Insecure: Policing Under Racial Capitalism

Challenging One of the Core Institutions of Racial Capitalism

November 8, 2020

“The liberal identification of security with liberty and property in fact masks an underlying insecurity at the heart of the bourgeois order—the insecurity of property—which is deeply connected to the question of class…Security is part of the rationale for the fabrication of order. In terms of the demand for order in civil society, it is under the banner of ‘security’ that police most often marches.” —Mark Neocleous, The Fabrication of Social Order1Mark Neocleous, The Fabrication of Social Order: A Critical Theory of Police Power (London: Pluto Press, 2000), 44.

“Police function to produce race, a category essential to the workings of the state-market under racial capitalism. Any analysis of US policing must consider its constitutive relationship to the racialization of Black and brown subjects, not only theoretically but also in history, with the US police’s structural formation as an antiblack force.” —Micol Seigel, Violence Work2Micol Seigel, Violence Work: State Power and the Limits of Police (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018), 21.

In This Feature

The modern police force in the US was created to protect capital and the owners of capital. As the coercive arm of the state, the police are the primary instruments of state violence, particularly racialized state violence. They function as an occupying force in America’s impoverished ghettoes, barrios, reservations, on the Southwest border, and in any territory with high concentrations of subjugated communities. Their defense of corporate property and capitalist extraction was clearly on display during the protests against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

The Other BLM (Bureau of Land Management) hired armed officers, employed local police forces, and worked with the FBI to stop what US officials called “domestic terrorism.” At Standing Rock, North Dakota, the police and private guards used tear gas, batons, attack dogs, water cannons, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds, and mass arrest to attack Indigenous land defenders and water protectors and their allies—all in the name of protecting the interests of TC Energy Corporation, Energy Transfer Partners, and their various investors.3Sam Levin and Will Parish, “Keystone XL: Police Discussed Stopping Anti-pipeline Activists ‘By Any Means,’” Guardian, November 26, 2019; Sam Levin and Nicky Woolf, “Dakota Access Pipeline: Police Fire Rubber Bullets and Mace at Activists During Water Protest,” Guardian, November 3, 2016. And despite the handwringing and outrage over the Trump administration’s flagrant violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 limiting the use of the military in domestic matters, the police have long functioned as an army against dissident social movements.

The police are the first line of defense against strikes and protests by Black, Brown, Indigenous, antiracist, antifascist, left-wing, queer, and feminist assemblies, while often becoming a cordon to protect Klansman, Nazis, and the Alt Right.4For some excellent examples of historical accounts of police as an instrument of capitalism and property, see Peter Linebaugh, “Police and the Wealth of Nations: Déjà Vu or Unfinished Business?” Counterpunch, July 3, 2020; Brian Bean, “The Socialist Case Against the Police: Part 1- Origins and Function,” Rampant, March 11, 2020; Brian Bean, “Abolish the Police: Part 2 of The Socialist Case Against the Police,” Rampant, March 31, 2020; Sidney L. Harring, Policing a Class Society: The Experience of American Cities, 1865–1915, rev. ed. (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017); Kristian Williams, Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America (Boston: South End Press, 2007); David Whitehouse, “Origins of the Police,” Libcom, December 24, 2014; Shamus Cooke, “The Capitalist Limits of Police Reform,” Counterpunch, June 12, 2020. For readers of Spectre this is all common knowledge. The idea that the police were created to uphold bourgeois class rule and white supremacy has pretty much been accepted wisdom among various Marxists for at least a century. And yet, abolishing the police has only recently become a chief demand among broad sectors of the Marxist left—and even now, it is not universally embraced.

Abolishing the police has only recently become a chief demand among broad sectors of the Marxist left.

We shouldn’t be surprised since the current push to “defund” or abolish the police grew from a decade of organizing by radical movements that are frequently relegated to the margins of the left or dismissed as “identity movements”—namely, anticarceral feminists, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous radicals, community and youth-based mobilizations against police violence.5Garrett Felber, “The Struggle to Abolish the Police is Not New,” The Boston Review, June 9, 2020. Among them are Black Lives Matter, the Dream Defenders, Black Youth Project 100, We Charge Genocide, BOLD (Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity), Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, Dignity and Power Now, Ella’s Daughters, Assata’s Daughters, Black Feminist Futures Project, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, Let Us Breathe Collective, Hands Up United, Lost Voices, Organization for Black Struggle, Millennial Activists United—organizations that at some point fell under the umbrella of the Movement for Black Lives.

While the demand for police abolition surfaced in 2014 during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in response to the killing of Michael Brown,6During the Ferguson uprising, I met with several members of Hands Up United, Lost Voices, Organization for Black Struggle, Millennial Activists United, and other local organizers affiliated with the Don’t Shoot Coalition, who were proposing a police abolition agenda long before it was popular. Two years later, the booklet A World Without Police, with an accompanying website, http://aworldwithoutpolice.org/the-problem/ was published. See also Peter Gelderloos, “A World Without Police,” Counterpunch, December 29, 2014; Peter Gelderloos, “The Nature of the Police, the Role of the Left,” Counterpunch, December 9, 2014. it doesn’t begin there. Critical Resistance issued a statement calling for the abolition of police as early as 2009. Instead of police, the statement asks “what if we got together with members of our communities and created systems of support for each other? We are capable of looking after and caring for one another, providing each other with our basic human needs, creating community self-determination. Relying on and deploying policing denies our ability to do this, to create real safety in our communities.”7“Critical Resistance on Policing,” Critical Resistance (2009), http://criticalresistance.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CR-statement-abolition-of-policing-2009.pdf. For examples of movement work toward creating police-free zones, see also Rachel Herzing, “Big Dreams and Bold Steps Toward a Police-Free Future,” Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States. Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré and Alana Yu-lan Price, eds. (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016), 111-18.

Critical Resistance was part of a wave of radical formations in the 1990s that laid the foundations for the current wave of police and prison abolition: the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Prison Activist Resource Center, the Prison Moratorium Project, Critical Resistance, Labor/Community Strategy Center, Project South, POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights), Southerners on New Ground (SONG); INCITE: Women of Color Against Violence, Sista II Sista, the Los Angeles Community Action Network, Black Youth Coalition Against Civil Injustice, Miami Workers Center, the Praxis Project, FIERCE (Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment), Queers for Economic Justice, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), to name a few.

