This is reposted from the magazine The Decolonizer. Originally posted here. You can read more of the work The Decolonizer does at their website. You should also check out their awesome how-tos.
All cops are shit. All cops. Each and every one of them. All of the cops. Every single cop. The cops; all of them. Every person that is a cop. Even the Black ones (especially the Black ones). Even the Brown ones (especially the Brown ones). Even the ones that help people. Even the ones that save lives.
All cops are shit.
Across the interwebs there was a story shared recently about a cop who drove a Black man from Ohio to Detroit to be reunited with his family. The headline in bold letters: Cop Drives Man 100 Miles to be With His Family. So the story goes: Black man looses his young sister in a tragic car accident. Black man and friend jump into a car and drive to Detroit. Black man and friend get pulled over at a traffic stop by police officer. Friend goes to jail. Cop offers to drive Black man to Detroit. Cue bro bonding sequence. Black man appears on TV. They pull the string in his back. And he says: “not all cops are bad.”
There has been a clamoring for stories just like this one. Harrowing, tear-jerker stories of cops who save little kittens from trees. Stories that encourage us to think of police on a case by case basis. These stories imply that, while there maybe “bad apples” on the force, the police in general are a necessary good, and above all good people. That there is a human being behind the badge and uniform. Somehow that human being is never tainted by being involved in the violence of empire.
The History of the Pigs
The origins of policing in the West first developed in France in 1667. King Louis XIV had developed a royal edict that oversaw a force of 44 commissaires de police who were to be stationed in the districts of Paris. They were formed primarily to maintain the aristocratic ruling class structure in France. These “piglets” protected private property, and contained the poor working class in their growing discontentment with the French crown. The word police is derived from the French “agent de police.”
The whole of Europe would follow the French example more than a century later and form similar policing organizations, many of which were privately funded. In their respective colonies, the European colonizers would follow these same developments happening in Europe. Night Watch and paramilitary policing groups were established in the West Indies, Canada, Latin America, and the United States. Later, more structured policing operations would appear in colonies in Africa, Asia, and Australia.
In the colonies these units served a very particular function. In order to safeguard the forced occupation of indigenous lands and protect the white settlers on these lands, these organizations would terrorize and kill indigenous populations. Settlers would volunteer to keep watch of the colony over night to protect the colony from indigenous resistance. Military soldiers and generals were often recruited from the colonizing country to assist in the project. In the desperate attempt to make stolen land settler property, private and community watch groups as well as settler militias and regular soldiers were used to solidify the violent occupation. Their sole purpose was to ensure the safety of the invading settlers and secure settler property.
The institution of chattel slavery in some colonies also made early policing forms a necessity, especially with the threat of slave revolts. The first slave patrols in the United States were formed in the Carolinas as early as 1704. If Black people were considered property by slave holders, the slave patrols functioned exclusively for the securing of that property. Slave patrols were responsible for tracking and catching runaway slaves as well as suppressing slave uprisings. The patrols enforced the state slave codes, slave curfews, and in cooperation with militiamen, broke-up any unauthorized gathering of slaves. After the Civil War, many of these “patrollers” became professional police officers who enforced Jim Crow laws. At night they would pull sheets over their heads and burn crosses. There was never a difference between police and the Ku Klux Klan.
Despite these developments the early policing systems in the colonies and in Europe were largely unorganized. Many depended on volunteers who would often show up to their posts drunk or were just not dependable. As the Industrial Revolution threatened to increased class conflicts in Europe, a more centralized policing system was being developed in London, England to maintain ruling class interests. The Metropolitan Police Act was passed in 1829 and the very first centralized bureaucratic police department was established in London: The Metropolitan Police Service. By the 1830s, policing had move from irregular patrols and community watch groups to become a centralized institution controlled by the state and paid for with tax-payer money. As before, the new policing system spread to the European colonies, this time establishing themselves in newly colonized territories. The colonial paramilitary groups on the continent of Africa terrorized as well as enforced taxation and labor onto the people. These groups quickly transformed into professional colonial policing agencies supported by the colonial administration.
Similar things were happening in British India as well as Australia and the Philippines. With colonization the modern police force became a global technology of oppression. The police in every colonized territory were literally the arm of the European colonial administration. They were there to enforce the laws and policies of the colonizing country, oversee the extraction of resources, protect European business and corporate interests, and by the force of their gun, maintain the European colonial order.
