Use and share this for Praxis Purposes:
Praxis: Reflection + Action = Transformation.
Above you can view and listen to the entire video “Profé Ben Bac Sierra and SF Board President Shamann Walton Evaluate Defunding Police.” Below you can read my part that is transcribed for you.
Venecia: Professor Bac Sierra, what do you think about the KAREN Act, and how can this have an effect on our communities because I know that a dear friend of our community was affected a few years ago, Alex Nieto, so what needs to change as far as for the police response and how our community hold police accountable for the continuous murders across and in our communities?
Profé Ben Bac Sierra: First of all, I’d like to say all amor to everyone there and blessings to you all. Thank you to Shammon, thank you to Venecia for inviting me.
Now the KAREN Act. Note here, our Loved One Alex Nieto. People called the police on him because he was simply eating a burrito in his own neighborhood. He had not been accused of doing anything violent. He had not even looked at the people who called the police on him, and when the police dispatcher actually answered the call of the people calling the police on Alex Nieto, the first thing she asked was, “What race is he? Black or Latino?”
Note here, it is ingrained in many people’s minds that Black and Brown people are doing something that is criminal.
Now you asked also about accountability. I’m going to be frank here, and you’ve invited me to be frank.
Venecia: Yes, please.
Profé Ben Bac Sierra: There is no way that the police can be accountable to the people because the police do not work for the people. The police work for the system.
They get a great salary.
They are told what to do.
The system keeps them in place so that people that are oppressed, Brown and Black people, do not rise up, do not try to get conscious, and instead they end up accepting the criminal identity.
So, there is no way that the police will ever be accountable to us. Now there are a few things that we can do to limit their accountability:
One: Decriminalize a whole bunch of things that do not need to be criminal. For example, Alex Nieto did not need to be killed. All he was doing was eating a burrito before work. There was no reason for the police to go there thinking that he was an enemy combatant. You had stated earlier that I am a Marine Corps combat veteran. There is no way that as a Marine in combat we would have the impunity that police have now, and they have that impunity because we have been fed this lie from the media, from the movies that police officers are our saviors.
They are not our saviors.
They cannot fix any problem, except to protect the interests of capitalism, and they are, in fact, mercenaries. We can begin by taking away some of their trivial responsibilities. For example, something like this, something that is very practical here. I don’t want to stay theoretical. I want to be practical. One thing you can do is to take away all of their overtime pay.
They get paid a gang of money for going out to Carnaval and just standing around. There is absolutely no reason why community members cannot serve as security during those kind of events. There is absolutely no reason why a rookie cop in San Francisco is going to make approximately $150,000.00 in his first year with all of the overtime included.
They love the protests. They love the uprisings that are happening because they get paid overtime!
That’s one practical thing that we can do, and I can keep going on, but I don’t want to speak too much because I know you have lots of questions and I would love my colleague Shamann to speak on these topics.
Venecia: How can we put pressure on the Attorney General so that there could be further investigation into Sean Monterossa’s death?
Profé Ben Bac Sierra: I was at an event this past weekend for Sean, and it was actually in my old stomping grounds, Holly Park, where I had my first major encounter with the police when I was twelve years old.
Note the family of Sean, the community has risen up with creativity and amor, the same as we did for Alex Nieto, the same as we did for Amilcar Perez Lopez. It has to take not only pressure but creativity and imagination. You know what they had on Saturday? Free food, free burritos, free tacos. They had buttons being made, t-shirts being made. They had speakers, congas, singers.
Community being built.
That is really going to help fuel this fight, and I would argue the roots of that come with the Mario Woods Movement, the Alex Nieto Movement, and now these are the flowers that are blooming.
So, how can we pressure the attorney general? Note here, as I said earlier, it’s going to be very difficult to get a political conclusion without damnation first.
What do I mean by that?
What we had, for example, with Alex Nieto was we had a full-blown trial where all of the evidence was naked to the public, and the public saw the corruption between the coroner’s office, the city attorney, the district attorney, the police department, the police union, Taser International, all of the corporations, and note here:
All of the politicians, and this is just a fact, this is a fact in the year 2014. Before 2016, no politician stood with the people against the police.