That some of these organizations and many of the leading abolitionist thinkers identify as Marxist or Marxist-oriented—notably, Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and Mariame Kaba, among others—doesn’t seem to matter. There is a tendency among sectors of the left to treat these movements as narrowly focused on identity, at best, or “race reductionist,” at worst. According to this logic, the only movements that matter focus on “universal” issues of class—jobs, healthcare, taxes, and the environment.8Richard Rorty, Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998), 80. Mark Lilla, the most recent proponent of this view, wrote: “Black Lives Matter is a textbook example of how not to build solidarity… . The movement’s decision to use this mistreatment to build a general indictment of American society, and its law enforcement institutions, and to use Mau-Mau tactics to put down dissent and demand a confession of sins and public penitence…played into the hands of the Republican right. Mark Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal, 129.

The problem with this argument is that it confuses opposition to institutional oppression and marginalization with “identity politics.” None of these movements are exclusionary. They not only resist racialized and gendered state violence but capitalism itself. Besides, what is more “universal” than a movement dedicated to eradicating all forms of oppression and exploitation; ending state-sanctioned violence; replacing police, military, and prisons with genuine, humane, noncarceral paths for safety and justice?

This narrow conception of the US left has largely rendered invisible a Black Marxist critique of state violence and policing within established socialist and communist movements—one exception being the Communist leader William L. Patterson’s landmark appeal to the United Nations, We Charge Genocide.9William L. Patterson, ed., We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government Against the Negro People (New York: Civil Rights Congress, 1951). For an excellent examination of the marginalization of Black Marxists and the consequences of American antiradicalism, see Charisse Burden-Stelly’s forthcoming, The Radical Horizon of Black Betrayal: Anticommunism and Racial Capitalism in the United States, 1917–1954. There has been surprisingly little discussion of the CPUSA’s National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, which grew out of the campaign to free Angela Davis. Nor has anyone, as far as I know, acknowledged Paul Boutelle (later known as Kwame Somburu) who called for abolishing the police when he was the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party’s (SWP) vice-presidential candidate in 1968.

The Harlem-born Boutelle left school at age sixteen, tired of being indoctrinated with “Christianity, Capitalism, and Caucasianism.” He drove a taxi for a living and became active in a number of Black nationalist and anti- imperialist organizations during the early ’60s, including the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and the Freedom Now Party, an all-Black political party that endorsed African American SWP leader Clifton DeBerry for president in 1964. That year Boutelle ran unsuccessfully for a New York State Senate seat on the Freedom Now Party ticket.

He joined Malcolm X’s short-lived Organization of Afro-American Unity and witnessed his assassination in the Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965. Boutelle immersed himself in SWP politics, running for Manhattan Borough president in 1965, state attorney general in 1966, chairing Afro-Americans Against the War in Vietnam and the Black United Action Front, before his historic vice-presidential bid as Fred Halstead’s running mate.10Dianne Feeley, “Kwame M. A. Somburu (1934- 2016),” Solidarity, July 21, 2016; Sam Roberts, “Kwame Somburu, Perennial Socialist Candidate, Dies at 81,” New York Times, May 11, 2016; M. Millard “Vote to retain JROTC split along racial lines.” Sun Reporter, June 29, 1995; “Socialists Tap Paul Boutelle,” New York Amsterdam News, September 24, 1966; E. James West, “Paul Boutelle’s 1968 Vice-Presidential Campaign,” Black Perspectives, November 18, 2019. Boutelle spent the rest of his life as a socialist and anti-imperialist fighting for Black liberation. He eventually changed his name to Kwame Montsho Ajamu Somburu and in 1983 he broke from the SWP and helped found Socialist Action and, later, the Socialist Workers Organization. In 1973, he moved to California, became a school teacher and continued to organize and run for elective office. He chaired the US defense committee for jailed South African activist Dr. Neville Alexander, chaired the Committee of Black Americans for Truth About the Middle East in 1970, and remained active in support of Palestine liberation until his death in 2016. Before he died, he had begun work on a book entitled Slavery, Oppression, and Rebellion: from 10,000 BCE to the Present.

Boutelle’s campaign plank in 1968 could be adopted today. In one of his early stump speeches in Philadelphia, he called for free college education and medical care for all, a reduced work week with no corresponding reduction in pay, ending the Vietnam war and reinvesting those resources in “schools and hospitals” and “decent low-rent homes,” nationalizing banks and major corporations and placing them “under the control of democratically elected workers committees,” and the “abolition of police.” The latter, it should be noted, was not part of the SWP’s platform, but Boutelle nevertheless proposed a public safety alternative that would entail electing representatives from communities to “replace troops and police.”

Following a wave of urban rebellions against police violence during the summer of 1967, Boutelle argued that the militarization of police mirrored US counterinsurgency measures abroad. “The capitalist class determines the means of the struggle in this country, and their means is violence. They are ready to do anything at all to suppress the black movement—helicopters, armored tanks, chemical warfare, even concentration camps.”11Lawrence H. Geller, “Socialist V-P Candidate Would Abolish the Police,” Philadelphia Tribune, January 30, 1968.

In other words, the Black left’s protracted struggle to dismantle the US police state has for too long remained at the margins of Marxist thought and praxis. The problem was highlighted recently in Spectre by Peter Ikeler in his excellent response to Dustin Guastella, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) leader who not only opposes defunding the police but affirms their role in ensuring public safety—particularly the safety of people of color and the poor.12Peter Ikeler, “To End Police Violence, End Racial Capitalism,” Spectre, July 20, 2020. Guastella’s piece appeared as, “To End Police Violence Fund Public Goods and Raise Wages,” Nonsite.org, July 9, 2020. Obviously, Guastella does not represent the official DSA position. Haley Pessin, a member of the Afrosocialist and Socialists of Color Caucus within the DSA published a brilliant essay in support of abolition and recognizing the revolutionary potential of the “Black Spring” rebellions in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Haley Pessin, “The Movement for Black Lives is Different this Time.”

Ikeler demolishes Guastella’s arguments, point by point, and his fundamental conclusion repeats what police and prison abolitionists such as Mariame Kaba, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Angela Davis and, indirectly at least, Paul Boutelle (Kwame Somburu) and others have been saying for decades: “To End Police Violence, End Racial Capitalism.”13See for example, Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003); Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (Oakland: University of California Press, 2007), Mariame Kaba, “Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police,” New York Times, June 12, 2020. Ikeler’s piece is compelling and persuasive, but it opens up a larger question: what is the role of police in reproducing racial capitalism? This article is an attempt to offer some schematic answers to this question, particularly with respect to the function of police in real estate, finance capital, and technology, as generators of revenue, and as “labor.”

