Profé Ben Bac Sierra and SF Supervisor Shamann Walton Answer “What Does Police Accountability Mean for Black and Brown Communities in 2020?”
It is my humble honor to serve you. If you want to hear a frank critical evaluation of policing, watch this video. Please share with all, as this is one of the most pressing issues of our time. This panel consisted of myself and San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton discussing “What Does Police Accountability Mean for Black and Brown Communities?” Recorded on July 15, 2020 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Please feel free to use this video and blog as educational tools.
The driving question for this conversation is the following:
“What Does Police Accountability Mean for Black and Brown Communities?”
Below are ideas that I will explain further during the discussion:
- All my life I have had to deal with the police and the effects of policing. Being born into the old high-rise Army Street projects, I had no escape from dealing with police. My first bust was at 12 years old at Holly Courts Housing Projects for some petty malicious mischief that should not even have been an arrestable offense. Certainly, the incident did not require policemen with guns to handcuff and taunt me. I was brutalized and terrified, but instead of submitting to police power, which probably would have been worse for my psychological and social well-being, I built a resentment within myself to fight against the humiliation that I felt. As a confused fatherless child running around gritty San Francisco streets full of poverty and desperation, I did not need more macho authoritarianism from the police that was going to further feelings of anger that promoted violence. In fact, the police fast-forwarded the violence we ended up portraying on the streets, as the more violent and militarized they became, the more we became violent gun-toting macho men just like our oppressors. We watched the news and went to the movies and romanticized the Die Hard cops as heroes, just like the rest of the nation emulated them, too. No, I needed someone or something that was going to offer me hope in some way, but there was no hope except for the macho mentality and gangs, which at least gave me some dignity growing up. The police were not there to solve any problems but were there simply to keep us from understanding our reality of oppression. Even if they wanted to, the police were incapable of helping us, for that is not their function: their job is literally to turn us into criminals. Instead of feeling justified for our righteous anger at being ignored, forgotten, and brutalized Brown and Black children, we bought into the identity of being criminals. Many of our brothers and sisters feel this resentment and know this oppression, but only now, only because of the mass uprisings across this country, our critiques of the police are finally being seriously considered.
- Brown and Black bodies serve as proof against the police; their lives are the overwhelming evidence against the police: Alex Nieto, 59 bullets. Jesus Adolfo Delgado, 99 bullets. Sean Monterrosa, 6 bullets, while he was on his knees with his hands up. George Floyd, 8:46 (eight minutes and 46 seconds) with a cop’s knee on his neck. There is no plausible explanation for any of this, and it is only pure propaganda that pacified the public to this horror. From time immemorial, most people accepted the cop savior mythology while at the same time fearing and being terrified of the “savior”.
- Please watch this police encounter that happened on 24th and Bryant street three years ago. The police train their rookies in the Mission district. Why? It is the perfect place to brutalize Brown folks. Here the rookie cop was running around with a shotgun to apprehend a frail homeless man. You can see them justifying themselves and calling us, the people, ignorant. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dS3jgFgybQ
- Police are totally ineffective. Most of the time they are not fighting felony crime. Most of the time they are involved in policing petty activities that actually have nothing to do with substantive deviance, such as billion dollar corporate crime, or assault, robbery, etc. The police spend most of their time racially profiling people on the streets. The police are a control mechanism that makes oppressed people feel even more oppressed. The police are, simply put, an anti-revolutionary force instituted to keep people of color complacent about their situation. The real issues of poverty, mis-education, racism, economic inopportunity, etc. cannot be solved by the police, and they do not even attempt to solve those problems. They walk and ride around with guns, actually committing drive by shootings, as in the case of Keita O’Neill. Whether they intend to be bullies or not, does not matter. A smile from them does not change the function of the police on the streets. A good cop has no say in how the system works. Why would they be running with shotguns to apprehend or shoot a frail confused homeless person? The police are totally ineffective. They do not care about that person, except to brutalize and humiliate him, and after that encounter with the police, that homeless person has not been “rehabilitated” in any way. They “high-five” each other after their petty busts and solidify within themselves that all Brown and Black people are animals, regardless of whether they are Brown and Black officers themselves.
