After all the Calls for “Police Reform”—What Has and Hasn’t Changed



Letter from a reader:

After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, millions of people in many different countries took to the streets in protest. The whole world saw the potential of the power of the people in this beautiful uprising. Many people were forced to confront—for the first time—the reality of the epidemic of racist police murders of Black and Brown people. And the powers-that-be were rocked back on their feet. All kinds of police chiefs and politicians, all the way up to Biden, had to at least say they acknowledged the problem of police murder, and there were many calls for and promises made to “reform,” “defund,” even “dismantle” the police. And meanwhile Trump and the Republi-fascists continued to bray that the police needed to rain down even more repression on the people.

One might now wonder—after all the loud calls for “police reform” and promises of change—has the pace of police murdering people slowed down at all? The simple answer: NO.

As a recent article I read in the Washington Post (July 30, 2021) put it in its headline: “Police shootings continue daily, despite a pandemic, protests and pushes for reform. Since 2015, police have fatally shot more than 6,400 people."

This is an average of about 1,000 people a year or almost three people a day and 2020 reached a new high of 1,021 fatal shootings. These statistics are based on a database kept by the Washington Post since 2015. But the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) doesn’t keep any comprehensive record of police shootings and the roughly 17,000 police departments in the U.S. provide incomplete or no reports on “officer-involved shootings.” The DOJ's “official” number is about half the number documented by the Washington Post.

In most of the many thousands of murders by the police, there is no video from a bystander or the cops. Most police departments do not use body cameras and the Post database shows that more than 80 percent of fatal police shootings were not filmed. If there are no witnesses who dare to come forward, this then allows the pigs to say whatever they want about what happened—while the dead victims are unable to contest their lies.

Take the example of the murder of George Floyd. What would have happened if (then 17-year-old) Darnella Frazier had not heroically taken the video of the murder of George Floyd, and then bravely testified at the trial of the murdering pig, Derek Chauvin? The police had reported that George Floyd had “physically resisted officers” before “suffering medical distress.” But this was shown to be nothing but a lie when the world saw the Darnella Frazier video and the pigs were forced to release their videos of the murder.

According to the police, most of those killed were armed. But we know there are many cases where police kill unarmed people and say they were armed. People have also been killed for being “armed” with a wallet or a cell phone. And so many times, the police respond to someone, armed or unarmed, who is having a mental breakdown by shooting them dead.

Another thing that hasn’t changed: The police who murder almost never face any repercussions, let alone criminal charges. Most of them are ruled a “justifiable homicide.” And there are laws in place to protect these killers. In many cases police departments do not have to reveal the names of the pigs involved in a shooting. Florida’s Marsy’s Law, passed in 2018, says victims of crimes can ask authorities to keep private “information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family.” In this bizarre logic, where up is down and down is up, murdering pigs declare themselves “victims” that must be shielded.

The Washington Post database also reveals how Black people are disproportionately victims of police murders. According to the Post, “White people are 60 percent of the American population and have accounted for 45 percent of those fatally shot by police. Black people are 13 percent of the population but have been 23 percent of those shot and killed by police.”


The continued epidemic of police killing people every single day—and getting away with it just about all the time—is outrageous and intolerable. In thinking about this I really encourage people to read the article by Bob Avakian, “POLICE AND PRISONS: REFORMIST ILLUSIONS AND THE REVOLUTIONARY SOLUTION ” (July 20, 2020). In re-reading it, this part in particular, really struck me anew:

If there is going to be a real dismantling of police that terrorize masses of people, this can only happen, and can only really lead to something positive, if it happens as part of the revolution that is needed. And, with this revolution, the institutions of organized repression and violence of this system (the police and the armed forces, as well as the prisons) will be replaced by new institutions which are led with a radically different outlook and are serving a radically different purpose and goal.

Does this mean that the only thing that can be done now is to wait for this revolution to somehow “magically” come about? NO. This revolution must be actively, consciously, scientifically worked for. And a big part of this is fighting back now against institutionalized white supremacy and police terror, as well as the other ways that this system oppresses, degrades, and slaughters masses of people, in every part of the world, while plundering the environment—building these struggles as powerfully as possible, linking them together on the basis of the recognition that they all have a common source in this system of capitalism-imperialism, and building up the basis to bring down this system through an actual revolution.

“The Oppression of Black People and Other People of Color,” an excerpt from Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution, a speech by Bob Avakian



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