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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/30/21

Police the People? Just Leave the People Be

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From LA Progressive

To End Racial Capitalism, We Will Need to Take On the Institution of Policing

End police brutality: Black Lives Matter
End police brutality: Black Lives Matter
(Image by aestheticsofcrisis from flickr)
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The words "I can't breathe" were not only uttered by Eric Garner and George Floyd as they were murdered by police. They were also uttered by over 70 others who died in law enforcement custody over the past decade after saying those same three words, according to the The New York Times.

Policing in the United States is a force of racist violence that is entangled at the core of the capitalist system. As Robin D.G. Kelley pointed out on Intercepted With Jeremy Scahill, capitalism and racism are not distinct from one another:

"If you think of capitalism as racial capitalism, then the outcome is you cannot eliminate capitalism, overthrow it, without the complete destruction of white supremacy, of the racial regime under which it's built."

Police in the United States act with impunity in targeted neighborhoods, public schools, college campuses, hospitals, and almost every other public sphere we the people populate. Not only do the police view protesters, Black and Indigenous people, and undocumented immigrants as antagonists to be controlled, they are also armed with military-grade weapons.

This police militarization is a process that dates at least as far back as President Lyndon Johnson, when he initiated the 1965 Law Enforcement Assistance Act to better protect people. This supplied local police forces with the same weapons being used in the Vietnam War.

The public is now regarded as dangerous and suspect; moreover, as the police are given more military technologies and weapons of war, a culture of punishment, resentment and racism intensifies as Black people, in particular, are viewed as a threat to law and order. Unfortunately, employing militarized responses to routine police practices has become normalized.

One consequence is that the federal government has continued to arm the police through the Defense Logistics Agency's 1033 Program, which allows the Defense Department to transfer military equipment, free of charge, to local enforcement agencies.

The scope of the 1033 Program is alarming given that "since its inception, more than 11,500 domestic law enforcement agencies have taken part in the 1033 Program, receiving more than $7.4 billion in military equipment," according to CNBC. There is also the federally run 1122 Program, allowing the police to purchase military equipment at the same discounted rate as the federal government.

In addition, there is the Homeland Security Grant Program, which provides funds for local police departments to buy military-grade armaments and weapons. The military-grade weapons provided through these federal programs include, but not limited to:

  • Armored Vehicles
  • Assault Rifles
  • Flashbang Grenade Launchers
  • Bomb-Detonating Robots
  • Night Vision Items

Arming the police with more powerful weapons reinforced a culture that taught police officers to learn, think and act as soldiers engaged in a war. Moreover, as Ryan Welch and Jack Mewhirter write in The Washington Post, the more militarized and armed the police are, the greater the increase in civilian deaths. As they point out:

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Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and dis the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. His most recent books are America's Addiction to Terrorism (Monthly Review Press, 2016), and America at War with Itself (City Lights, 2017). He is also a contributing editor to a number of journals, includingTikkun, (more...)
 

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