It seemed that no country needed the police more than the United States. The first modern police department in the United States was formed in Boston in 1838. New York City developed one in 1845, Chicago followed in 1851. By the 1880s there was a police department in every major U.S. city in the country. As early as 1904 U.S. Boarder Patrol (then known as the Mounted Watchmen) was actively policing immigrants along the Mexico-United States border. These Watchmen targeted latinx people as well as Chinese people and other Asian immigrants.
The United States Indian Police (USIP) was established in 1880 specifically to police American Indians on their land. The so-called “Manifest Destiny” era pushed white settlers westward and more into arms Indigenous resistance. Most notably, the stand-off with Geronimo in 1877 prompted calls for a federally supported police agency charged with policing Native peoples in Indian Country. Of the USIP’s main objectives was to smash Indigenous resistance, force Natives to attend boarding schools, control Native populations on the reservations and report back to the United States colonial government. Today, Native people are more likely than any other group to be killed by police.
The pig was/is also the enforcer of gendered violence. As early as the 1950s police were arresting persons who did not wear “gender appropriate” clothing and those suspected of being queer. Police officers raided gay bars and arrested trans and queer people who were charged with “sexual deviancy.” Today, trans people are one of the groups most likely to be harassed by police. Pigs have a long history of harassing and violating sex workers. Police are the number one perpetrators of domestic violence.
The job of the police has always been to protect white property, secure settler occupation, and quell Black, Brown, and Indigenous resistance. The nature of the job is inherently violent and it is through this violence that the officer sustains and legitimizes empire. In the words of Frantz Fanon:
“In the colonies, the official, legitimate agent, the spokes-person for the colonizer and the regime of oppression, is the officer or soldier.”
The Police Today
Timothy Loehmann killed Tamir Rice. No charges. Peter Lang killed Akai Gurley. No charges. Officers who killed Sandra Bland face no charges. Officer who killed Koryn Gains. No charges. Officers threw Freddie Gray into the back of a police van. No charges. Dante Servin was off duty when he shot and killed Rekia Boyd. No charges. Daniel Pantaleo used an illegal choke-hold to kill Eric Garner. No charges, but the brown man who filmed Garner’s death is now serving four years in Rikers Island.
According to Huffington Post a police officer hasn’t been convicted of murder or manslaughter in an officer involved shooting since 2013! Only thirteen police officers have been convicted since 2005. There is estimated to be roughly 1,000 police involved killings a year. To date, no high-profile police brutality case has ever seen a police officer come out with criminal charges. And these are the cases that get national attention. Countless others don’t.
The Chicago police department is involved in at least two major cover-ups involving officer involved killings, all of which have gone on with the cooperation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. There is corruption at every level of every police department because police will never indict their own. Police, judges, district attorneys, investigators, unions and politicians all work together to protect police officers. The police can kill people and get away with it. They can kill people of color and get away with it. And because the police are trusted with investigating themselves, there is no apparatus in place that can successfully hold them accountable.
The Police Academy
Indoctrination into the policing group-think begins at the police academy, where all humanity an officer might have had is systematically extinguished. Officers are taught how to be pigs: They are taught to shoot first, they are taught that criminals are people of color, they are taught to pursue those people for minor drug offenses. They are taught how to fill prisons and police quotas. Many departments have been observed using pictures of Black and Brown people for target practice. There is a particular kind of gun culture that festers within the academy that is inherently racist, homophobic, and patriarchal. Sexual violence occurs behind closed doors and in silence.
The academy is a cesspool where the white supremacist social conditioning involved in being a citizen of empire is amplified and weaponized. Piggies are fed a steady diet of pro-police propaganda. They consume bullshit histories of the police, devour patriotic stories of being on the force and regurgitate. And most importantly, they are made to think that they are actually here to serve and protect people. Their self-righteousness inspires police to protect their sense of authority by any means at their disposal, even in non-threatening situations. Because their authority is the state’s authority. Abuse is widely used in the academy to promote group-think and hive-mind mentalities as former cop and author of the book “The Truth About Cops” Tim Dees explains: “Some of the practices amount to a form of hazing, a process where the recruit has to show real determination and tenacity to make it through the training. There may be a lot of yelling, name-calling, or doing push-ups for minor infractions. A common practice is to punish the entire class when any member makes a mistake. This supposedly builds ‘class cohesion.'”