- The police are colonial police forces: this is the root of the police. Read history. Racism is inbred with policing, regardless of whether a police officer is a person of color or white.
- Marine Corps perspective: I am a Marine Corps grunt combat veteran, and not even we, in war, would be allowed all of this impunity that the police have. Let’s understand and reflect on this: police are not supposed to be thinking of themselves as if they are in combat. There is no reason for them to think of Brown and Black people as enemy combatants.
- There is no reform to change the police role in the system.
- Police serve the system, and the system works to cover up its corruption. The police obey the system, their bosses. That is it. The system tells the cops to do its dirty work, and police do not question it. The police do not want to question it, as they have been blessed with superstar status and a great salary—one of the best jobs in the country. They love protests and uprisings so that they can get paid overtime and prove themselves to each other!
- Even the most radical rhetoric to “Jail Killer Cops” succeeds only in bringing individual justice to individual actors. It may help some gain trust in the justice system or obtain a feeling of revenge, but it does nothing to change the system, as just because some cops are jailed does not mean there is actually justice in the justice system.
- The most convincing argument for most people: The Thin Blue Line Ideology: the police must The only thing holding society together is the punitive and coercive interventions of policing.
- This is a crisis of imagination. If you believe this, then there is no other answer except for militarized police. If you believe cops must be in charge, then you believe self-government is necessarily chaos, and there is absolutely no proof of that. None. But the media machine has brainwashed people to fear their own human shadows.
- Note the racist connotations to the idea that police must control certain neighborhoods and people. It goes something like this: Black and Brown people are primitive natural savages that cannot be trusted to govern themselves. They must be taught civilization and capitalism so that life is better for everyone. They must aspire to institutional educational and capitalistic ideals. We cannot have these people fight the system because they are too stupid to know what is good for them. They need jobs to pacify them. Note the evil irony here: the great jobs are not there for them because of mis-education and racism, and they are criminalized for the system’s purposeful exclusion of them.
- SO in fact the police function as an anti-revolutionary force to check and suppress revolution or consciousness of any kind.
- Policing suppresses economics (numbers example: people stay content with being poor), labor (strikes: people do not ask for more money even though they are being exploited), education, opportunity, racial equality, etc.
- Militarization of police hardware. In 1950 your average police officer looked like a bus driver. Today the average police officer looks like a special forces soldier.
- This is all big business. Military suppliers. Mass incarceration. Lawyers, doctors, construction workers, sheriffs, guards, teachers, etc.
- The police force has developed a military esprit de corps mindset. They think of themselves as Rambos.
- The cities have been complicit with the police. The city gifts the best benefits, salary packages, and retirement welfare to police. With lots of political clout, the police are one of the strongest union forces in America. Police unions actually promote a pyramid scheme.
- Let’s be frank: Politicians did not support us back in 2014 when the grassroots people were fighting against the police on the streets. Politicians were afraid of the police union. It was not until we fired Chief Suhr and Colin Kaepernick started kneeling that politicians joined us.
- Black and Brown people are harmed significantly, but we are just supposed to stay docile, accept prison and death, and take it.
- What is the crime? Drugs, theft, mental health problems, prostitution. These are health, poverty, education, morality, philosophy issues, not criminal issues that must be enforced through violence.
- We need to totally rethink what is a crime and how we deal with these things.
- Compare to corporate crime.
- This total revamping of the police problem is going to cost lots of money, but less than the totality of what mass incarceration and all its effects costs. Think about $80,000 per prisoner per year, all the budgets for police, family and generational negative effects. Human lives and their futures are priceless.
- Police are not only ineffective, but counter-productive. They breed hate and resentment. They do not solve the real problems that poor communities of color are facing.
- Reforms, such as sensitivity training or anti-bias training, do not make a difference. It does not get to the root of the problem. The decision to turn the problem of poverty and racism over to police does not solve the problem. It reproduces the problem through mass incarceration and criminalization.
- The entire mentality about police and what they actually do must shift and showcase the reality of everything I have written above.
- With regards to the police and their function, the entire community’s imagination must change. A new truth must emerge: Pura Neta.