The nightmare of police brutality and murder—with hundreds of unarmed people, disproportionately Black and Brown, killed by pigs every year—triggered an eruption of mass protests in recent years. Trump ran his campaign on an openly racist “law and order” platform, with wide support from police organizations. Now the Trump/Pence regime is making clear the days are over when there were even limited official restraints imposed on police.
On April 2, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a Department of Justice (DOJ) memo announcing a “review” of all policies and practices overseeing U.S. police. Since 2009, the DOJ has issued 23 reports on “patterns and practices” of brutality and racism in local police departments. These have led to 14 court-supervised “consent decrees” between local authorities and the DOJ that aim to restrict or reduce the most egregious police practices. These decrees did not change the nature of the police as brutal, armed enforcers for this system, but they did impose some changes and constraints—actually designed to maintain the legitimacy of the police and make them more effective enforcers.
The DOJ memo points to (nonexistent) “rising crime rates” as justification for focusing on helping “promote officer safety, officer morale and public respect for their work.” And it warns, “The misdeeds of individual bad actors should not impugn or undermine the legitimate and honorable work that law enforcement officers perform.”
So the DOJ is now saying that the police as a whole are doing great and that the past reports exaggerated a few “bad apples,” which undercut and hindered their ability to “do their job.” Trump’s DOJ is sending a clear signal to the pigs around the country: “If you were ‘wearing gloves,’ take them off—we won’t get in your way, we’ve got your back.”
This talk about “individual bad actors” is complete bullshit. As limited as they were, the DOJ reports didn’t reveal just a few extreme cases but gave glimpses of the day-in, day-out brutality and racism that governs millions of interactions between the pigs and Black and Brown people, and that hold whole peoples in an oppressed condition.
In Cleveland, Ohio, the DOJ examined 600 use of force incidents and found systematic brutality. The Cleveland consent decree bans pistol-whipping, using force against people who “talk back,” tasing people who are handcuffed, and brutalizing people who are mentally ill!
In Ferguson, Missouri, the DOJ said that violations of people’s constitutional rights permeate “nearly every aspect of Ferguson police and court operations.” Black people were targeted for petty traffic or jaywalking violations, bleeding them with fines to finance the city budget; thousands were branded with misdemeanors when they couldn’t pay—charges that keep people from getting jobs or housing, making “chains” of “paper” just as surely as the slaveholders of old used iron. Cops and city officials routinely circulated disgusting racist jokes.
In Baltimore, a city of 620,000, the DOJ found that cops made hundreds of thousands of stops a year, overwhelmingly of Black people and without cause. In one of the incidents cited in the DOJ report, cops pulled over a Black woman for a missing headlight, forced her to strip naked in the street, and subjected her to a cavity search.
It’s the same thing in city after city. And now, Sessions’ “review” heralds unprecedented levels of police brutality and murder to come. This escalation of force against the oppressed is a core and driving element of the Trump/Pence fascist program: the violent reassertion of naked white supremacy. This savagery carries with it the potential for genocidal leaps, as Trump’s threats to send the National Guard to Chicago portend.
This CANNOT be tolerated—not by the people who are directly under attack, and not by anyone with a shred of conscience. The fight against police terror and murder urgently needs to become much more powerful, and a key front in the battle to drive out the fascist Trump/Pence regime.