 

I

Ruth Wilson Gilmore reminds us that “Capitalism [is] never not racial.”14Ruth Wilson Gilmore, “Abolition Geography and the Problem of Innocence,” Futures of Black Radicalism, Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin, eds. (New York: Verso Books, 2017), 225. Capitalism emerged in Europe within a feudal system already built on racial hierarchy. Capitalism was/is “racial” not because of some conspiracy to divide workers or justify slavery and dispossession, but because racialism had already permeated Western feudal society. Racial capitalism extracts surplus value and structures exchange value by assigning differential value to human life and labor: through land enclosure, slavery, dispossession, displacement, predatory lending, taxation, disfranchisement, and the long history of looting through terror and government policies that suppressed wages of racialized subjects, relieved them of property, excluded Black people from better schools and public accommodations, suppressed Black home values, and subsidized white wealth accumulation.

Racial capitalism is dynamic. The last couple of generations have endured a neoliberal variant of racial capitalism that dismantled the welfare state; promoted capital flight; privatized public schools, hospitals, housing, transit, and other public resources; and resulted in the massive growth of police and prisons. These policies have produced scarcity, poverty, alternative (illicit) economies regulated through violence, and environmental and health hazards.15On racial capitalism, see for example Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000); Gargi Bhattacharyya, Rethinking Racial Capitalism: Questions of Reproduction and Survival (London and New York: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2018); Charisse Burden-Stelly, “Modern US Racial Capitalism: Some Theoretical Insights,” Monthly Review, July 1, 2020; Jodi Melamed, “Racial Capitalism,” Critical Ethnic Studies 1, no. 1 (Spring 2015): 76-85; Laura Pulido, “Flint, Environmental Racism, and Racial Capitalism,” Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 27, no. 3 (2016): 1–16; Nancy Leong, “Racial Capitalism,” Harvard Law Review 126, no. 8 (June 2013): 2151-226 ; Robert Nichols, Theft Is Property! Dispossession and Critical Theory (Durham: Duke University Press, 2020); Peter James Hudson, Bankers and Empire: How Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017); Michael Dawson, “Hidden in Plain Sight: A Note on Legitimation Crises and the Racial Order,” Critical Historical Studies 3, no. 1 (2016): 143–61; Nancy Fraser, “Expropriation and Exploitation in Racialized Capitalism,” Critical Historical Studies 3, no. 1 (2016): 163–78. And for a critique of the concept of racial capitalism, see Michael Ralph and Maya Singhal, “Racial Capitalism,” Theory and Society 48, no. 6 (2019): 851.

Just as capitalism emerged within the feudal order, so did the police.16Police in Europe date back at least to the fifteenth century. Mark Neocleous, The Fabrication of Social Order, 1-5. Capitalists may not have invented police, but they remade police into a tool to secure property, profits, and people who refuse to accept the terms of exploitation. In North America, the precursors to the police were the slave patrols— citizen militias deputized by local, state, and federal governments to track down fugitive slaves and put down insurrections—and militias deployed to suppress Native communities.

However, the slave patrols were not a police force, per se. They were closer to what Friedrich Engels described as “self-acting armed organizations of the population.” Using Europe as his guide, Engels recognized the danger that popular militias pose for the state, especially as the class divide sharpens. Fear of armed rebellion compelled the state to replace popular militias with units of “armed men” employed by the state (police and standing armies) and backed up with “material adjuncts, prisons, and institutions of coercion of all kinds.”17From V. I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution.” Lenin is quoting Engels from the sixth edition of his The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/origin-family/index.htm.

In settler societies like North America, however, race kept these popular militias loyal to the state and its colonial projects, even as class antagonisms grew. These units were white for a reason. Before the birth of the Republic, colonial landholders had to manage kidnapped African labor, unruly indentured white labor, and relations with what were then sovereign and often powerful Indigenous communities. Unable to stop white servants and Africans from running away together, finding refuge in swamps, hills, and among Native peoples, the landowning class decided to free white servants and turn them into small property owners, proletarian citizens, and/or slave patrollers invested in the white Republic and the dream of attaining wealth and power for themselves.18David Roediger, How Race Survived US History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Eclipse of Postracialism (New York: Verso Books, 2019), chapters 1, 2.

An armed white population was not only central to legitimizing antiBlack and anti-Indigenous violence, but it also shored up white propertyless and working class support for this regime.19Nikhil Pal Singh, Race and America’s Long War (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017), 35-47. However, with the growth of industrial capitalism and the increase in European immigration during the late nineteenth century, the state and owners of capital could no longer depend on white workers to support the status quo. Professional police forces replaced citizen militias.

Although by the turn of the twentieth century the state held a monopoly of lethal force and assumed greater responsibility for maintaining order, upholding the color line, regulating sexuality, and suppressing dissent, bodies of armed whites continued to exist as adjuncts to racialized state violence. Therefore, it is important to make a distinction between the police as a formal, modern institution and “policing” as a broader set of practices and procedures that operate beyond (but sanctioned by) formal state structures. Historian Peter Linebaugh put it best: “Investigation into the history of police soon finds it to be inseparable from conquest, slavery, debt, industrial discipline, and social hierarchies. Armed settlers, ‘pioneers,’ militia, army units, slave patrollers, Texas rangers, posse comitatus, slave catchers, factory guards, troopers, private security forces, vigilante groups, MPs, lynch mobs, Ford’s ‘service department,’ death squads, night riders, and the KKK have all served police functions.”20Peter Linebaugh, “Police and Plunder,” Counterpunch, February 13, 2015.

Let’s take lynch mobs. How do we explain the fact that Congress passed the first antilynching bill in US history in 2020? (As of this writing, the bill still has not passed the Senate since it is being held up by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.21H. R. 35, “Emmett Till Antilynching Act.” (1884), https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/origin-family/index.htm.) Since 1882, the nearly two hundred antilynching bills introduced to the US Congress were all defeated. We’re inclined to either scratch our heads in befuddlement or blame die-hard racist Southern Senators, but the fact of the matter is that lynching was a form of policing.

How do we explain the fact that Congress passed the first antilynching bill in US history in 2020? (As of this writing, the bill still has not passed the Senate.) Since 1882, the nearly two hundred antilynching bills introduced to the US Congress were all defeated.

To call it “illegal” because it violates one’s constitutional right to due process misses the point. Lynch mobs were white; their targets were primarily—though not exclusively—Black. Lynch mobs were instruments of state power that performed a key function by punishing those accused of transgressing law or custom, and disciplining entire Black communities. A charred, mutilated body hanging from a tree served as a visible and potent reminder of the price of stepping out of line.

Lynching was a form of racial, class, and sexual regulation. Images of predatory Black men circulated widely in popular culture, and fear of the Black rapist was instilled in white women. Such fear allowed white men to demand subordination, deference, and loyalty from white women in exchange for their “protection.” Their duty, after all, was to maintain the purity of the race, so protecting white womanhood also meant protecting the womb and the bloodline.

