🙌🏽 Guilt Can Be A Start. But Not The Solution
Choose who policies you, and you change the police.
Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of the murder of George Floyd. Irrespective of the sentence, it won’t negate the fact that George Floyd’s killing was part of a pattern of officers using deadly force against people of color, particularly Black Americans - over 5,000 of whom have been killed by police since 2015.
And irrespective of the decision, I think what also concerns me is the focus of the remedy. When police brutality happens, as it does with depressing regularity, we hear: fire the cops, train the cops, defund the police etc., These are all fine, perhaps even necessary steps. But they still focus the remedy on the institutions that perpetuate inequality rather than focus resources on the communities affected by the inequality.
What we should also hear is: the community should have a role in the cops hired to police its streets, young people from affected neighborhoods should be educated to become just and equitable law enforcement professionals, women and minorities from these neighborhoods should be encouraged to apply to be peace officers and those who are already cops should be made to feel safe (female cops successfully resolve public safety incidents with far less force than their male counterparts).
When you go to a bank, or grocery store and the clerk is rude to you, you can walk away and frequent another business. But if the police mistreat you, you have no choice. They have a geographical monopoly on the use of force. A clerk can be undeservedly rude to you and you can leave. The police undeservedly take your liberty or even your life and you cannot even flee.
Why is it that we do not have a choice over who policies us? Why is that those who police Black and brown neighborhoods often don’t come from those neighborhoods? When there is a monopoly on the use of force, the target of that force should have some say in who applies that force and in what manner. When a community builds the police department it wants - with cadets that arise from the same places they police, raised with the same sensitivities and values, and placed in positions of power by the community themselves - we will end up creating police departments that will certainly be more just than the ones we have now.
When there is a monopoly on the use of force, the target of that force should have some say in who applies that force and in what manner.
I work with other organizations, such as Team Rubicon, that have learned how to focus on grassroots solutions to similar problems. Team Rubicon is a team of vets, first responders and "kick ass civilians" that respond to natural and other serious disasters such as COVID. They don’t focus on reforming FEMA or how disaster aid is delivered. They look to the grassroots. They help communities rebuild in a way that makes them more resilient to the next disaster. They provide communities with hope and the wherewithal to weather the next hurricane (bad pun not intended). They do this through a grassroots network of volunteers called Greyshirts that serve as a bulwark to systemic threats like growing climate change.
This is what needs to be done with the disaster that is police brutality - a disaster of psycho-social proportions that millions of Black and brown Americans suffer daily.
I, along with many others, have trained all levels of law enforcement on civil rights for the past decade. It's not enough. Things don’t get better. They get worse. What we need instead is to train the community affected by police brutality to build a system of policing they want, not spend even more money on training the police that already have millions of dollars at their disposal.
A community empowered to create the police department it wants lessens the need for top-down, post-incident training. And I believe this is where our long-term focus needs to lie.
Maryam Jamshidi is holding a virtual conference for national security junior scholars on July 8. Learn more and indicate your interest in submitting a paper here.
Watching: Community. For the nth time. #sixseasonsandamovie
Speaking: State of Tennessee, Customer Focused Government Office (thanks for the COOL HAUS Arianna)
Going: to the beach
When Stockton, CA gave people a guaranteed income, they worked more - not less. The city's experiment shows what $500 per month in "free money" can do for employment, mental health, and more.
The problem with doing nothing is that you never know when you're finished.