Baltimore is among the seven cities targeted by the Trump administration for a high-tech “surge” in police penetration of Black communities.
“Increased militarization of police departments leads to increased numbers of civilians murdered by police.”
At the end of October, during the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago, President Trump announced, “In coming weeks, Attorney General Barr will announce a new crackdown on violent crime—which I think is so important—targeting gangs and drug traffickers in high crime cities and dangerous rural areas.”
Attorney General Barr announced, right before the holidays, the initiative known as Operation Relentless Pursuit at a news conference in Detroit, Michigan. Joining him were leaders of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Marshals Service.
Baltimore City is one of seven cities, including Detroit, Albuquerque, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee, selected for the new crime program intended to “surge” federal, state and local resources into cities where violent [horizontal] crime rates remain high.
In an op-Ed written in Detroit News, Barr says,
“Operation Relentless Pursuit will surge an unparalleled amount of federal backing to Detroit and the other most dangerous cities in the United States. It will build on the Justice Department’s successful Project Safe Neighborhoods, which encouraged community-based solutions to violent crime. It will also complement Project Guardian and DEEP (Disruption and Early Engagement Program), agency initiatives focused on reducing gun crime and preventing mass shootings. With Operation Relentless Pursuit, local law enforcement will have access to state-of-the-art technology and our nation’s top federal agents, who will be tasked with investigating and taking down the most violent offenders and their criminal organizations. We’re matching our rhetoric with resources by committing significant manpower and up to $71 million in additional funding for our federal, state, and local partners.”
“Operation Relentless Pursuit will have access to state-of-the-art technology.”
Police are used to enforce the status quo of white power and colonial control over the lives of Black, Brown, and other oppressed nations of people. Four of the seven targeted cities have majority Black populations—Baltimore, 62.8%; Detroit, 79.12%; Cleveland, 50.41%; and Memphis, 63.9%. Increased militarization of police departments leads to increased numbers of civilians murdered by police, in addition to the everyday terror experienced by residents in occupied communities. It leads to more families separated, material stability crushed, and communities torn apart by the prison industrial system.
Baltimore, Detroit, Albuquerque, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee all participate in the Department of Defense (DoD) 1033 Program. Through the 1033 Program, military equipment gets transferred to civilian law enforcement agencies. Related is the program accurately nicknamed “Deadly Exchange,” where hyper-militarized policing techniques and technology are shared between Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), the privately-owned Israeli security company Shin Bet, and local U.S. police departments.
“Four of the seven targeted cities have majority Black populations.”
Pre-surge, there were already on average 124 heavily armed SWAT deployments each day, overwhelmingly in Black neighborhoods. The majority were merely for drug searches rather than for hostage situations. This was, in part, due to a 2400% increase in weapons transfers during the Obama administration years. Baltimore City has $500,000 in military weaponry, including glocks and riot-type shotguns at HBCUs Morgan State and Coppin State. In addition, the city has partnered with privatized companies, such as the Ohio-based company Persistent Surveillance Systems, for surveillance planes hovering the city to investigate past shootings and robberies, but not police misconduct.
We must organize to end the 1033 Programs across the nation. Community control of the police must be won. US military global occupation and the militarization of police departments are counterparts. A $738 military budget was approved with bi-partisan support, which, thanks to a removed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment, gave Trump the authority to aggressively bring war to Iran. Meanwhile, near 22% of people in Baltimore City live in poverty (vs. 11.8% nationally) according to the official guidelines – $16,460 for a family of two; $25,100 for a family of four (2018 numbers).
It’s laughable to think that a family of four earning even twice that is not living in poverty. The U.S. sets the income guideline extremely low in order to disguise just how large a population of poor people their capitalist, white supremacist rule has created. The state also uses this poverty threshold to justify putting resources towards only a tiny percent of the people that need food and healthcare (SNAP and Medicaid).
“Community control of the police must be won.”
The average income per capita in Baltimore City in 2018 was $29,700. But when you look at averages without looking specifically at what Black Baltimoreans are making, you’re still getting a rosy view. Close to 51% of white Baltimore families earn $100k and up, compared to only 12.7% of Black families. 2.8% of white families survive on less thano $10k annually, compared to 10.7% of Black families. Black workers are unemployed at triple the rate of white workers. Baltimore’s private sector has more businesses with either gig workers or no paid employees (39,457) than businesses with paid employees (12,434). In Baltimore and beyond, government expenditures must be reallocated to fully fund social programs in order to realize collective and individual human rights in housing, education, healthcare, food, green jobs, and public transportation.
The Black Alliance For Peace - Baltimore says No Compromise, No Retreat when calling for the demilitarization of local police departments. There should be no confidence in any imperialist parties or state institutions to address the horizontal violence plaguing our communities. The behavior of police departments in this state and across the U.S. shows us the role of the police is to protect private property, sectors of the middle-class community, and the ruling-class interests. Police are called to colonized communities of ALL oppressed folks to carry out the standard imperialist orders, with every intent to do more harm on behalf of the state than actually serving any positive purpose.
We who believe in freedom – in the possibilities of real democracy, of people-centered human rights, of peace and a livable planet – cannot wait. We must understand that our aspirations must be translated into concrete struggle. We must be clear: we cannot win without a sharp understanding of the forces of oppression that must be defeated. For BAP, it is obvious when we look in the rearview mirror “while driving as Black” that the enemy is not the Iraqis, Russians, Iranians, Syrians or Venezuelans.
Read the full BAP- Baltimore press release HERE.
This article first appeared in HoodCommunist.
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