In this arrangement, any sexual encounter between Black men and “virtuous” white women was presumed to be rape. Consensual relationships between Black men and white women were inconceivable. These ideas were hardly archaic; on the contrary, they were backed by modern science at the time. Daniel G. Brinton, considered the first professor of Anthropology in the US, wrote in his book Races and Peoples (1890), that white women “have no more holier duty, no more sacred mission, than that of transmitting in its integrity the heritage of ethnic endowment gained by the race throughout thousands of generations of struggle…That philanthropy is false, that religion is rotten, which would sanction a white woman enduring the embrace of a colored man.”22Daniel G. Brinton, Races and Peoples: Lectures on the Science of Ethnography (New York: Hodges, 1890), 287, quoted in Lee D. Baker, From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954 (Los Angeles and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 36. In an ironic twist, in the final years of his life (he died in 1899) Brinton declared himself an anarchist, although it appears his attraction to workers revolution did not affect his views on race.

The problem, of course, is that the science was false and the evidence was not there. Only twenty-nine percent of African American lynch victims between 1882 and 1930 were even accused of sexual assault of some kind, and of that figure less than two percent involved a murdered rape victim. Most were lynched for being “insolent” toward whites, attempting to vote, engaging in self-defense, petty theft, assault, throwing stones, arson, economic competition, and sedition (political activism).23Stewart E. Tolnay and E. M. Beck, A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 47-48. And even cases of alleged rape often masked consensual relations between Black men and white women.

The failure or refusal of the federal government to protect Black lives and prosecute lynchers proved to be a source of frustration. African Americans had no faith in local law enforcement agencies because they usually worked in concert with lynch mobs, or at best were powerless against the crowd. Writer and activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper expressed the sentiments of many when, in February 1891, she told members of the National Council of Women, “A government which has power to tax a man in peace, [and] draft him in war, should have power to defend his life in the hour of peril.”24Harper, quoted in Bert James Loewenberg and Ruth Bogin, eds., Black Women in Nineteenth Century American Life: Their Words, Their Thoughts, Their Feelings (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010), 247.

Lynch victims tended to be working class; occasionally they were targeted for union activity or “sedition.” But white mobs also murdered Black men of means—successful entrepreneurs, landowners, anyone perceived to pose an economic threat to whites. The intrepid journalist and activist, Ida B. Wells, wrote about one of the best known cases of this kind. In 1892, three Black Memphis residents, Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Henry Stewart, opened the People’s Grocery Company directly across the street from a white-owned grocery store, drawing customers and incurring the wrath of the white store owner.

When a mob attempted to run the three men out of town, they defended their property through force of arms. Three white men were wounded in the ensuing gun battle, prompting police to arrest Moss, McDowell, and Stewart. Then on the night of March 9, a mob stormed the jail, seized the three men, dragged them out to the countryside, and summarily executed them.25Alfred M. Duster, ed., Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013, [1970]), 47-52.

The logic of racial capitalism entailed suppressing Black capital accumulation through violence in order to maintain a white monopoly of capital. The Southern economy under segregation was the antithesis of what classical economics imagined to be the free market. In cities and towns where African Americans comprised a large proportion of the population, the system deliberately and methodically suppressed competition and undercut Black merchants so as to ensure the flow of Black dollars to white coffers without giving Black consumers equal service or products, or Black workers equal wages.

These “private” white-owned businesses relied on the State to codify and enforce discriminatory practices that wiped out competition, legalized second-class status, and required inferior service. This was not a free market but a racially regulated market, backed by the force of the state and fiscal policies that took Black peoples’ money (from consumer compulsion to wage theft), that proved decisive in reproducing racial and class inequality. When Black people tried to fight back using free market principles of withholding their labor (strike), migrating elsewhere, exercising the right to dispose of their income as they wished, or withholding their collective buying power (boycott), they were met with force and violence—sometimes by mobs but oftentimes by the police.

 

II

Today there are still structural barriers to Black wealth accumulation, but the use of state-sanctioned mob violence targeting wealthy African Americans has all but disappeared. There is no denying that rich Black people and celebrities are occasionally subject to racial profiling and police harassment (often the result of mistaken identity), but in our so-called post-racial, post-civil rights, multicultural world where the ruling class has no problem incorporating Black and Brown faces into the existing state apparatus, where Black billionaires profit from sweatshop labor and home foreclosures, where a Black president, a Black secretary of state, and Black national security advisors advance the US war on the planet, rich Black people are no longer the targets of state violence. The Black entrepreneurs most likely to experience police violence are street vendors, evidenced by the killing of Eric Garner who was selling loose cigarettes on the streets of Staten Island, New York, and Alton Sterling, who sold CDs on the streets of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

These are only the more spectacular cases. The disappearance by death or removal of street vendors is not about eliminating economic competition but adding value to the land and creating optimal conditions for capital investment. In a word: gentrification. New York City in the 1990s offers a textbook example of the advanced role of police in facilitating gentrification. On October 17, 1994, the same year Harlem became an “empowerment zone,” mayor Rudy Giuliani dispatched four hundred officers dressed in riot gear to remove the street vendors on 125th Street.

These vendors, who had been selling their wares for at least three decades or more, represented a truly diasporic entrepreneurial class, with merchants hailing from West Africa and the Caribbean operating alongside native-born African Americans. Although conflict between “legitimate” businesses along 125th and the street vendors had been brewing since the 1970s, it is not an accident that the first military operations against them coincided with initiatives to woo the Gap and Starbucks into opening shop in Harlem.26Mamadou Chinyelu, Harlem Ain’t Nothing But a Third World Country (New York: Mustard Seed Press, 1999) 75-78; Bryant Rollins, “Where I’m Coming From: Police vs. the 125th Street Merchants,” New York Amsterdam News, March 3, 1972; Yusef Salaam, “125th Street Merchants Protests Giuliani’s Slow Vendor Removal,” New York Amsterdam News, October 1, 1994.

Giuliani and the police prepared the ground for their new residents by stepping up the “war on drugs.” Although much of Harlem had been ravaged by the crack epidemic in the 1980s, the number of drug arrests had increased significantly over the past five years despite a steady decline in drug use and violent crimes. Undercover officers were everywhere in Harlem, mostly engaged in “buy and bust” operations in which they randomly sought out dealers, made a purchase, and called their “field team” to execute the arrest. Their job was to essentially round up all the low level dealers, including lookouts or addicts who earned vials of crack by simply finding customers.27In the late 1990s, I served on a special grand jury for narcotics and witnessed as, case after case, involved low level drug arrests in the same Harlem neighborhoods. I taught at New York University at the time, where Washington Square Park, across the street from my office, was a hub of drug sales. And yet, of the hundreds of cases that came before the grand jury that period, only one arrest occurred downtown.

