Fight for community control of police!

Fight for community control of police!


When the police in Akron, Ohio, murdered Jayland Walker on June 27, 2022, they fired 90 shots and then handcuffed his lifeless body. We mourn the death of Jayland Walker and join in solidarity with his family and the people of Akron to condemn this heinous crime.

Days later, the same police department reacted with rage and anger when the people of Akron rose to protest this clear act of white supremacist violence. Police met protestors with militarized violence and arrests. Moving swiftly to protect property but not Black lives, the mayor of Akron declared martial law and ordered a crack-down on peaceful protests.

Among those arrested was Jacob Blake Sr., the father of Jacob Blake, a man who was shot in August 2020 by a Kenosha, Wisconsin cop. Also arrested was Bianca Austin, a relative of Breonna Taylor, whom Louisville, Kentucky cops murdered as she slept in March 2020. Blake Sr. and Austin were charged with “rioting.”

They must stop killing Black people! 

The city’s swift response to protect property by suppressing the right to protest exposes the systemic nature of the problem of police violence against women, men, and children in communities of color, yet again. Despite promises for reform, racist killings have become a permanent fixture of life. They must stop killing Black people! This violence must end now.

We demand the immediate release of those arrested in Akron, an end to martial law, and charges for the officers involved in the killing of Jayland Walker.

The Communist Party USA calls for a renewed struggle to end systemic racism, oppression and exploitation, incarceration, and murders by police that plague the lives of Black women, children, and men. Only an all-people’s movement for democratic community control of the police can expand democracy by winning community control of the police for workers and the masses of people.

We call on districts and clubs to help build the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR) in their areas to strengthen or lead the fight to end racist police violence.

Limits of reform

The police are trained to kill, and like all U.S. social institutions, they are infected with the disease of systemic racism. They kill Black people and Latino/a people at far higher rates than any other population. Cops kill Black people at twice the rate that they kill white people. While news accounts are filled with stories about white mass killers apprehended “without incident” by police forces across the country, the same is not true for Black or Brown suspects.

Since the mass, nationwide protests of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, promised reforms have swept the country. Police departments implemented sensitivity training, purchased body-worn cameras, banned chokeholds, and a variety of other reforms. Because those reforms reinforce the power of the police and do not challenge systemic racism, the killings continue. Meanwhile, police department budgets continue to grow—unnecessarily diverting resources from healthcare, job creation, housing for the people, and education, deepening brutal living conditions that seem to call for more police. This vicious cycle endemic to U.S. capitalism must be ended.

We believe that the people need forms of social and transformative justice other than policing and “criminal” justice. The very concept of “criminal” must be rethought in the context of an unjust, criminal economic system. We share the demand for abolition and people’s alternatives to public safety. The abolitionist demands to “defund the police,” divest from police departments (up to complete defunding), and invest in community care and programs like better public education, social workers, jobs for all, conflict mediation, neighborhood response teams, and other forms of empowerment in oppressed communities have been elevated across the country.

The vision to “defund the police” also has captured the imagination of progressive and left forces. In ensuing debates, the NAARPR and the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) have argued for “community control” of policing and public safety.

Community control of the police is the first, best step toward transformative social justice.

Fearing media hype over nonexistent “crime waves” and feckless subservience to business owners who demand violent police protection for their property and control over the working class, many local authorities have resisted public calls for deeper reforms. As in Akron, Ohio, many local governments have violently suppressed public protests, criminalizing resistance to racist policing rather than empowering the people to lead the change needed to create transformative justice.

Given the limits of reforms and the urgent need for struggle, we agree that community control of the police is the first, best step toward transformative social justice.

The demand for community control

The demand for community control of the police has a long history. It differs from “civilian review boards,” which typically hold little power and are often dominated by pro-police and pro-business social forces. At a Chicago Community Control of the Police Conference in the summer of 1973, Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale stated:

Their [the police] real power is manifested in the organized guns and force. But we’re saying that the people in this community, the people in this country, don’t have any control over that organized guns, force, and power. We’re saying that the capitalist, the racist, and others have control over it. And we’re saying that we want to change it, that we want to revolutionize it, turn it over into the hands of the people, for a new process to occur. We’re saying we want community control.

Today, the NAARPR is at the forefront of the effort to build this movement nationally. With successful efforts in Chicago, and leading struggles across the U.S., they say:

Police departments can either continue serving as a tool to control our communities, or our communities can take control of the police. Community control means severing a cornerstone of power from those who have used the police to terrorize and oppress Black, Puerto Rican, Chicano/Mexicano, Indigenous, and other oppressed communities.

Last year, the NAARPR led the struggle to pass Chicago’s Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) law. This victory establishes a basis for alternative forms of public safety that resist the criminalization of communities, shift power from the state to the people, and deny cops the final word on their violent and racist actions.

Community control aims to shift the balance of power. 

As founders of the NAARPR in the 1970s and continuing as coalition members, the Communist Party USA views the demand for community control of police as central to the struggle for Black lives. It can tilt the balance of forces toward democratic movements and stop the killing of racially and nationally oppressed people.

Community control of police is required by the African American people’s struggle as an independent people fighting for equal democratic rights. Community control aims to shift the balance of power, give oppressed communities complete democratic control over public safety in their neighborhoods, and hold murderous police officers accountable for misconduct. To dismantle and end the racist prison-industrial complex as well as the carceral systems that enable it (which includes the police), institutions such as all-elected civilian control boards will hold real investigative and policy-making powers in their cities and communities, and have full authority over hiring and firing and the local city police budget.

We call for the implementation of directly elected civilian control boards with the following full and unconditional powers:

  • Final authority over police policy, oversight policy, and budget, including writing and reviewing
  • Full authority on disciplinary measures and legal recourse, including subpoena power and the convening of grand juries
  • Hiring and firing power over the police chief or superintendent, all officers on the force, the head of any existing oversight or review boards and offices, and the members of those
  • Full access to all investigations by the oversight or review institutions
  • Authority to broaden the scope of investigations to include all allegations of misconduct, including sexual assault
  • Oversight of negotiation of police union contracts
  • Authority to exclude all current and former law enforcement agents from serving on the board

Join the Communist Party USA to build a more just, democratic, anti-racist, and anti-sexist society that protects and serves the masses of people living together within it.

Image: Ebony (Facebook).


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