December 31st, 2014
The New York Post reported:
“Citations for traffic violations fell by 94 percent, from 10,069 to 587, during that time frame. Summonses for low-level offenses like public drinking and urination also plunged 94 percent — from 4,831 to 300. Even parking violations are way down, dropping by 92 percent, from 14,699 to 1,241. Drug arrests by cops assigned to the NYPD’s Organized Crime Control Bureau — which are part of the overall number — dropped by 84 percent, from 382 to 63.”
Officers of the NYPD have called this reduction a response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “fostering of an anti-police environment” during a time in which thousands of New Yorkers have joined protesters around the country in outrage over police terror in black (and brown) communities. Police say their safety is of the upmost concern (there’s a heavy dose of irony if I’ve ever seen one). Law enforcement unions like the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association have suggested to its members to put their safety first and to only make arrests when “absolutely necessary”.
But as much as the NYPD might want to frame their actions as a response to de Blasio “not backing” what amounts to their brutality, the truth is the deaths of Officers Ramos and Liu were the result of a long history of police initiated violence, the culmination of constant police terror inflicted upon PoC and poor communities. We must view this culmination through understanding that America has allowed its enforcer class, the police, to dominate and brutalize any and all whom it does not like, principally black people, whose oppression is essential to America’s white supremacist power structure. Thus, whether in the broader context of the struggle against police terror, or within the more localized experiences of the individuals whom killed Officers Ramos and Liu, their deaths were the inevitable response to blatant and ongoing police brutalization of black (and brown) people in New York City and America.
The takeaway message behind the killing of these officers then is clear: New York’s “finest” have been put on notice that the business-as-usual of brutalizing black and brown bodies in the streets of New York City will not prevail — that IF it is to continue, there will be hell to pay. In the shortest possible phrase, the NYPD must reap what they sow.
The Only Language of Oppression is Force
As the now popularized study by Arlene Eisen demonstrated, a black person is killed by police and/or vigilantes every 28 hours and, in 2012 at least, 88 percent of killings “were extrajudicial”, that is, lethal force was used “with no legitimate justification and violated peoples’ basic human rights.” With conservative estimates, since 1999 the NYPD alone has killed 222 people, 27 percent of whom were unarmed and 86 percent of whom were either black or Hispanic.
Reactions among police officers of all creeds across America to such horrors have been by all intents and purposes nonexistent, if not downright disgusting. Law enforcement message boards were rife with pro-police glorification after the murders of Michael Brown and Antonio Martin, among thousands of others. Since it hardly can be argued that they are uninformed about the brutality served at their own hands, police officers’ lack of response or divergence from a culture of police terror can only be seen as devolving upon a condition of willful and collective complicity. Likewise must be said of white America which remains ignorant to the plight of black and brown communities, or renders the information altogether inconsequential to an American (in) justice system that perpetually absolves police officers of all wrongdoing.
The lack of remorse, empathy, and/or the willingness to change among police officers is better grasped when we understand that the power afforded through policing inevitably leads to the mentality of an abuser. And, as has been the individual and collective history of abusers, they never change unless they are forced to change. Lundy Bancroft put it best:
“An abuser doesn’t change because he feels guilty or gets sober or finds God. He doesn’t change after seeing the fear in his children’s eyes or feeling them drift away from him. It doesn’t suddenly dawn on him that his partner deserves better treatment. Because of his self-focus, combined with the many rewards he gets from controlling you, an abuser changes only when he has to, so the most important element in creating a context for change in an abuser is placing him in a situation where he has no other choice. Otherwise, it is highly unlikely that he will ever change his behavior.”
Transposed onto the institution of policing and its officers, Darren Wilson felt no remorse for slaying Michael Brown. It did not suddenly dawn on Daniel Pantaleo that Eric Garner might deserve better treatment than being choked to death on a Staten Island sidewalk. Because of policing’s self-focus on the preservation of a world where cops gain power from controlling other people, they will only change when they have to, so the most important element in creating a context for change of any kind, whether reforms or abolition, is placing policing itself in a situation where the institution of it and its officers have no choice.
Knowing the necessity of this context, how then are the victims of police terror to generate the circumstances necessary to impress upon their terrorizers that in effect they will no longer accept being murdered with impunity?
There is but one route. It traces the trajectory of an obligation inherent in the circumstances of all brutalized peoples to do whatever is necessary to ensure the dismantling of their oppression. Its history runs deep and has been present invariably in all struggles toward the liberation of oppressed peoples from an occupying class. The crucial sentiments of this route are best borne out in the CrimetInc axiom “Respect existence or expect resistance”.
The ONLY moral, just, and righteous thing to do in the face of police terror is to develop and nurture a willingness to FIGHT BACK.
That willingness to fight back will look different for different people. Some will be nonviolent. Others will use force. Still further, some force will be lethal, but this much is obvious, to adapt the words of Ward Churchill: In retrospect, the killings of Officers Ramos and Liu marked the point at which the NYPD was put on notice that if police officers wish ever again to be secure from the ravages of their terror, their top priority must at long last be to stop terrorizing black and brown communities. That if, in substance, they desire their own safety, they will first have to stop extinguishing black and brown lives.
(Photo Credit: New York Post & AmericaWakieWakie)