Reader from L.A. on Community-Based Policing
Liberation Through Snuggling Up with Pigs and Snitching? No Fucking Way!
September 5, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution Club with friends and family of Richard Risher Jr., marching in the streets of Watts, July 26. Photo: Special to revcom.us
At the end of July, 18-year-old Richard Risher, Jr. was gunned down by the LAPD in Nickerson Gardens housing projects in Watts, then kicked and spit on him as he lay dying. His broken-hearted mother has been marching and speaking out, demanding justice for her murdered son. A couple weeks later, the New York Times published a letter celebrating this murder as an example of the success of the LAPD in being able to kill people and get away with it, written by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck together with pig lackey extraordinaire, “civil rights” attorney Connie Rice. The op-ed is called “How Community Policing Can Work,” and brags about how the police were able to convince some people in Watts to blame Richard for his murder instead of the police. It went on to emphasize, “In the past, there would have been no listening—bottles, rocks and worse would have been the only response. But by morning, calm had taken hold.”
This is the pigs themselves (and their tools and fools) putting forward a strategy developed to better control people this system has no future for. For years ruling class representatives and their news media mouthpieces have talked openly about the need to maintain (or restore) the legitimacy of police violence—the belief by most people that the police have legitimate authority and right on their side when they shoot, taze, beat, handcuff, or jail people. This is because some of this legitimacy has been stripped away by the uprisings that began with Ferguson, and because the further loss of this legitimacy on a wider and deeper scale would be a key element of the kind of crisis that could develop into a full-blown revolutionary situation with the potential to go all the way to the destruction of this whole system.
A Section of Rulers Pushes Community Policing to Shore Up Legitimacy
One section of these ruling class representatives, including Beck, Obama, and Bill Clinton, have argued for community policing as the best way to shore up the legitimacy of police violence, to get people to accept whatever brutality and terror they carry out. The housing projects in Watts, Los Angeles are one of the most cultivated and promoted examples of this model. In 2015, the head of the Southeast Division police station in Watts was brought to Obama’s State of the Union speech as an honored guest. On October 22, 2015, Obama convened a meeting of police chiefs from across the country at the White House and featured a discussion with Charlie Beck. By the end of 2015, the LAPD had killed more people that year than any other police department in the entire country.
The Charlie Beck/Connie Rice community policing op-ed begins with “the recent murders of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., and the devastating videos of the shooting deaths of black men like Alton B. Sterling and Philando Castile…” First of all, why, according to Beck and Rice, are the deaths of police officers considered murders, but not the men who were shot with no weapons in their hands and not posing any threat to anyone? The whole thing is framed from the beginning that automatically any shooting death of a police officer is a murder while any shooting death committed by a police officer is justified. The problem, according to Beck and Rice, is not that the police are murdering hundreds and hundreds of people every year. The problem, according to them, is not that millions of people have no future under this system, that millions of Black and Latino people are locked into ghettos, discriminated against at every turn, set up to kill each other, and be killed and terrorized by police to keep it this way. The problem, according to them, is “police-community conflict” and a “breakdown of public-police trust,” even while they throw in a generic phrase about “overcom[ing] bias and “replac[ing] the ‘spiral of despair’ in poor neighborhoods with opportunity and justice.”
Identifying the epidemic of police murder, terror and mass incarceration as “police-community conflict” is like saying the problem during slavery is there just wasn’t enough trust between the slave-catchers and the runaway slaves they hunted down and either murdered outright or tortured and dragged back in slave chains. “Why all the conflict?” “We need to develop public-police trust.”
The Beck/Rice op-ed mentions the Department of Justice report that exposes some of the horrific brutality and degradation being carried out by Baltimore police against Black people. But of course they have nothing to say about the inhumanity and injustice of all of this. Instead, the problem is a “breakdown of public-police trust,” which needs to be built back up by “guardian policing” or “community policing.”
Beck and Rice describe community policing as “earn[ing] trust” by participating in youth sports leagues and community gardens. They describe police officers knowing residents by name and walking through the housing projects together with “gang intervention specialists” (in many cases older former gang members who are won to work with police through a combination of the threat of jail, city money, and a genuine desire to stop the killing together with a seriously mistaken and harmful fantasy about what the problem and solution really is). Beck and Rice also talk about lowering crime rates. But what has actually changed in these model areas of L.A.’s “Community Safety Partnership” program?
