In a recent interview Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has called on an end to the police state in the U.S., outlining five things that must be done to bring an end to police brutality and corruption in America.
In an interview he addressed several factors that would mitigate or altogether end the contemporary police state if implemented appropriately.
He enumerated them as follows (we include our commentary):
1. Police officers must have cameras on them.
We know that cameras do not stop cops from abusing people. If they did, there would be no need for websites like this.
But does that mean we shouldn’t film cops at all? No. Far from it, they should be filmed every moment they’re on the job.
Even though cameras do not stop the particularly careless and rogue cops, they do serve as a deterrent for many cops who would otherwise engage in abuse.
Moreover, cameras provide a close-to-objective viewpoint when citizens are wrongly accused of crime. Video evidence has been used in tons of cases to get innocent citizens’ charges dropped.
Finally, cameras help raise the broader cultural consciousness about police brutality. The more Americans become acutely aware of this issue, the more we can build the kind of resistance and pressure needed for deep political change.
So although cameras will not stop police brutality completely, they are one of the best tools at our disposal and we should make use of them whenever possible. This includes body cameras on cops.
Bernie Sanders is right about this.
2. Mostly black people have been treated terribly by police.
Some may call it “race-baiting,” but facts are facts.
The prison population in the North American State is predominantly made up of black males, and most of them are in for non-violent “offenses.”
The War on Drugs is a program designed to round them up under the pretext that they possessed or ingested substances which the US government has deemed “illegal.” Once they are in prison, they are forced to work for pennies on the dollar, while the prison companies profit. This is slavery. It may be invisible to most people, but let’s call it what it is.
The War on Guns is less talked about, but it is also used as a pretext to scoop non-violent people up from the streets and lock them in cages. Many black males in poor neighborhoods will attempt to purchase firearms to protect themselves and their families from gang violence, only for police to arrest them for lacking the education and resources to register the firearm with the State.
This is not to mention the several million blacks who are not in prison, but are still felonized because cops previously arrested them for non-violent activity. Felonization screws up their educational and career prospects and even prevents them from voting.
Cops are at the frontline in these scandalous “wars.” They are the ones rounding people up. They are the personification of the words that politicians write down on paper. They are the ones choosing, every day, to lock these non-violent Americans in prisons, because they are rewarded for making such arrests. They are profiting from the misfortune of other people. They avoid personal ethical responsibility by saying “it’s the law, I’m just enforcing it.”
This is not to mention all of the cases of police violence and murder to which blacks are subjected.
Of course, all races are treated terribly by the police to some degree or other. To simply state facts about the treatment of blacks is not to deny the treatment others are made to endure. So nobody can tenably claim that Sanders is “race-baiting” when he states what is an obvious fact for those who give a moment’s reflection to the data.
By acknowledging this problem and taking the necessary corrective actions, the police state would most likely come to an end. If tomorrow the War on Drugs were stopped, for instance, police officers by the thousands would lose their jobs, along with corrupt prosecutors, judges, and prison guards. And good riddance; they weren’t serving and protecting us anyway, they were merely profiting from the misfortune of innocent people.
3. Police officers must be held accountable.
It isn’t clear what Sanders means by this. It sounds good, but we would like to see some specifics. Given the constraints ofthe interview, he probably wasn’t able to expound.
The fact that he even asserts this on a national broadcast, however, is to be commended.
4. Police must treat citizens with respect.
This would be hard to achieve given the nature of policing today. The animosity between police and citizens only continues to grow stronger.
This is not surprising. When you take one group of people, dress them in costumes, and trainthem to perceive that everybody outside of their group is a potential threat, they will develop an us vs. them mentality.
To earn respect, you must do what you say you’re going to do. Police violate this principle every day. They say they are here to “protect us,” but they turn around and ticket us, spy upon us, beat us, shoot us, and imprison us for frivolous and victimless activities. So police say one thing but do another. How can anybody respect police who do this? In turn, how can police truly respect citizens if they won’t even stand by their word?
5. We must have community policing, where police are perceived as part of the community, rather than as people from the outside.
This is another point that sounds good, but we would like to see more specifics.
Would these community police forces still enforce the laws composing the “War on Drugs”?
Would they still watch people like vultures and take money from them for frivolous infractions like failing to make a complete stop at a stop sign, or having a busted headlight?
Would they be equipped with military-grade weaponry and for what purpose? What would their training be like?
One would like to know how Sanders plans to create community policing, details that he couldn’t provide given the interview’s time constraints. He does mention that he will ensure less people are unemployed, which in turn would give communities a better sense of responsibility.
Sanders is to be commended for addressing these issues. They are issues that most politicians won’t touch. If even one of the five items Bernie addresses were changed accordingly, the police state as we know it would be severely weakened, if not ended. In so many words, he is calling for an end to the police state.
That said, we cannot pretend that stepping inside of a voting booth and checking the right name will fix everything. Regardless of who sits in the oval office, we are here on the streets. Our fight is bigger than a voting booth, and politicians are not our saviors. We have a lot of work to do.