The war on drugs was part of a general “war on crime” that resulted in an escalation of police activity, arrests, and harassment during the 1980s and ’90s. The NYPD’s increasingly aggressive policing in Harlem, as well as the “Blacker” parts of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, mirrored the prevailing trend during the 1980s—broken windows policing. First elaborated in a 1982 essay by George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, “broken windows” theory placed the blame for urban decay on the social values and behaviors of poor, primarily Black people.

As the argument goes, criminals flourish in deteriorating, disorderly neighborhoods, and disrespect for one’s community leads to disrespect for authority and the law. As long as ghetto residents lacked concern for the condition of their neighborhoods, crime would run rampant. Small infractions are just a gateway to violent crime. In short, by completely ignoring the structural factors that suppressed home values, perpetuated health and environmental catastrophes, divested neighborhoods of essential services, jobs, government programs, as well as legal protections, the theory can blame culture and immorality for crime, which in turn explains poverty.28George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, “Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety,” The Atlantic, March 1982. All of these initiatives were part of a general clearing of the land.

Meanwhile, upwardly mobile families—many white but also Black and Brown—began buying up inexpensive, dilapidated Harlem brownstones, and large chains such as the Gap, Starbucks, and H&M began moving onto the historic 125th Street corridor. These multinationals prepared to take advantage of cheap labor as well as the burgeoning consumer base. The state directly supported the corporate invasion with a $100 million empowerment zone grant and $250 million in tax credits, rather than invest in the wellbeing of working people and the poor in Harlem. Whether intended or not, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone orientation toward corporate developers and global chains, in combination with rising rents and a decline in pedestrian traffic due to the removal of vendors on 125th Street, has led to the destruction of local businesses.29Kirk Johnson, “Uneasy Renaissance on Harlem’s Street of Dreams,” New York Times, March 1, 1998; Gary Younge, “Harlem—The New Theme Park,” The Guardian, Oct 14, 2000; Antonio Olivo, “As Clinton Moves in, Harlem Rents Go UP,” Chicago Sun-Times, July 22, 2001.

More recently, the attorneys for Breonna Taylor, the Black woman killed on March 13, 2020, by Louisville Metro Police (LMPD) officers during a no-knock raid of her home, have uncovered evidence linking her death to gentrification. Although evidence is still coming to light, here is what we know. The officers who shot Taylor were part of the Place Based Investigations (PBI) unit. The city established PBI in 2019 reportedly to focus on “hot spots” with high incidence of crime—part of the trend toward “predictive policing” I discuss below.

But the territories given priority tended to coincide with areas targeted for aggressive redevelopment, such as the Russell neighborhood, an historic Black community in West Louisville. This included a portion of Elliot Avenue saddled with a number of abandoned and dilapidated properties. In a three-week span early in 2020, the city demolished least eight homes on Elliot Avenue.30It should be noted that the section of Elliot Avenue targeted by PBI stands about ten blocks outside of the space identified in the Vision Russell Development Plan. This is not to say that the Vision Russell project, which has received over $30 million dollars in grants from the Department of Urban and Housing Development to revitalize (and gentrify), does not benefit from the clearing of Elliot Avenue. Mayor Greg Fischer’s Vacant and Abandoned Properties Team and the Office of Community Development worked closely with PBI to step up arrests on Elliot Avenue.

In December 2019, a PBI unit within the LMPD obtained a warrant to arrest Jamarcus Glover on drug charges at a small house he rented at 2424 Elliot Avenue. Glover, it turns out, was Breonna Taylor’s ex-boyfriend. The police claim he was receiving packages at Taylor’s apartment on Springfield Drive, some ten miles south of Glover’s house, but the postal service could not confirm this.

Either way, their past relationship drew Taylor within the PBI dragnet to clear Elliot Avenue, which explains why an African American EMT worker with no prior arrest or suspicion of criminal activity could become the target of a no-knock raid by members of the PBI unit. Taylor was a casualty in the war to remove one of the “primary roadblocks” to development. The operation nevertheless achieved its objective. On June 5, what would have been Breonna Taylor’s twenty-seventh birthday, Louisville and Jefferson County Landbank Authority purchased the house at 2424 Elliot Avenue for $1, though its fair market value was listed at $17,160. 31Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker, “Substituted First Amended Complaint: Tamika Palmer, as Administratrix of the Estate of Breonna Taylor v. Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly (Plaintiff),” Case No. 20-Ci-002694 Jefferson Circuit Court Division, July 5, 2020; Phillip M. Bailey and Tessa Duvall, “Breonna Taylor Warrant Connected to Louisville Gentrification Plan, Lawyers Say,” Louisville Courier Journal, July 5, 2020; Igor Derysh, “Breonna Taylor Lawsuit Claims No-knock Warrant was Part of Louisville Gentrification Plan,” Salon, July 6, 2020; Natalia Martinez, “New Documents Confirm City was Working with LMPD on Elliott Project Avenue,” Wave3News, July 14, 2020. It is slated for demolition.

 

III

Real estate and corporate interests rely on police to secure that most insecure thing—property. And beginning in the 1970s, cities increasingly turned to police to generate revenue. The global slump of the early 1970s, federal budget cuts to states and cities, mass unemployment, the tax revolt organized by homeowners, as well as the perpetual corporate tax, left municipalities with massive revenue shortfalls.32See David McNally, Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2011). Civil asset forfeiture is one direct, albeit small, source of funds.

The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 allowed law enforcement agencies to seize drugs and equipment from suspected dealers, which eventually extended to cash and property from suspects even before a conviction. Civil asset forfeiture, in the strictest terms, violates the right to private property. Fees and fines are a far more significant source of municipal revenue. But just as police target poor people of color in order to enhance land value for real estate interests, much of the revenue from fees and fines is extracted from poor Black and Brown communities. In other words, in both instances the criminalization of Black and Brown bodies is a fundamental feature of their operations.

The criminalization of Blackness, like that of the “illegal alien,” means being subjected to state regulation, containment, discipline, and punishment, while not being worthy of protection. As we learned in the aftermath of Mike Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Black people in St. Louis (the city and the county) were aggressively ticketed and fined for noise ordinance violations (e.g., playing loud music), fare-hopping on St. Louis’s light rail system, uncut grass or unkempt property, trespassing, “manner of walking,” wearing “saggy pants,” minor traffic violations, having an expired driver’s license or registration even when they’re not operating a vehicle, and “disturbing the peace.”

