Good & Bad Police Reforms

Some context for the previous reblog of police-dismantling proposals.  Originally at Prison Culture

I read today that President Obama has offered some measures for ‘reforming’ the police.

Here is a simple guide for evaluating any suggested ‘reforms’ of U.S. policing in this historical moment.

1. Are the proposed reforms allocating more money to the police? If yes, then you should oppose them.
2. Are the proposed reforms advocating for MORE police and policing (under euphemistic terms like ‘community policing’ run out of regular police districts)? If yes, then you should oppose them.
3. Are the proposed reforms primarily technology-focused? If yes, then you should oppose them because:
a. It means more money to the police.
b. Said technology is more likely to be turned against the public than it is to be used against cops.
c. Police violence won’t end through technological advances (no matter what someone is selling you).
4. Are the proposed ‘reforms’ focused on individual dialogues with individual cops? And will these ‘dialogues’ be funded with tax dollars? I am never against dialogue. It’s good to talk with people. These conversations, however, should not be funded by tax payer money. That money is better spent elsewhere. Additionally, violence is endemic to U.S. policing itself. There are some nice individual people who work in police departments. I’ve met some of them. But individual dialogue projects reinforce the “bad apples” theory of oppressive policing. This is not a problem of individually terrible officers rather it is a problem of a corrupt and oppressive policing system built on controlling & managing the marginalized while protecting property.

What ‘reforms’ should you support (in the interim) then?

1. Proposals and legislation to offer reparations to victims of police violence and their families.
2. Proposals and legislation to require police officers to carry personal liability insurance to cover costs of brutality or death claims.
3. Proposals and legislation to decrease and re-direct policing and prison funds to other social goods.
4. Proposals and legislation for (elected) independent civilian police accountability boards with power to investigate, discipline, fire police officers and administrators.
5. Proposals and legislation to disarm the police.
6. Proposals to simplify the process of dissolving existing police departments.
7. Proposals and legislation for data transparency (stops, arrests, budgeting, weapons, etc…)

Ultimately, the only way that we will address oppressive policing is to abolish the police. Therefore all of the ‘reforms’ that focus on strengthening the police or “morphing” policing into something more invisible but still as deadly should be opposed.

6 Ideas for a Cop-Free World

A protester faces off with police.

By | December 16, 2014

After months of escalating protests and grassroots organizing in response to the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, police reformers have issued many demands. The moderates in this debate typically qualify their rhetoric with “We all know we need police, but…” It’s a familiar refrain to those of us who’ve spent years in the streets and the barrios organizing around police violence, only to be confronted by officers who snarl, “But who’ll help you if you get robbed?” We can put a man on the moon, but we’re still lacking creativity down here on Earth.

But police are not a permanent fixture in society. While law enforcers have existed in one form or another for centuries, the modern police have their roots in the relatively recent rise of modern property relations 200 years ago, and the “disorderly conduct” of the urban poor. Like every structure we’ve known all our lives, it seems that the policing paradigm is inescapable and everlasting, and the only thing keeping us from the precipice of a dystopic Wild West scenario. It’s not. Rather than be scared of our impending Road Warrior future, check out just a few of the practicable, real-world alternatives to the modern system known as policing:

  1. Unarmed mediation and intervention teams

Unarmed but trained people, often formerly violent offenders themselves, patrolling their neighborhoods to curb violence right where it starts. This is real and it exists in cities from Detroit to Los Angeles. Stop believing that police are heroes because they are the only ones willing to get in the way of knives or guns – so are the members of groups like Cure Violence, who were the subject of the 2012 documentary The Interrupters. There are also feminist models that specifically organize patrols of local women, who reduce everything from cat-calling and partner violence to gang murders in places like Brooklyn. While police forces have benefited from military-grade weapons and equipment, some of the most violent neighborhoods have found success through peace rather than war.

  1. The decriminalization of almost every crime

What is considered criminal is something too often debated only in critical criminology seminars, and too rarely in the mainstream. Violent offenses count for a fraction of the 11 to 14 million arrests every year, and yet there is no real conversation about what constitutes a crime and what permits society to put a person in chains and a cage. Decriminalization doesn’t work on its own: The cannabis trade that used to employ poor Blacks, Latinos, indigenous and poor whites in its distribution is now starting to be monopolized by already-rich landowners. That means that wide-scale decriminalization will need to come with economic programs and community projects. To quote investigative journalist Christian Parenti’s remarks on criminal justice reform in his book Lockdown America, what we really need most of all is “less.”