The pig is broken into when they attach themselves to the symbols of power: the badge, the uniform, and the gun. They become familiar and accustomed to using force. They learn how to physically restrain someone. They learn how to use militarize weapons. They learn how to conduct interrogations and emotionally manipulate people. The pig also soon learns that they can get away with almost anything they do to people. Because on the force there is a code of silence and an intense identity politic that ensures sworn allegiance to the policing structure.
After all of the training, the classes, and the conditioning a pig is born. A person has become an agent of the state, a colonial chess piece and an object used to sustain white supremacy and colonial power. The academy prepares officers to kill in the service of that power. Their final transformation will occur on the job, where they can put what they learn into practice. To be a police officer is to be the opposite of a human being.
Police In Communities Of Color
In poor communities of color the police can be found patrolling the lines that segregate the community from the rich white neighborhoods. As always, the priority is the protection of white settler property. Across the roads leading to white suburbia or the opulent white metropole there are police at every border and every crossing. At the transition between a so-called “good neighborhood” and a so-called “bad neighborhood” police are stationed and on the look-out. After housing discrimination, the police officer is the primary enforcer of red-lining.
When police are active in Black and Brown communities, it is most often for non-violent drug offenses. War-on-drugs policies initiated by the Nixon and Regan administrations have set the precedence for policing in communities of color for decades. What is often called “broken windows policing” is a practice that targets people for such offenses as drug possession, loitering, trespassing, disorderly conduct, “disturbing the peace,” and prostitution. The stop-and-frisk polices initiated in New York City virtually permitted officers to stop and pat-down anyone at any time for any reason. Operation “Clean Halls” program even let NYPD officers conduct stop-and-frisk procedures inside the persons apartment building.
These encounters are always deadly. According to Campaign Zero at least 287 people were killed by police in 2014 for minor non-violent offenses. Ironically, in neighborhoods of color with high homicide rates, there are no police around to speak of. As David Kennedy of the Washington Post explains, an over policing for non-violent offenses in communities of color is often mirrored by an “under policing” of violent crimes: “[If you lived in these areas] You’d be experiencing what families in stressed black neighborhoods have experienced forever—very high rates of arrest for minor offenses white folks routinely get away with, and shockingly low arrest rates for serious violent crime.”
What Ruth Wilson Gilmore termed “organized abandonment” is the purposeful and strategic neglect of communities of color to inflict coercive control. Pigs are essentially always around to arrest someone for loitering, never around to investigate homicides and little energy is spent bringing these cases to justice. Yet the crisis of unchecked violence in communities of color actually inspires calls for more policing and works to solidify police legitimacy. In reality pigs don’t give a shit if some Black or Brown person is killed in the ghetto. White settler safety first.
Police and the Prison Industrial Complex
Of course, the reason why police care so much about non-violent offenses is because it is where the money is. In most departments, state and federal funding for drug task force programs are based on the number of arrests made and the amount of drugs and other property retrieved from drug busts. Asset forfeiture laws permit law enforcement agencies to seize property with little to no justification. That property is then used to turn over profits for the department and justify program funding increases. Since 2001 it is estimated that over $2.6 billion in seizures were taken from people who were never even charged with a crime. This provides a financial incentive for police to target the most petty low-level drug offenders and actively seek to incarcerate them.
Police arrest quotas ensure that every pig is doing their part to arrest more and more people. Once again, these quotas are used to measure department performance and secure more state and federal funding. Police also have quotas for the number of traffic tickets they issue. If a pig is not meeting their quotas they could actually be fired from the force (but if they kill someone it’s all good! Desk duty!). As you can imagine, pigs do what they can to inflate their numbers, including but not limited to: arresting people of color for non-violent offenses.
In the prison industrial complex, everyone on the payroll gets paid. Officers all the way to the judges, prosecutors, politicians, and prison lobbyist are all there to make sure bodies go through the prison system and serve longer sentence. And private and federal prisons collect the check. In the United States at least 2 million prisoners are working for pennies or for free for companies who contract with private and federal prisons. Some of these companies include IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Texas Instruments, Dell, Honeywell and Hewlett-Packard. The colonial federal government also capitalize by using prison labor to produce things like license plates and state military equipment.