According to data collected from the Ferguson Police Department between 2012 and 2014, African Americans accounted for 85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of citations, and 93 percent of arrests, despite making up only 67 percent of the municipality’s population. And yet, vehicle stops involving white drivers are far more likely to yield contraband than those involving African Americans.33United States Department of Justice. The Ferguson Report: The Department of Justice Investigation of the Ferguson, Police Department (March 4, 2015), https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/03/04/ferguson_police_department_report.pdf, 4. The proliferation of small municipalities in North St. Louis means that a Black driver can be ticketed by different officers passing through different jurisdiction, all on the same trip. If these fines or tickets are not paid, the court will issue arrest warrants, which may result in jail time or paying an inordinate sum to a bail bondsman, losing one’s car or other property, or losing one’s children to social services.34Thomas Harvey, John McAnnar, Michael-John Voss, Megan Conn, Sean Janda, and Sophia Keske, ArchCity Defenders: Municipal Courts White Paper (2014), https://www.archcitydefenders.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/ArchCity-Defenders-Municipal-Courts-Whitepaper.pdf.

Summons and warrants are used as a kind of racial tax, an extraction of surplus directly by the state without producing anything besides discipline and terror and the reproduction of the state; in a word, revenue by primitive accumulation.

Summons and warrants are used as a kind of racial tax, an extraction of surplus directly by the state without producing anything besides discipline and terror and the reproduction of the state; in a word, revenue by primitive accumulation. In 2013, Ferguson’s municipal court issued nearly 33,000 arrest warrants to a population of just over 21,000, generating about $2.6 million dollars in income for the municipality. That same year, the St. Louis County and City municipal courts acquired more than $61 million in fines and fees.

Where is the money coming from? Mostly from municipalities where, on average, 62 percent of the residents were Black and 22 percent lived below the poverty line.35Erika Hellerstein, “’It’s Racist as Hell’: Inside St. Louis County’s Predatory Night Court,” Thinkprogress.org, April 10, 2015; “Better Together: Public Safety – Municipal Courts” (October, 2014), https://www.heartland.org/_template-assets/documents/publications/bt-municipal-courts-report-full-report1.pdf. Elected officials, city bureaucrats and law enforcement worked tirelessly to squeeze as much money from poor vulnerable communities as possible. Just consider this passage from the US Department of Justice investigation into the Ferguson police department:

City and police leadership pressure officers to write citations, independent of any public safety need, and rely on citation productivity to fund the City budget. In an email from March 2010, the Finance Director wrote to Chief [Thomas] Jackson that “unless ticket writing ramps up significantly before the end of the year, it will be hard to significantly raise collections next year. What are your thoughts? Given that we are looking at a substantial sales tax shortfall, it’s not an insignificant issue.” Chief Jackson responded that the City would see an increase in fines once more officers were hired and that he could target the $1.5 million forecast. Significantly, Chief Jackson stated that he was also “looking at different shift schedules which will place more officers on the street, which in turn will increase traffic enforcement per shift.”36United States Department of Justice. The Ferguson Report, 10.

Jackson’s assertion that expanding the police force will increase its revenue-producing capacity speaks to another, countervailing issue. The revenue police generate for city budgets is radically offset by the cost of policing, especially as departments and their budgets have grown exponentially over the past half century. The national cost of policing, adjusted for inflation, has ballooned from $29.3 billion in 1972 to $84.1 billion in 2012 to about $115 billion in 2017. In the largest cities, police departments receive anywhere between 20 and 45 percent of general discretionary funds.37Tony Platt, Beyond these Walls: Rethinking Crime and Punishment in the United States (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2018), 282; Polly Mosendz and Jameelah D. Robinson, “While Crime Fell, the Cost of Cops Soared,” Bloomberg News, June 4, 2020; Kate Hamaji, Kumar Rao, Marbre Stahly-Butts, Janaé Bonsu, Charlene Carruthers, Roselyn Berry, and Denzel McCampbell, Freedom to Thrive: Reimagining Safety and Security in Our Communities (Center for Popular Democracy, 2017).

Cities have also been saddled with the skyrocketing costs of settling police misconduct cases. During the fiscal year 2016-2017 alone, New York City paid a staggering $335 million dollars for police misconduct lawsuits. 38Graham Rayman and Clayton Guse, “NYC Spent $230M on NYPD Settlements Last Year: Report,” New York Daily News, April 15, 2019.Chicago had to pay out $100 million in 2018 alone, and between 2005 and 2018, similar settlements cost Los Angeles $880 million.39Vaidya Gullapalli, “Spending Billions on Policing, Then Millions on Police Misconduct,” The Appeal, August 2, 2019; Emily Alpert Reyes and Ben Welsh, “L.A. is Slammed With Record Costs for Legal Payouts,” Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2018; see also Eleanor Lumsden, “How Much is Police Brutality Costing America?” University of Hawai’i Law Review 40, no. 1 (2017): 142-202. Police union contracts shield individual officers from personal liability in these instances, even if the officer in question violates a victim’s constitutional rights. As a consequence, city governments—which is to say, taxpayers—have to foot the bill for settling these cases. Since the costs far exceed municipal budgets, cities and counties are forced to borrow.

Enter Wall Street. Municipal governments issue bonds to cover settlement costs, which are managed by Wall Street firms and turned into profitable sources of investment. These neoliberal financial instruments that shift the cost of police misconduct to the public have been dubbed “police brutality bonds.” Banks such as Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America, as well as smaller regional banks and other firms, collect fees for their services, and investors earn interest, which in turn increases the real costs of the settlements, a significant proportion of which go to banks and investors.

For example, in Chicago between 2010 and 2017, bond borrowing to pay out police misconduct cases amounted to $709.3 million. The city paid investors one billion dollars in interest, costing taxpayers a whopping $1.71 billion dollars. In Los Angeles between 2008 and 2017, police brutality bonds amounted to $71.4 million plus an additional $18 million in interest paid, fleecing taxpayers to the tune of $89.4 million.

During the same period, the city of Cleveland borrowed $12.9 million to cover their settlements, but the interest paid out exceeded $7 million dollars, leaving taxpayers with a bill for $20.3 million.40Alyxandra Goodwin, Whitney Shepard, and Carrie Sloan, Police Brutality Bonds: How Wall Street Profits from Police Violence (Chicago: Action Center on Race & the Economy, 2018), 4. Police brutality bonds are yet another example of racial capitalism’s extractive policies, transferring wealth from over-policed communities to Wall Street. The New York Stock Exchange’s decision to suspend trading for eight minutes and 46 seconds to honor George Floyd during his funeral marked a level of hypocrisy bordering on the absurd.41John McCrank, “NYSE Holds Nearly Nine-Minute Silence in Honor of George Floyd,” Reuters, June 9, 2020.

