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Burning Spear News

Police unions and white power

Aug 7, 2020
Dr. Matsemela Odom, Chair, Africans Charge Genocide Campaign

In 1893, Ida B. Wells exposed the links between the white nationalist mobs and the police in “Southern Horror: Lynch Law In All Its Phases.” Wells famously wrote, “Those who commit the murders write the reports.”

In 2019, the Center for Investigative Reporting concluded that, “Hundreds of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers from across the United States are members of Confederate, anti-Islam, misogynistic or anti-government militia groups on Facebook.”

The Plain View Project found that almost 20 percent of cops they studied publicly endorsed “violence, racism, and bigotry.”

Outside of social media, cops have been found to have direct membership in the Ku Klux Klan, the Proud Boys and other white nationalist formations.

The connections between law enforcement agencies in the Jim Crow South and the Ku Klux Klan and other white nationalist militias is well documented.

William Parker, the Los Angeles Chief of Police from 1950 to 1966, recruited white male cops from the South and soldiers directly out of active duty in the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps.

As Chairman Omali Yeshitela notes, “In Vietnam, the police are called Marines. In the U.S., the Marines are called police.”

In the 1980s, Los Angeles cops patrolled the African colonies of South Los Angeles with South Africa badges on their patrol cars. Donovan Jacobs, one of the cops who attacked African motorist Sagon Penn in 1985 was discovered to be a part of a militia group with members of the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Brotherhood.

Recently in 2014, three cops from Fruitland Park, Florida were discovered to be members of the Klan. In 2015, Anniston County Alabama police lieutenant Josh Doggrell was fired for being a member of the League of the South. In 2015, Louisiana cop Raymond Mott was pictured wearing white nationalist uniform and giving the Nazi salute in a picture next to a man in a white robe and hood. In 2016, Philadelphia cop Ian Hans Lichtermann was shown sporting white nationalist tattoo on his arm. In 2017, Colbert, Oklahoma police chief Bart Asbrook was listed as the owner of multiple white nationalist websites.

This is clearly only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The more we dig, the more we find.

The police serve as occupying armies within the colonies of Africans and other indigenous and colonized people globally. In the United States, the police unions also serve as white working class associations that negotiate for power with the white ruling class on the pedestal of the African working class.

It is this relationship between the white working class and the white ruling class that has produced modern policing at every step.

The police as white workingman associations

The first police associations were created in the late 1800s concurrent with other white nationalist trade unions that excluded African membership, such as the American Federation of Labor. Since then, there have been very few work slowdowns and strikes by police unions. In terms of how people generally understand the work of the labor unions, the police are not very strong.

As is popularly noted, the origins of modern police agencies are in the slave patrols. The earliest of formal slave patrols began in South Carolina in 1704.

In 1828, a North Carolina slave patrollers oath was as follows, “I, [patroller’s name], do swear, that I will as searcher for guns, swords, and other weapons among the slaves in my district, faithfully, and as privately as I can, discharge the trust reposed in me as the law directs, to the best of my power. So help me, God.” Service on slave patrols, and later police departments defined citizenship in the white settler nation.

The police were created to protect white workers at the expense of the African working class. The white working class have historically been attracted to police work for freedom and power. The first public police department was formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1838.

Modern police departments developed in the North at the moment African communities began to develop in northern cities and white immigrants began to arrive from Europe. European immigrants, namely Irish Catholics, used police work to gain power and status by distinguishing themselves from the African working class.

White workers demand to always be in positions of authority over Africans. This is what some historians like David Roedinger have called “working towards whiteness.” The colonial relationship between the white working class and the African working class could be seen in the different relationships to labor.

In the prologue to Dead Prez song “Police State,” Chairman Omali Yeshitela stated, “the reality is the police become necessary in human society only at that juncture in human society where it is split between those who have and those who ain't got.”

Police work was one thing that settled the differences between the white poor and the white colonial elite. Police work also served to keep the advancements of the African working class contained.

In his book the Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, Khalil Gibran Muhammad shows the way police work developed as a method to contain African migration from the South during the Great Migration.

Contradictions of police defunding and deunionization

Today there are over 800,000 cops in the United States. However, there are an even greater 820,000 private security workers in the U.S. About 80 percent of cops are in police unions. The largest is the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York.

Since the May 25 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis police departments and police unions have come under fire.

Activists have demanded the defunding of police departments and the disassociation of the labor movement from police unions.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced he was cutting $150 million dollars from the police budget (less than 10 percent of its $1.8 billion annual budget). Garcetti announced that the extra funds were going to be directed to “community programs.”

There has also been a push from progressive labor union members to disassociate from police unions. On June 17, the Martin Luther King County Labor Council in Seattle, Washington voted to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild union from their collective. This measure was passed as Seattle activists occupied the Capitol Hill section of the city and had taken over an abandoned police station.

Minneapolis City Council made news when it was suggested they had voted to disband the police. It has since been revealed that the vote was to begin a process in which the possibility would be considered. And even if the police were disbanded, the county sheriff’s department would be used as an alternative.

Beyond the protests, the crisis in capitalism is what caused cities to question the funding of police.

In 2012, Stockton, a city of 300,000 in California’s Central Valley filed for bankruptcy. Hit hard by home foreclosures, Stockton had serious revenue issues.

In one interview, the police chief noted that he was paying for two police forces, one active duty and another retired. Stockton resolved their budget issues by slashing $14 million from their police budget and laying off one-fourth of their 440 person department.

The conditions for Africans in Stockton has not changed but in a recent article by the Los Angeles Times, Stockton has been heralded as a sign of success.

Without black community control of the police, defunding is just another austerity measure

Without revolutionary demands to remove all police and occupying military forces from African communities and replacing it with black community control of the police, however, this movement to defund the police becomes little more than liberal austerity measures meant to sustain white power.

A majority of security forces in the U.S. are private. In cities throughout the United States, African neighborhoods are patrolled by armed private security forces. When Compton, California disbanded their police department, the even more corrupt Los Angeles Sheriff's Department moved in.

Defunding the police and police de-unionization do not resolve the colonial contradictions that produced police in the first place. Balanced budgets only seem to preserve the violent occupation of African communities.

People need to demand power in the hands of the African community. Full black community control of the police—a withdrawal of all occupying forces, be they the police, the military, or private security—is needed.

Along with that, reparations and self-determination must be demanded: a return of resources and power in the hands of the African Working Class.

Black Power is self-determination. White power is colonial domination. Whether the police are run by the Klan, the Republicans or the Democrats, it is all colonial white power.

 

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