Revealed: New Moves by Trump/Pence Regime Towards a “Dystopian Police State”



Riverside County sheriff's deputies confront people protesting the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, June 1. (Photo: Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Austin cops attack a protest against the murder of George Floyd with tear gas.

New York City cops spray tear gas at a kneeling protester, May 31.

October 20, 2020: Today’s New York Times published “The Dystopian Police State the Trump Administration Wants,” an op-ed by Phillip Atiba Goff.1 That title might sound alarmist, but it is dead-on accurate.

Goff is calling attention to highly repressive recommendations from the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. Trump ordered Attorney General Barr to set this up in October 2019. Its membership is entirely law enforcement—no civil rights or civil liberties groups, no outside experts or attorneys. And the Commission held no public hearings (as it is required to do under federal law). 

So, this is a commission of pigs, led and empowered by the Trump/Pence regime, meeting in secret to determine how to “administer justice” (i.e., escalate oppression of the masses and repress political dissent from any quarter) in a time of massive protest against systemic racism and police brutality, and as the regime moves to steal the election and fully consolidate fascism. 

Here’s what they came up with:

Make Cops Even More Invulnerable to Punishment for Brutality and Murder.

Cops already have a nearly free hand to kill and murder at will, especially Black and Brown people. Since 2005, pigs have killed about 1,000 civilians each year—roughly 14,000 total. About 110 cops were charged in these cases, and only 42 convicted of anything—and only five were convicted of murder. But that is still too many for the Pig Commission:

  • It recommends that cops accused of wrongdoing be allowed to view body cam footage before giving their account of what happened, so they can craft their lies around whatever was caught on video.
  • The Commission wants the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to uphold “qualified immunity” for police, a Supreme Court precedent that protects cops from civil lawsuits for their actions. Goff says doing this would turn the DOJ into “a personal defense firm for officers accused of violating [the rule of law.]”

Ratcheting Up Government Surveillance of the People

The U.S. already has a massive surveillance operation, reading and archiving people’s emails and text messages, collecting and storing all kinds of other personal data. The Commission wants to add at least two major elements to this.

  • It wants to provide funding for America’s 18,000 police agencies to purchase facial recognition software. This will enable them to identify and start (or add to) files on, for example, anyone participating in a protest against police brutality, or any other public activity that the police don’t like. And this information would likely be shared with the federal government and entered into a single national database, which could facilitate nationwide coordinated raids and crackdowns on “the radical left” or others the regime considers “enemies.”
  • The Commission wants police to have access to encrypted cellphones, meaning that potentially everything from your financial records to photos of your friends could be added to that same national database, which could be used against activists or others in any number of ways.

Compelling Local Prosecutors to Lock Up More People on Petty Bullshit

In the last few years, voters in some cities have elected prosecutors who pledged to reform the system. Although this is fundamentally impossible under this system, some have tried to do things like halt prosecutions of petty crimes like possession of marijuana, and reducing or eliminating cash bail that keeps nearly a half million people in jail, sometimes for years, while awaiting trial. The Commission wants to establish state committees to “oversee” these prosecutors, to eliminate any kinks in their machinery of mass incarceration.


On October 1, 2020, a federal district court judge barred the Commission from publishing their report until it complied with federal open meetings and transparency laws. But no one should breathe a sigh of relief—experience has shown time and again that unfavorable court rulings may slow down the regime a bit, but are unable to stop it. And that is even truer now as federal courts are increasingly packed with fascist judges.

If Trump/Pence are able to remain in power, the regime will certainly push forward with these and other repressive measures. And besides “official” measures inscribed in law and policy, there is the “unofficial” unleashing of repression and terror. There is the egging on of the brutal “instincts” of the pigs that are barely constrained to begin with—as Trump told a conference of cops: “Don’t be so nice” to people in your custody. There is Trump’s support for the vigilante murder of two protesters in Kenosha (which Trump called “self-defense”!) and his open celebration of the extrajudicial execution of an anti-fascist activist by federal and local law enforcement in Portland. 

All of this is very ominous for the movement against police murder and institutional racism—and for anyone struggling for or even aspiring to a more just, humane and ecologically viable society. And it underscores the very high stakes in the struggle to drive out the Trump/Pence fascist regime in the coming weeks and months.


1. Goff is a professor of African-American studies and psychology at Yale University, and CEO of the Center for Policing Equity.  [back]



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