The failure to change police practice and use-of-force policy cannot be attributed simply to the opportunism of finance capital or blamed entirely on the power of police unions to push through qualified immunity clauses. The price of police violence may be high for the people who have to pay it, but the police don’t work for “the people.” They work for capital, and one of their primary tasks is to provide security for an insecure system. Government and corporations have a vested interest in the police as an instrument of coercion, a terrifying expression of absolute power. Micol Seigel perceptively calls this “violence work.”42Micol Seigel, Violence Work.

Police violence is a fundamental feature of state and corporate power and white supremacy. Private corporations, in particular, have demonstrated their commitment to a robust, militarized police force by investing in police capital improvement bonds, public debt securities issued to finance equipment purchases, and capital improvements to police properties. Corporations as well as some universities have also donated generously to private police foundations. The national Police Foundation was established in 1970, financed by the Ford Foundation, largely in response to the mass rebellions in America’s ghettoes during the late 1960s. Its stated objective was to advance “the science of policing and new ideas, strategies, and technologies to improve the quality of police services; and in maximizing public trust, accountability, and police legitimacy.”43Quoted from their website, https://www.policefoundation.org/about-the-police-foundation/history/.

Over time, local police foundations became conduits for corporations to contribute financially to police, influence policy, and introduce hardware and technologies in which they may have a vested interest. Amazon, Bank of America, Starbucks, Google, Microsoft, and Target are just a few of the police foundations’ biggest corporate donors.44Ali Winston and Darwin Bond Graham, “Private Donors Supply Spy Gear to Cops,” Pro Publica, October 13, 2014; Kari Paul, “How Target, Google, Bank of America and Microsoft Quietly Fund Police through Private Donations,” Guardian, June 18, 2020. The Philadelphia Police Foundation’s corporate backers include Brandywine Realty Trust as well as Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania.45Philadelphia Police Foundation corporate backers included Donald Shaw, cofounder of government transparency website, Sludge Media. “Police Foundations Scrub Corporate Partners and Board Members From Their Websites,” Sludge, June 30, 2020.

Police foundations enable departments to purchase equipment (such as surveillance technology, guns, ballistic helmets, and drones) and directly assist officers with bonuses or legal fees, with no oversight or public input. The Atlanta Police Foundation helped fund a significant overhaul of the department’s surveillance capacity by purchasing over 12,000 cameras. Just this year, the foundation spent $2 million issuing $500 bonuses to Atlanta police officers after a “higher than usual” number called in “sick” to protest the district attorney’s decision to charge officer Garrett Rolfe in the fatal shooting of unarmed Rayshard Brooks.46Greg Norman, “Former Atlanta Officer Facing Rayshard Brooks Murder Charge Gets $250,000 Legal-fee Boost,” Fox News, June 18, 2020.

When we talk about “defunding the police,” it is important to recognize the significant role police foundations play in securing additional funds that don’t appear as line items in city budgets.

 

IV

While police foundations have become funders and advocates for embattled police departments, they continue to function as a private research and development arm for law enforcement, especially in the area of technologies of surveillance, data mining and management, and the growing field of “predictive policing.” For donors, the purpose of R&D is investment; they are not performing a public service.

Policing’s focus on technologies of surveillance and what law enforcement scholars euphemistically call “data informed strategies and evidence-based policing” is as old as policing itself. Capitalism and surveillance go hand-in-hand. In the eighteenth century, Samuel Bentham set out to break British shipbuilders of their customary practice of taking excess pieces of wood home with them. So he figured out a way to watch every corner of the dockyards. His brother ran with the idea and invented the panopticon.47Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the 18th Century (New York: Verso, 2003), 371-3. Simone Browne, in her brilliant treatise on surveillance and Blackness, put the matter quite plainly: “Surveillance is nothing new to Black folks. It is the fact of Blackness.”48Simone Browne, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015), 10.

When computer generated databases became essential tools of policing in the 1960s and 1970s, urban rebellions and police concentration in poor, Black communities drove the collection and interpretation of data.49During the early 1970s, the LAPD had already begun using computer programs and databases and related technologies in law enforcement. Max Felker-Kantor, Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018), 56-57. So it is no surprise that ostensibly “neutral” technology reinforced, if not accelerated, the criminalization of Black and Brown communities. In Los Angeles, for example, the Street Terrorism Enforcement Prevention Act (1988) allowed police to add the names of youth to a comprehensive gang database, even if they had not been charged with a crime. The database—basically a massive list of Black and Brown youth—was then used as a sentence enhancement for those who were later convicted of a felony.50Ibid., 206; Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 2007), 107.

In 2007, the Los Angeles Police Foundation received a $200,000 donation from Target that helped the LAPD purchase the latest surveillance software from a fairly new Silicon Valley start-up called Palantir Technologies.51Winston and Bond Graham, “Private Donors.” Founded in 2004 by Alexander Karp and Peter Thiel—Trump loyalist and founder of PayPal—the data mining firm was launched with seed money from the CIA’s venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel.52Caroline Haskins, “Revealed: This Is Palantir’s Top-Secret User Manual for Cops,” Vice, July 12, 2020; John T. Reinert, “In-Q-Tel: The Central Intelligence Agency as Venture Capitalist,” Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business 33, no. 3 (Spring 2013): 677-709. They tout the powers of their predictive software for anticipating earthquakes and fighting COVID-19, but security has been their main focus.

One of its biggest clients, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), relied on Palantir to conduct mass raids and deportation operations.53Edward Ongweso Jr., “Palantir’s CEO Finally Admits to Helping ICE Deport Undocumented Immigrants,” Vice January 24, 2020. In 2009, powered by Palantir, the LAPD launched Operation LASER, or Los Angeles Strategic Extraction and Restoration. With assistance from UCLA anthropologist Jeffrey Brantingham, Operation LASER maintained an ongoing list of community residents to monitor by creating “Chronic Offender Bulletins” for so-called persons of interest. Like other predictive policing systems, Operation LASER relies on what’s called automated risk assessments to determine a person’s likelihood of committing a crime.

The software aggregates massive amounts of data to determine the risk profile of neighborhoods in order to concentrate police surveillance, or the risk profile of individuals who are being released on parole. The problem is that the algorithm identifies the very “hot spots” that were already targeted for criminal behavior and thus register high numbers of arrests.54The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, Before the Bullet Hits the Body: Dismantling Predictive Policing in L.A. (Report, May 8, 2018), 6-19; Maha Ahmed, “Aided by Palantir, The LAPD Uses Predictive Policing to Monitor Specific People and Neighborhoods,” The Intercept, May 11, 2018. Palantir pioneered its predictive policing technology in New Orleans, but secretly through a private philanthropic entity created by Mayor Mitch Landrieu called NOLA For Life program. City council members were unaware of that the NOLA police department were using Palantir. The intermediary who brought Palantir to Mayor Landrieu was none other than Democratic Party operative James Carville. Ali Winston, “Palantir Has Secretly Been Using New Orleans to Test Its Predictive Policing Technology,” The Verge, February 27, 2018. The result is an algorithm designed to racially profile.

