The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act:
A “Bold” Move… to Protect a System That Can’t Stop Brutalizing Black People!

Here’s a basic truth from Bob Avakian (BA):

The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness.

BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian (1:24)

This is why—from the standpoint of the rulers and defenders of this system—the rampant disrespect, brutality, and murder unleashed by this country’s 18,000 police agencies and million-plus cops is a feature, not a bug.

Black young man at head of protest for Breonna Taylor is confronted by police in Louisville, Kentucky.

 

People confront pigs during a protest against the police murder of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, Sept. 23, 2020.    Photo: AP

Enter the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

On June 5, Democrats in Congress drafting what is called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act(JPA) emailed colleagues explaining why it was needed: “Cities are literally on fire with the pain and anguish wrought by the violence visited upon black and brown bodies. … it’s time we create structural change with meaningful reforms.” Let’s say it plain—this bill was not a response to the police murder of George Floyd, or the tens of thousands of police murders that preceded it—it was a response to the uprising of millions against this terror.

And regardless of the intentions of any individual supporter of JPA, its objective role is primarily to maintain the oppressive order that the police serve, in three ways:

First, by trying to show that “the system works,” that its representatives are “doing something,” and that its oppressive institutions can be meaningfully reformed.

Second, by working to redirect the energy of those whose craving for justice has run them smack up against the irredeemably unjust nature of the dominant system. It aims to funnel people off of the streets and into pressuring Congress to enact at best small “adjustments” to the reign of police terror.

Third, by taking some small steps to rein in the most extreme and outrageous crimes of the cops … in order to preserve their façade of “serving and protecting” the people, and to minimize incidents that could set off future mass risings.

BAsics 1-24

 

What JPA Promises, and What It Will Actually Do

JPA promises a lot of things that touch a chord with people—ending chokeholds and “no knock” warrants; eliminating “qualified immunity” for cops and racial profiling; de-militarizing the police. But what is the reality?

Chokeholds:

The chokehold murders of George Floyd—and so many others—reveal that pigs have zero regard for the lives and dignity of their victims, and they should be banned. But banning them won’t change the nature and role of the police—they have plenty of other tools at their disposal to brutalize, degrade and kill—Tasers, mace, dogs, clubs, guns.

And JPA’s ban most likely won’t even work. Consider this: the New York Police Department (NYPD) banned all chokeholds 28 years ago. But from June 2009 to June of 2014, there were over 1,100 complaints about chokeholds to the civilian review board—which dismissed all but ten of them. In July 2014, four NYPD cops used a chokehold to murder Eric Garner. The only person ever arrested in that incident was Ramsey Orta, who took the video of the killing.

No-Knock Warrants:

At least 60,000 times a year, heavily armed cops bust into people’s homes, often hurling flash grenades or tear gas, killing dozens every year. What an outrage … what a revelation of the real role of the police! But contrary to claims, JPA will not eliminate this mass terror and may not even reduce it significantly. First of all, JPA bans only “no-knock” warrants but still allows “quick-knock” warrants. All the cops have to do is knock and shout “police” before breaking down your door, and that is okay under JPA. Second, JPA doesn’t even ban no-knocks in all cases—only for drug raids. So pigs will just need to reword their warrants to include suspicion of a weapon on the premises, and no-knock is available.

Ending Militarization of Police:

JPA is supposed to stop the Department of Defense (DOD) from distributing surplus military weaponry to state and local police forces, but as Human Rights Watch noted, it allows “armored vehicles to continue to be transferred if the Secretary of Defense considers it necessary.” And in any case, DOD has already distributed about 7.4 billion dollars in weapons of war to 8,000 police departments, which we have seen used again and again against protestors in big cities and small towns across the U.S.

Qualified Immunity:

Qualified immunity for police is an outrageous doctrine established by the U.S. Supreme Court that makes it very difficult to sue cops for violating people’s civil rights even in the most outrageous cases.1 If the current version of JPA passes the Senate,2 it will include language that could get around this reactionary doctrine.

That would be a good thing, but is unlikely to have much impact on the level of police brutality. Even now, many civil lawsuits filed by victims of police brutality or families of those murdered by cops do get past qualified immunity. One analysis of 31 cities found they paid out three billion dollars for police brutality lawsuits over a ten year period—an average of ten million dollars per city per year.Cities clearly view these legal payouts as just an extension of their “normal” policing costs—the price they willingly pay to “protect the system” and “enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression” (to quote BA).

Federal Supervision:

Certain elements of JPA aim to increase federal supervision of police, to promote training and policies that discourage racial profiling and reckless use of deadly force, and to allow the federal government to investigate “problematic” departments. This is basically a broadening of things the federal government has already done, like the “patterns and practices” investigation that Biden’s Attorney General, Merrick Garland, just initiated in Louisville, Kentucky. These investigations can lead to “consent decrees” whereby the federal government sets and tries to enforce certain standards and policies, usually in cities where extreme police brutality has led to mass protest.

One example of this was Los Angeles, where the notoriously brutal LAPD was put under a consent decree after scandals exposed widespread torture, corruption, frameups and other crimes. This lasted from 2000 to 2013, and some changes did occur. For instance, in 2019 LAPD bragged that they “only” killed 12 people, down from 25 in 2015. But in this same period, use of batons went up by 38%. So, somewhat less murder, a lot more beatings, is the best we can hope for from JPA. Readers should check out Bob Avakian’s discussion during the Q&A of his speech Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution, in which he breaks down what these consent decrees on police departments are actually about.

Cover of A Declaration, A Call to Get Organized Now For A Real Revolution

 

Conclusion

To go back to the BA quote at the start of this article:

The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness.

And the role of the Justice in Policing Act is to defuse the righteous anger and rebellion against the brutality and murder by the police, and protect politically the same system that the pigs protect violently.

If you really want to get rid of “all of their brutality and murder,” you have to be about making revolution, and getting rid of that system.


1. In basic terms, this is accomplished by saying that the cops had to knowingly violate people’s civil rights, and that the legal test for this is whether there was a previous federal court ruling in an almost identical case which ruled a certain action to be a civil rights violation. Since there are always differences between cases, the courts have been able to use this repeatedly to protect cops from being sued. (For more on this see this Reuters article.)  [back]

2. At this writing the Democrats are negotiating with Black Republi-fascist Senator Tim Scott for his backing, which is likely to be necessary for JPA to pass in any form. Reportedly, the ban on Qualified Immunity is likely to be sacrificed or watered down through these negotiations.  [back]

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