  1. Restorative Justice

Also known as reparative or transformative justice, these models represent an alternative to courts and jails. From hippie communes to the IRA and anti-Apartheid South African guerrillas to even some U.S. cities like Philadelphia’s experiment with community courts, spaces are created where accountability is understood as a community issue and the entire community, along with the so-called perpetrator and the victim of a given offense, try to restore and even transform everyone in the process. It has also been used uninterrupted by indigenous and Afro-descendant communities like San Basilio de Palenque in Colombia for centuries, and it remains perhaps the most widespread and far-reaching of the alternatives to the adversarial court system.

  1. Direct democracy at the community level

Reducing crime is not about social control. It’s not about cops, and it’s not a bait-and-switch with another callous institution. It’s giving people a sense of purpose. Communities that have tools to engage with each other about problems and disputes don’t have to consider what to do after anti-social behaviors are exhibited in the first place. A more healthy political culture where people feel more involved is a powerful building block to a less violent world.

  1. Community patrols

This one is a wildcard. Community patrols can have dangerous racial overtones, from pogroms to the KKK to George Zimmerman. But they can also be an option that replaces police with affected community members when police are very obviously the criminals. In Mexico, where one of the world’s most corrupt police forces only has credibility as a criminal syndicate, there have been armed groups of Policia Comunitaria and Autodefensas organized by local residents for self-defense from narcotraffickers, femicide and police. Obviously these could become police themselves and then be subject to the same abuses, but as a temporary solution they have been making a real impact. Power corrupts, but perhaps in Mexico, withering power won’t have enough time to corrupt.

  1. Here’s a crazy one: mental health care


In 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed up the last trauma clinics in some of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods. In New York, Rikers Island jails as many people with mental illnesses “as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined,” which is reportedly 40% of the people jailed at Rikers. We have created a tremendous amount of mental illness, and in the real debt and austerity dystopia we’re living in, we have refused to treat each other for our physical and mental wounds. Mental health has often been a trapdoor for other forms of institutionalized social control as bad as any prison, but shifting toward preventative, supportive and independent living care can help keep those most impacted from ending up in handcuffs or dead on the street.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/policing-is-a-dirty-job-but-nobodys-gotta-do-it-6-ideas-for-a-cop-free-world-20141216#ixzz3M5XVGZKF

Sincere Holiday Thank-You to Readers & the Future

Apparently this blog has gotten almost 10,000 views per year over the last two years. The intensity has definitely dropped since I’ve transitioned into more engaged, collective political projects, and more clearly defined each of my quirky areas of interest into distinct, specific things — CUSP, North Star (which I now edit? — we all know I’m never one to decline a seat of authority), “anarcho-statism,” and some kind of open-source form of politicized religion in the works?? Okay now I really sound crazy — but I think we all know we’re never going to pull socialism off without an Antichrist-Messiah who will save us from capitalism.  (Good news — I don’t think it’s me!  Or, not most of the time.  No really, the role hops between people — more later.  Okay, it’s actually Kshama Sawant and Daenerys Targaryen.  Also, I tell jokes.)

But thank you to everyone who has ever given me a chance. I know I have definitely stirred certain hornet’s nests, questioned ideas that some people hold sacrosanct, and veered off in directions which seem irrelevant and insane. Your courage and consideration, in the face of my strangeness, keeps me going.

However, to quote the master, “Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design.” This blog/my political work is not fizzling out in some cloud of dispersion and aimlessness.  (For anyone wondering where my book ideas went, I decided it’s more important to engage in projects of collective dialogue than concentrate my effort into self-centered monologues — probably part of the reason this blog has fallen off, too.)

Rather, the divergent paths of socialist unification, mass electoral politics, open thought and criticism, and direct democracy will ultimately rejoin in a synthesizing, concrete organizational form which embodies them all.  It may take time to prepare, it may not happen tomorrow.  I may have to take a hiatus stretching the better part of a year because I’m joining the Dark Side.  But it will be an attempt worthy of the name, and it will be worth it even if it fails. Fucking HOLD ME TO IT!

Solstice blessings be upon you from both the New Gods of the Light and Hope of the returning Sun, and the Old Gods who are older by far, devouring human souls in this greatest Darkness and Cold when our corner of the earth is most plunged into Void. Everyone who has engaged with my method and my madness is appreciated, the whole spectrum from influences to followers, supporters to critics, admirers to — most importantly — haters, oh yes, their aggravation is so honey-sweet, the greatest reward of all.

But seriously, I’m not dead, mostly thanks to all of you.  The best — or at least, the most interesting, as Nietzsche would clarify, is yet to come.