Stop Police Crimes News Letter - Monthly Column

Mar 03, 2015

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Stop Police Crimes News Letter Monthly Column – Final Shot Take 1

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Issue: November, 2015

 

 

 

Why NOT Community Control?

Steve Craig, Stop Police Crimes Organizing Committee
Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression

The criminal justice system in the United States is rigged against the poor and powerless. In the streets of black and brown communities across the nation the shock troops in blue have been deployed in a ‘war on crime’. Since our neighborhoods have been declared war zones, the people in these communities are all under suspicion, viewed as potential threats. Cases of mistaken identity or over-aggressive policing resulting in the killing, maiming or false arrest of innocents are shrugged off as collateral damage. When police crimes are exposed the cover-ups, dissembling, and justifications are rolled out to protect the guilty.

People across the nation have been crying foul. Communities victimized by police abuse are starting to fight back by exposing the lies that pass for the official story. Cell phone cameras, video evidence, eye-witness accounts, and a paper trail documenting abuse have laid bare the magnitude of racist police patterns and practices. Police actions and accounts are being scrutinized like never before.

Now, what to do with all this evidence? Surely, the guilty cops should be prosecuted and jailed or, at least, fired. But, so far, most have walked away scot free, their actions deemed to be reasonable, justified or forgiven by review boards, prosecutors and courts. Cops are not being held accountable for the crimes they commit.

Damning evidence of police crimes keeps surfacing. In Chicago alone we have the dash-cam video of Flint Farmer’s execution, new revelations about the police going off public airwaves after the murder of Darius Pinex, the suppression of evidence including video of the killing of Ronnieman Johnson, and, by all accounts, the horrific footage of the assassination of Laquon McDonald. The roster of shadow detainees at Homan Square may include thousands of victims. The Citizen’s Police Data Project has obtained records of over 28,000 allegations of misconduct filed against Chicago Police Department officers between March 2011 and September 2015. Less than 2% of those complaints resulted in any disciplinary action.

There has been a cacophony of proposed solutions to the scourge of police crimes. More review boards! Appoint better overseers! Better training! An auditor to watch the watchers! Federal intervention and monitoring! Consent decrees! Community policing! A new police superintendent! All of these proposals share one thing in common. They preserve the power relationship between the police and the community, a relationship of master to subject. They are unwilling to put the power in the hands of the people of the community or to let the community determine how they are policed.

The criminal justice system is a monstrous cash cow, patronage trough, and bestower of privilege from the top on down to the cop on the beat. Job security depends on the ability to continually exercise state authority at the expense of a constant flow of victims provided by a ‘criminal’ underclass. Police unions, prosecutors, jailers, parole officers, bail bondsmen, prison corporations, police boards, review authorities all depend on the status quo. They have a good racket going–why cede power to the people? The current maze of oversight bodies in Chicago has been a labyrinth of lollygaggers that has stymied the people in their quest for justice.

The only solution that can break the endless cycle of police crime and the continued impunity of the enabling bureaucratic hierarchy is true community control over the police. CAARPR together with a broad coalition of social justice groups and community members marched on City Hall this past August not to demand better efforts from review boards and the mayor but to call for a systemic change. We were demanding the creation of an all elected all Civilian Police Accountability Council. CPAC would replace the sham police review procedures with true community control at the district level. CPAC representatives would be empowered to investigate all complaints and police misconduct, armed with investigative and subpoena powers, as well as to set police policies and procedures, rewriting the rule book so the police can begin to serve the people instead of brutalizing them. This is true democracy. It will take a movement to achieve this goal. The police and politicians who benefit from the current state of affairs do not want the people to have any power over their own lives. They believe that true democracy is a case of the ‘inmates running the asylum’. But we must struggle and we will win. We have the power to force this change if we remain resolute and don’t fall for their window-dressing half measures.

An elected CPAC? An elected school board? Not on the mayor’s wish list. The movement for change is growing. Democracy? Imagine that.

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Issue: March, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

OCCUPIED TERRITORIES

Steve Craig, Stop Police Crimes Organizing Committee
Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression

The ‘global war on terror’ and the domestic ‘war on crime’ continue to claim innocent victims framed by a delusional narrative of promoting democracy, order and security. This narrative is a thin veil draped over human rights abuses both on foreign soil and on the streets of Chicago. The reflexive U.S. response to political and social crises is to send in the troops. The shock troops, dressed in military green or police blue, may promise to serve and protect but employ tactics drawn from a racist cauldron of profiling, torture and murder. In the fog of war these tactics become the endgame. Society applauds and gives thanks for their abuses, buying the rationale of TV cop shows and combat movies—whatever means necessary to keep the world or city safe.

Since war has been declared on crime, tacitly understood to be black and brown folks, poor neighborhoods are treated as battlegrounds. Some Chicago streets even bear a physical resemblance to the bombed out streets of Gaza or Fallujah. The police act like an occupying army. The population is locked down in an open-air prison and suspected terrorists eradicated by force of arms or incarceration.

A soldier may not have originally signed on to kill Arabs or Asians. S/he may believe he is serving the causes of democracy and freedom when, in fact, s/he is serving Texaco and Halliburton. In the war zone the survival instinct kicks in, never mind the mission—a band-of-brothers mentality. Since some of ‘them’ may be armed and dangerous ‘they’ are all suspect—shoot first.

Police and soldiers are not just similar but are often interchangeable. The two professions dovetail as career pursuits. In November 2014 the CPD website bragged that it “…currently has more than 300 officers serving on active duty in Operation Enduring Freedom and more than 100 officers who are enlisted in the U.S. military. We are proud of them and of the many military veterans who serve as Chicago police officers.” Military veterans are targeted as police recruits and given preferential treatment in the application process. Thanks to the federal government and private contractors military grade weaponry awaits them. There is also a migration of officers in the other direction from police ranks back to the military.

