The Black Lives Matter protest movement shows again why America needs to defund bloated and militarized police departments.
The brutal videotaped killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, has pushed Americans to the limit of what they will tolerate from police. While many of the problems can be laid at the feet of the current administration, which abolished the modest Obama police reforms, the current status quo of accepting and encouraging racist and murderous policing has been a largely bipartisan project at the federal, state, and local level.
Both political parties have had many years to rein in the culture of police brutality. Apparently, huge efforts to reform the LAPD resulted in only the mildest changes. The liberal city, dominated by Democrats, continues to have the largest number of police killings nationwide, and the black female district attorney, Jackie Lacey, has refused to prosecute a single officer during her tenure. The demand that those who violate rights should be held legally accountable has gone unmet. Like the LAPD, the NYPD has enjoyed the protection of a largely liberal and Democratic political landscape.
Obama’s federal oversight of police departments through court-ordered consent decrees was a start, but in his last act as Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions undid the Obama-era consent decrees. The flow pf military equipment and weapons to local police departments then resumed.
Now, as mass protests are taking place all over the nation, the images of well-armed and flak-jacketed police facing off against protesters and violently subduing them while remaining encased in protective gear stands in stark contrast to our desperately under-equipped health care workers who have been vainly trying to save as many lives as possible during the coronavirus pandemic.
Police are clad head to toe in high-tech gear, face shields and body armor, with no shortage of plastic handcuffs, rubber bullets, and tear gas canisters. The optics of these modern-day gestapo-like forces roaming city streets, bashing in heads and firing tear gas into the faces of unarmed protesters are a reminder of just how many federal and state-level resources we have poured into law enforcement over the years at the expense of health care, education, and other public needs.
Even as the economic collapse triggered by the pandemic threatened to devastate public school systems, in the liberal havens of Los Angeles and New York City, law enforcement budgets remained unscathed. California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed big cuts to schools to compensate for massive budget shortfalls at the same time that LAPD officers were receiving $41 million in bonuses.
And while the pandemic is forcing cities to make hard choices about which public services to slash, police departments have remained immune to cuts. Democratic Party’s state and local leaders, have poured money into our domestic armed forces—the police—to fuel a war on us, and especially those among us with black or brown skin. The police cannnot solve problems caused by poor education, health care, and jobs. Money should be diverted into education, health care, and jobs.
My comment: I would quote Author Alex Vitale’s 2018 book, “The End of Policing”. It.has the following quotation: “The problem is not police training, police diversity, or police methods. The problem is the dramatic and unprecedented expansion and intensity of policing in the last forty years, a fundamental shift in the role of police in society. “The problem is policing itself.”. The solution, he says, “is to dramatically shrink police functions ….. We must demand that local politicians develop non-police solutions to the problems poor people face.
(This posting is an edited-for length version of an article by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute)