisons and punishment but rather should entice restitution and resolve.

To do that, my advice is simple: Abolish the police!

Prisons Can’t be Exonerated of Their Role in The Police State

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “You Cannot Exonerate Prisons.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: some links have been inserted, although no edits to the original text were made.)

A recent study conducted by The National Registry of Exonerations found that in 2015 there were a total of 149 people who were exonerated for a myriad of reasons. The exonerations revolved around convictions that were based on police misconduct, false confessions and in some cases, the fact that no crime had occurred.

In addition, the study notes a racial element to the exonerations in that “more than two-thirds were minorities, including half who were African American.”

Among the 149 exonerations, 27 of the original convictions were based on a false confession, most based on police misconduct. This misconduct included pressuring supposed witnesses who just so happened to usually be mentally handicapped or children.

On average, the people who were exonerated had already served nearly 15 years. And even though there are some states where the wrongfully convicted can get restitution from the state, the process, says NBC, is difficult and often gets the wrongfully convicted nowhere.

The study also notes that while exonerations were once a public spectacle, due to their rarity, they are now more commonplace. This is partly because of Conviction Integrity Units (CIUs) which are, “a division of a prosecutorial office that works to prevent, identify and remedy false conviction.”

Of particular note are New York and Texas where 17 and over 50 exonerations were found, respectively. In these states the CIUs had a greater ability to look into closed cases. Exoneration rates aren’t necessarily tied to population size, so much as a suitable review process. California, for instance, only had 5 exonerations in 2015 out of a population of nearly 40 million.

Even with the increase in exonerations, University of Michigan law professor Samuel Gross says, “We know very little about the sorts of mistakes we make,” or “how frequently they happen.”

And according to U.S. District Judge John L. Kane, “Ninety-seven percent of federal convictions and ninety-four percent of state convictions are the results of guilty pleas.”

It is absurd to claim the criminal justice system works when such a high percentage of convictions result from people accepting the assigned social role of “guilty.” Many people take plea bargains because they can’t afford to fight the courts, they may fear the process, or because the prosecutor is coercing them into taking the deal by threatening potentially harsher penalties at trial.

It isn’t surprising then that most convictions stem from plea bargains. Violence, intimidation and coercion are some of the main tools in the state’s arsenal. Whether it’s forcing people to come to court, forcing people into tiny cells to rot, or forcing people to take special medicine that will kill them for crimes they committed, the state’s modus operandi is just that — force. The state thrives on violence and the criminal justice system, such that it is, isn’t much different.

Prisons are the most obvious and barbaric aspect of the criminal justice system. They are torture regimes in which individuals are treated as disposable.  A prisoners’ character is reduced to one or a handful of incidents that may have happened in a fit of rage, after poor exercise in judgment, being involved with the wrong people, or because they’ve simply angered the right ones.

Whatever the case, prisons are places where people waste away their lives. This form of punishment denies any possibility of reformation. Being surrounded by other criminals often leads to future criminal activities being plotted from inside jail. This is just one of the many reasons why recidivism is often so high.

This leads us to a broken criminal justice system that is based on coercion, lies and manipulation of the disadvantaged. It’s nice that more prisoners are being exonerated, but the prisons are not innocent. This system of brutality, confinement and restraint of individuals’ liberty can never itself be exonerated.

There is no exonerating an institution that thrives on treating humans as disposable