Take Your Ice Cream and Shove It
These bastards actually think that pulling people of color over to serve them ice cream is going to change things. In a disgusting public relations stunt pulled by police departments in August, police officers were stopping people in their cars to give them ice cream. As if the triggering effects of being stopped by police were bad enough, to think a fucking ice cream cone can make up for the millions of deaths at the hands of police added insult to injury.
But this wouldn’t be the first time police try to cozy up to the public. Public relations is actually a cornerstone of policing used to manufacture police legitimacy. Across the country, all kinds of pro police-community relations initiatives, police-community BBQs, basketball with the police, bring-an-officer-to school-day, all teeter this funny line of legitimacy and manufactured consent. Not to mention the virtually useless “community-police review boards” which, to be sure, have absolutely no power and (surprises, surprises) are usually infiltrated by the police.
No community-police initiative has ever been able to stop the flow of militarized weapons into police departments, channel police funding into other areas, or challenge police authority. Most importantly, no such initiative has ever stopped officer-involved killings.
To Reform The Police
Is a waste of time. At this point in our discussion if you still believe police reform is a viable option THE DECOLONIZER needs you to stop reading this article.
As it turns out police reform actually strengthens the policing structure in its ability to police and kill us. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Michelle Alexander and other scholars have noted, police reform usually means more funding and resources for police departments. The call for more body cameras, dash cameras, and similar devices mean more surveillance of communities, especially because cameras are not just on when someone gets killed. Many of them are on 24 hours a day and feed directly into department monitoring systems.
Police “racial sensitivity” and “implicit bias” trainings very often fail to make a difference and are used by police departments as another public relations front. Officers are paid to attend these trainings which are very often a waste of everyone’s time. Because policing culture reaffirms white supremacist behavior once the training in over. Besides, sensitivity trainings will never get the pigs to understand that they shouldn’t exist.
Do We Need The Police?
The illusion that civil society needs the police is the single biggest crock of bullshit liberals have contributed to the police discussion. Yet the police, as we have known them to be, are a fairly new institution only emerging within the past century or so. For most of the world’s history people have gotten along just fine without formal policing structures.
The police are only essential in so far as they help secure a global white supremacist colonial system. If you have investments in this system and the property and resources it affords to you then yes you probably do need the police.
People have been settling disputes, protecting each other, and pursuing justice communally for thousands of years. When healthy and functional, communities are fully capable of resolving their own issues without police. The reemergence of restorative justice programs stand as one example. In a restorative justice model offenders are confronted by community members, often (but not always) with the victim of the crime present. They then sort out a fair and transformative resolution in which all parties can agree to.
There have been “keep the peace” programs organized in cities like Chicago where former gang members have worked to intervene and prevent gang violence from happening. The Audre Lorde Project’s Safe Outside the System program empowers communities to intervene and prevent anti-LGBTQIA+ violence without police involvement. People’s Community Medics is an organization created by Black women in the Oakland, CA area that provide an alternative to emergency medical care. There could be far more alternative possibilities for policing once the people shift their focus from police reform to police abolition.
Do Not Call The Police
We can start discovering what it would mean to live without police by not calling 911. In December of last year a domestic dispute was brewing inside a home Chicago. 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier was swinging a baseball bat and having a mental health crisis. His father called 911. Pigs showed up at the door of the complex. When Betty Jones, their downstairs neighbor, opened the door she was “accidentally” shot and killed on site. Police then gunned down Quintonio. Two people were buried because police responded to a 911 call. And a father had to bury his son.
Extra-judicial killings happen most frequently at police traffic stops and when someone calls 911. If you are calling 911 on a person of color you are endangering that person’s life. If you are a person of color calling 911 you are endangering your life.
All cops are shit. All cops are the enforcers of colonial violence. They are the arm of the white supremacist policing state. All of them are complicit in the killings. All of them are illegitimate. All of them will defend their peers and their bloody profession before they defend the public. Every cop is dehumanized by their participation on the force. This is regardless of who they are or what they have done on the force. Regardless of how “nice” they are perceived to be. They are not here to “protect and serve” but to repress and annihilate. ACAB.
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