The Real Job of the Police
The same system continues to grind people up. There are no decent jobs or education and there is no legitimate way out of poverty. Children are growing up discriminated against and disrespected in a society that has no future for them. Everybody is trying to survive in a society that functions by a small handful of capitalists owning what everyone else needs and using that to exploit millions of people around the world, throwing away people the capitalists can’t profit off of and shaping everyone’s thinking with the same dog-eat-dog outlook. So our youth go at each other, fighting and killing one another from one neighborhood to the next, trying to survive on the terms of the imperialists. None of this has changed. It is not the job of the police to change any of this. It is the job of the police to make sure it all runs smoothly. The people this system considers human garbage can remain locked in ghettos killing each other off—as long as there is not a challenge to the functioning of this whole system. How Beck and Rice even characterize whose lives matter shows you a glimpse of this:
“The true test of guardian policing, however, is during a crisis. This is when the reservoir of trust saves lives—as it did three weeks ago, after a Los Angeles police officer killed a young man who was shooting at the police.” Think about how vicious this is. “[T]he reservoir of trust saves lives….” Whose life did it save? Did it save 18-year-old Richard Risher, Jr.’s life? Did it save the life of 36-year-old Omar Gonzalez, killed by LAPD two days later? Did it save the life of 14-year-old Jesse Romero two weeks after that, or 18-year-old Kenny Watkins killed the next week, or Marcelo Luna killed three days later—all murdered by LAPD officers? What lives did this “reservoir of trust” save?
Bob Avakian: Police murder... and the murderous logic of this system's election game.
They want you to take it on faith that the young man the police killed, who Beck and Rice don’t even consider worth naming, was shooting at the police. They present no evidence that he was shooting at the police, and in fact nobody has presented any such evidence. And they want you to buy into the logic that “saving lives” means saving police lives. Last year, police killed 1,140 people (according to the Guardian). The same year, 41 police officers were killed (according to the FBI). When they say, “the reservoir of trust saves lives,” it is the same logic as Obama bombing Libya, killing hundreds if not thousands of people, and declaring it’s not really a war because no Americans were killed.
The Deadly Logic of Working with the Police
While Beck and Rice talk about earning trust and supposedly lowering crime rates, it is worth quoting more at length the heart of what they describe as “the dividend” of this “reservoir of trust.”
“Angry members of the community demanded an emergency meeting with the police. At the end of the painful session, a former gang leader concluded that the death was extremely sad, but ‘if you shoot at the cops, you should expect to die.’ Other attendees handed officers rosaries, and they apologized for earlier ‘kill the cops’ talk after rumors that officers had fired when the young man was surrendering.
“In the past, there would have been no listening—bottles, rocks and worse would have been the only response. But by morning, calm had taken hold.”
The “dividend” or in plainer terms, the profit gained from this investment in “trust” as they see it, is having people in the community the police can rely on to keep everybody else in line while police continue to carry out the same terror. This brings to mind the Judenrat (Jewish councils run by “community leaders” who collaborated with and served the Nazis) and Jewish Ghetto Police in Nazi Germany described by Alan Goodman recently on revcom.us:
“Based mainly among, and reflecting the position of more privileged Jews, defenders of the Judenrat argued that having ‘people from the community’ administer and police the ghettos would work to reduce the violent terror visited on the Jewish population. They even openly argued that collaborating with the Nazis in shipping unemployable people, people on welfare, and troublemakers to the death camps would spare everyone else that fate.” (“Should Oppressed People Join the Police to ‘Make Things Better’? It’s Been Tried Before, So Let’s See How It Worked”) Whatever their intentions, this facilitated and even legitimized the genocide against Jewish people that took place under the Nazi regime.
Here’s the deadly logic of working with—and on the terms of—the police: Richard Risher, Jr. is killed and if you are part of those community leaders sitting down with the police, even if you hate that young people are being killed, he becomes one of the expendable ones. He becomes one of the youth you are willing to sacrifice.
This should not be tolerated! Working with the people whose armed force keeps us locked in a situation where our youth have no future legitimizes that force and, whatever the intentions, contributes to our youth having no future. There is nothing good that can come from working with the police—in whatever guise they wrap themselves. We need to overthrow this system, not reinforce it! The only way out of this madness is through nothing less than an actual revolution. And now is the time to get organized for this revolution.
Raise Your Sights and Stop Playing This System’s Game
To the “gang intervention specialists” and to everyone whose hearts and souls are ripped apart by the blood flowing in the streets: raise your sights and stop playing this system's game, allowing yourself to be a tool of the murderous pigs and the system they enforce. Put your heart and determination into building up the revolutionary force who can lead the way out for humanity for real. Struggle with the youth to stop fighting each other in order to be part of that revolutionary force, not by playing along with a system that is out to destroy them. Get with the Revolution Club and get into Bob Avakian, the leadership for this revolution... and be part of spreading that force throughout society.
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