by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the U.S. Justice Department has attempted to position itself on the side of “reform.” Its new report on the Philadelphia police is one example. However, their version of reform is designed to perfect the system of mass Black incarceration, and to derail the movement. “It is critical that the movement put forward its own proposals that would fundamentally alter the power relationships between the police and the Black community.”
Philadelphia’s Killer Cops Prove the Necessity of Black Community Control of Police
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“Integrated city halls and diversity in police hiring have not altered the core police mission in Philadelphia or anywhere else in the United States.”
The Black experience in Philadelphia shows, definitively, that conventional assumptions undergirding “reform” of policing have no basis in the racial realities of the United States. Over the past eight years, Philadelphia cops shot at “suspects” 390 times, a rate of once a week, killing 65 of them. Fifty-nine of the human targets were unarmed and 80 percent of them were Black, according to a newly-released report by the U.S. Justice Department.
Philadelphia cops are five times more likely than New York City police to use deadly force against citizens. Despite having agreed four years ago to federal court monitoring of its stop-and-frisk policies, Philly cops made 200,000 such stops last year – about twice as high as the rate recorded in New York before that city’s program was officially halted. Ninety percent of those frisked in Philadelphia are minorities. Yet, the majority Black and brown city boasts a Black district attorney, a Black police commissioner and a 35 percent Black police force, and has had a mayor-appointed Police Advisory Commission since 1993. (Its first such board was set up in 1958.)
The problem is not a scarcity of Black faces in high Philly places, or of Black bodies in blue uniforms. Philadelphians of color are well aware – and the Justice Department report confirms – that a large proportion of the gun-happy cops are Black. And it was a Black mayor, Wilson Goode, who in 1985 ordered police to bomb the Move family house in West Philadelphia, killing five Black children and six adults and burning down a huge swath of the neighborhood.
Integrated city halls and diversity in police hiring have not altered the core police mission in Philadelphia or anywhere else in the United States, which is to criminalize and contain the Black community. Philadelphia’s police may be more lethally violent than most, but it is only a matter of degree. Every police department in the country is an integral component of a Black Mass Incarceration State that has been in place since the early Seventies, a permanent, militarized counter-insurgency regime that is wholly compatible with Black-led city governments and heavily Black-staffed police forces.
“A large proportion of the gun-happy cops are Black.”
For more than two generations, Black city administrations have been sending more than their quota of Black bodies to the dungeons of the U.S. prison Gulag – a grotesque perversion of “Black Power.” Philadelphia is merely one of the more obscene examples of Black complicity in the ongoing national crime against Black humanity. Yet, Black people in cities like Ferguson, Missouri, are told their problem with police can be solved by electing Black mayors and hiring more Black police officers.
The U.S. Department of Justice – a central component of the Mass Black Incarceration State –recommends even deeper police penetration of Black populations through so-called “community policing” – a camouflage for heightened surveillance and intelligence-based police operations. It was the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, that issued this week’s report on the Philadelphia Police Department’s use of deadly force, part of the flurry of response by Obama administration to the nascent Black Lives Matter movement. To preempt Black revolt, the rulers put forward their own versions of “reform,” emphasizing outside oversight of police, community advisory boards, increased training, and more diversity in hiring. However, these measures are designed to PERFECT, rather than abolish, the system of mass Black control, containment, criminalization and incarceration – “The New Jim Crow,” as Michelle Alexander calls it. Since the rulers’ “reforms” are designed to derail the movement, it is critical that the movement put forward its own proposals that would fundamentally alter the power relationships between the police and the Black community.
“To preempt Black revolt, the rulers put forward their own versions of ‘reform.’”
The Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations believes there is but one response to the scourge of police depredations that plague every Black community in the United States: Black community control of the police. “The struggle for Black Community Control of the Police assumes the ability of African people ourselves to redefine the role of the police so that it no longer functions as an agency imposed on us from the outside,” said the Coalition, which will host a national conference on Black Community Control of Police, in Ferguson, Missouri, April 18 and 19. Reformist gimmicks such as Justice Department “consent decree” agreements with local police departments and citizen review boards that only react to police atrocities after the fact are diversions from the urgent task of seizing control of the police apparatus, itself. “This is not a relationship that can be fixed by reform,” said a statement by the Coalition’s executive committee. “Civilian police review boards cannot fix it, nor can special government sponsored or endorsed discussions on race relations. It cannot be fixed by sensitivity training and cultural awareness within police departments.”
The task of the Black Lives Matter movement is not to smooth the operations of the armed occupation of Black communities, but to end it.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].