Why they did not stand with the people was because the police unions were simply too strong, and capitalism was too entrenched in the system so that politicians were scared. They were scared of following the people and not being re-elected, of being attacked, of being exposed.
It was not until the damnation of Police Chief Suhr getting fired by the people that politicians began to care.
They thought we were crazy yelling out in the streets “Fire Chief Suhr!” They thought, “You’re stupid.” They had a billion dollar media industry against us, yet once Jessica Nelson Williams, a pregnant African American woman, was killed, murdered by the police, then Police Chief Suhr had to resign, and it was the people who resigned him, and
All of a sudden, after that damnation right there, the politicians started coming more towards our side. Then Colin Kaepernick started kneeling, and he started kneeling because of Alex Nieto, Mario Woods. He’s a San Fran Frisco 49er.
The only pressure that’s going to make them take some kind of action is people movement.
La Movida, Homes.
Profé Ben Bac Sierra Later:
I understand the idea of individual justice for certain police officers when they commit murders. To a certain extent, it may satisfy some people who believe that there is justice in the system, and it may satisfy a sense of revenge, but it is not an effective tool to really deal with the issue of policing.
It is not an individual issue; it is a systemic issue.
The police have all these protections, have qualified immunity. They’re able to run rampant in Vallejo, in San Francisco because they protect the interests of the elite, and they have made a bargain with the cities. Let’s be very frank about this.
The cities are complicit because they decide what police officers are going to be paid. They decide how far they’re going to be protected. I’ll just mention once again, the case I’m extremely familiar with, which is the case of Alex Nieto:
It wasn’t the police department that was the total travesty in that case. The coroner’s office put information in the death report that was totally irrelevant to the cause of death. The city attorney, on purpose, labeled Alex Nieto as a gang-member, even though they had absolutely no evidence of that. The city attorney allowed Taser International, which was the taser company, to testify in that case, and then, lo and behold, Taser International a recent time after their testimony gained a two million dollar contract with the City and County of San Francisco to arm police officers with body cameras.
This network, this matrix, this web of injustice is extremely tangled up, and it’s not going to be solved with individual justice.
One of the best things I would recommend to city officials is to decriminalize many of the activities that police are responsible for right now, and in fact those trivial activities are what most police officers’ time is dedicated to, such as homelessness, now, this is not petty, I’m sorry, but it does not require a person with a gun to come and solve this issue.
Police officers cannot solve homelessness.
Police cannot solve poverty.
They cannot solve drug addiction. That’s a morality, perhaps philosophical and health issue.
Police are totally ill-equipped to solve these problems. The police is simply a band-aid that the cities use to try to cover up their own corruption.
One of the ways to begin is to have this very frank discussion. We need education about what is the root of the police and what do the police actually do. People don’t want to talk about that. That’s a big problem. I’m an educator. I have been an educator for over twenty years. My colleagues don’t even know how to talk about this because they’ve been brainwashed so much by textbooks. They’ve been brainwashed by media, by the movies, by films to look at officers as if they are mythical saviors. They are not. They perpetuate violence in the community.
I will give one brief personal example: when I was growing up on the streets of San Francisco in the 1980’s, we became pretty sick-with-it, and one of the reason why we became so sick-with-it was because in our films, the police officers for their violence were the heroes. I would argue that we were just modeling the oppressor’s behavior to act like violent people, and that led us to mass incarceration.
That same exact behavior of violence turned out to be something that the Marine Corps loved about me. They made me squad leader because of the violence I learned out on the streets. The police officers have that violent mentality. There’s no way to take that out of them because they’re carrying around guns.
They’re not trained to be psychologists. They’re not trained to be health officials. They’re trained to be brutalizers.
You can have a smile on your face if you’d like, but your job is to brutalize and humiliate me.
The video continues with more engagement at 31:34.
In All Ways
Benjamin Bac Sierra