An investigation by The Guardian has surfaced this week about former Chicago police detective Richard Zuley who during his career from 1972 to 2007 became notorious for his success at obtaining confessions from minority suspects in high profile homicide cases. It was documented that he had used physical and psychological torture to extract false confessions from prisoners. Many of the victims of his methods still sit behind bars waiting for legal exoneration. Only one, Lathierial Boyd, has been freed after 23 years of wrongful imprisonment. As a naval reservist Zuley worked for Naval intelligence on leaves of absences and in 2002 was brought in as an interrogator at Guantanamo prison to ply his torture skills in the war on terror. Among his victims was Mohammedu Ould Slahi whose ‘confessions’ were coerced by Zuley’s honed-in-Chicago methods. Slahi has documented his abuse in a recently released memoir. Zuley’s cruel methods even shocked his fellow interrogators and subsequent military investigators.

The infamous torture carried out by Burge and his crew in Chicago has been anecdotally traced to Burrge’s military tour in Vietnam and the methods used on Viet Cong suspects. These military techniques were imported for domestic use in Chicago. Richard Zuley came up through police ranks in this culture of impunity. He then brought his expertise to bear on Guantanamo detainees. Chicago has been an epicenter of police and military abuse.

The U.S. government has historically been bringing ‘democracy’ to the world in the barrel of a gun, often in alliance with some very undemocratic regimes–‘Peace to the world’, ‘Peace to the city streets.’ Peace and democracy cannot be achieved by force and occupation. Let’s use democracy to combat force. Let’s end the control and occupation of our communities. There should be democratic control by a liberated population. The community can use CPAC to control the police. They should be serving the community not occupying it. As it stands now the military and the police are joined at the hip, and on that hip sits a very big gun. police_tank_2

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Stop Police Crimes News Letter ColumFinal Shot Take 1

 

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Issue January, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

BAD APPLES OR ROTTEN TREE?

Steve Craig, Stop Police Crimes Organizing Committee
Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression

The CPD and law enforcement agencies nationwide are scrambling to repair what they express to be image problems. With public exposure of racist cops mounting, police departments are trotting out the “bad apple” defense. “Sweet Home, Alabama” blaring from a squad car, racist blogs, encounters caught on video, Klan t-shirts are all labeled exceptions. The promised clean-up focuses on ridding the force of these public relations nightmares rather than eliminating racist policy.

Poor black and brown communities are policed differently than white communities. These neighborhoods have been gutted by economic and social marginalization—no jobs, no social services, no infrastructure. The population has been further victimized by the excesses of decades of the “tough-on-crime” policies of mass incarceration. Former, mostly non-violent, offenders are caught in a cycle where the choice comes down to starvation or participation in illegal economies, primarily the drug trade, and re-incarceration.

The policing of the African American population has always been about social control. What began as slavery evolved into convict leasing and prison farms where blacks became debtors for their inability to pay fines for “vagrancy” or other “quality of life” crimes, a debt and jail cycle that continues today. The more overt, codified oppression of the Jim Crow era followed. Since the dismantling of Jim Crow the unequal treatment of black and brown communities continues under the current wave of mass incarceration, what Michelle Alexander has dubbed the “New Jim Crow”.

Individual cops respond that they have been unjustly characterized as racist. After all, black cops are also neighborhood enforcers. Part of many a reform proposal is to increase minority representation in police ranks. The racial make-up of the police force and the attitudes of individual cops do matter, but they still serve the same racist master. Cops, black or white, enforce the same policies that target communities of color. Black cops were on the scene at the Eric Garner killing. 11th District commander Glenn Evans, who received praise from Superintendent McCarthy for his “no-nonsense” approach to fighting crime, is black. There is an us vs. them comraderie on the force, the thin blue line, and a code of silence that keeps cops, black or white, from exposing the crimes of fellow officers.

It’s time to start holding cops accountable for their actions and to give communities control over policing policy. The establishment of a Civilian Police Accountability Council(CPAC) would change the culture of policing. The good apples left could drop free of the rotten tree.
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Stop Police Crimes News Letter Column Final Shot Take 1

 

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Issue December, 2104

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s Watching?
Steve Craig, Stop Police Crimes Organizing Committee
Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression

 

Chicago Police Superintendent McCarthy recently announced a pilot program to equip officers with body cameras in a supposed effort to increase transparency and regain public trust.

The cameras would initially be supplied to officers who volunteer for the program to start in two months. If the wearing of cameras were to become mandatory for all officers the program could have a positive effect in reducing abusive and criminal behavior by the police. However, without community control over police actions and direct civilian access to all video, the proposed system will be open to abuse and manipulation.

Who controls the narrative and why? The proposed body camera program in Chicago is a CPD reaction to the public outcry over the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson. The CPD goal is improved public relations not a change in the occupation tactics of police in the community. Without civilian oversight with the investigative muscle of an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), police videos would be paraded out to fit the ‘official’ story. This has been the case in other cities that have used the cameras. Cameras are turned off or ‘malfunction’. Police in other cities have had prior access to video evidence in cases of misconduct so they can craft their testimony to fit. Police cameras are used for surveillance at demonstrations to target activists and justify arrests with out of context footage.

Sadly even videos that document police crimes have been insufficient to hold police accountable. We’ve seen the video evidence of the murder of Eric Garner in New York and the assassination of Flint Farmer in Chicago. In the ‘national dialogue’ the racist eyes of the beholder win out: black or brown on camera-guilty, killer cop-justified. At least by empowering communities with an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council, the people in the neighborhood can decide when to take action to stop police crimes and not leave it in the hands of Fox News.

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