Indeed, studies show what most of us can predict—predictive policing reinforces existing racist biases and overwhelmingly targets poor Black and Brown communities. Historical crime data does not predict future criminal activity; rather, it predicts future policing—leading to the continued over-policing of vulnerable communities.55Kristian Lum, “Predictive Policing Reinforces Police Bias,” Human Rights Data Analysis Group, October 10, 2016; Kristian Lum and William Isaacs, “To Predict and Serve?” Significancemagazine.com, October 2016, 15-19. And this kind of data mining also draws people into its vast web of criminalization simply because they are acquainted with or related to a suspect. This is precisely how Louisville’s crack PBI unit ended up at Breonna Taylor’s apartment.

 

V

Finally, are police workers? In the strictest sense, yes. Police work for wages; they do not own means of production; the labor force is hierarchically organized and managed by supervisors. And yet, although cops technically are not managers, Brian Bean sees their relationship to the working class as analogous to a managerial class because “the entirety of their job is to manage and discipline workers…[T]heir social relationship and function is solely as a repressive apparatus against the working class. Their interests—not as individuals, but as a social stratum–are never genuinely aligned with working class interests.”56Brian Bean, “Abolish the Police: Part 2 of The Socialist Case Against the Police,” Rampant. Fred Mason, Jr., an African American veteran of the US labor movement and former president of the Maryland and District of Columbia federation of the AFL-CIO, said much the same thing in a recent opinion piece for the labor journal International Union Rights: “Police and police organizations are not the creations of workers, brought about by workers’ struggles. They were created by bosses to thwart the advance of workers’ struggles.” “Police Unions and Race,” International Union Rights 24, no. 2 (2017): 8.

Of course, as we’ve seen above, police work entails more than managing and disciplining workers, but Bean’s point is well taken. The fundamental question is this: how does their relationship to racial capitalism and the state shape their relationship to other workers? Here again, I invoke Micol Seigel’s notion of “violence work.” Police are “violence workers” and thus fall within a larger category of laborers in the military, private security, corrections, and the like. Police “are the human-scale expression of the state,” and as such realize the coercive force of the state.57Seigel, Violence Work, p. 9.

The US was founded as a settler-colonial state, and it remains at its core a settler-colonial state. Therefore, police are not only employed to discipline “workers” but to manage subject populations. They are also workers but differently situated from white workers—most obviously through spatial and residential segregation. (Colonial management, after all, depends on the ability to control territory. When Black residents describe their neighborhoods as “occupied,” it also signals a level of enclosure which is a feature of coloniality.)

European settlers of North America had a century and a half to hone its colonial management strategies before the birth of the white republic, but as the US expanded its imperial footprint, the Philippines, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico became laboratories for learning how to police its domestic subject populations—namely, Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. By the mid-twentieth century, the US military sharpened its counter-insurgency operations in Korea, the Congo, Indonesia, and Vietnam and applied those lessons to American ghettoes.58Alfred McCoy, Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009), 17; see also, Nikhil Pal Singh, Race and America’s Long War, 208. See also Stuart Schrader, Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing (Oakland: University of California Press, 2019); Michael G. Hanchard, The Spectre of Race: How Discrimination Haunts Western Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018), 116; Tracy Tullis, “A Vietnam at Home: Policing the Ghetto in the Era of Counterinsurgency” (PhD diss. New York University, 1998). But the very insurgencies the state looked to counter exposed America’s liberal conceits as the world’s greatest democracy.

During the Cold War, domestic pressures from antiracist and radical movements, international pressure from newly decolonized countries and the socialist bloc, and the spread of American military forces around the world in the name of democracy, forced US officials to attend to its racism problem. Appeals to the United Nations by the National Negro Congress, the NAACP, W. E. B. Du Bois, and the Civil Rights Congress forced President Harry Truman and his administration to push for liberal (and limited) criminal justice reform. As a result, police departments were pressed to hire more Black officers. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara upped the ante when he introduced “Project Transition,” a program designed to hire Black Vietnam war veterans as police officers.59Schrader, Badges without Borders, 30-34.

The incorporation of Black and Brown cops does not change the character or structure of policing. Colonial rule has always relied on Indigenous and other racially subject groups to administer and police the colonized or working people.

The incorporation of Black and Brown cops does not change the character or structure of policing. Colonial rule has always relied on Indigenous and other racially subject groups to administer and police the colonized or working people. But does their differential relationship to racial capitalism, the communities they are charged to police, and the juridical structures intended to discipline them as violence workers affect their consciousness or the kinds of organizations they form to protect their interests? Marxist criminologist Gerda Ray observed over four decades ago that although police are more inclined to ally with “the ruling class against the working class,” she argued that their fidelity “to their repressive function is not a given, but must be continually reproduced through the way in which the job is structured and the rewards available for loyal service.”60Gerda Ray, “Police Militancy,” Crime and Social Justice 7 (Spring-Summer, 1977): 40.

Indeed, the current orientation of police unions was not a given but the product of a century of struggle and negotiation and restructuring of the job itself. The Boston Police Strike of 1919, for example, was a genuine fight to win union recognition, a living wage, and humane working conditions. Boston patrolmen at the time earned an equivalent of $23,000 a year in 2020 dollars, worked on average between 75 and 87 hours per week, had to purchase their own equipment, and were forced to live in an unsanitary station house.

The strike was violently suppressed, the striking officers replaced, and the union—an American Federation of Labor (AFL) affiliate—was broken. Calvin Coolidge, then Governor of Massachusetts who used the state militia to maintain order, made a statement that would come to epitomize the police as the “human-scale expression” of state power: “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, anytime.”61Joseph Slater, Public Workers: Government Employee Unions, the Law, and the State, 1900-1962 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004), 13-38; Richard L. Lyons, “The Boston Police Strike of 1919,” New England Quarterly 20, no. 2 (June 1947): 147-68. When police tried to unionize again during the CIO union drives of the 1930s and 1940s, they met similar opposition and the same arguments.

A 1946 opinion piece by the editorial board of the L.A. Times called for the abolition of the LAPD’s union, which won recognition three years earlier: “The police force is in effect a military force, which must obey the lawful orders of superiors without hesitation or reservation and must not have any divided allegiance.” Mayor Fletcher Bowron concurred, arguing that police unions “impair the freedom and independence necessary for the full and proper preservation of peace at all times in controversies between employers and employees or in jurisdictional strikes between different labor unions.”62“Abolish the Police Union Now!” Los Angeles Times March 8, 1946, A4.

Unionization was slow, but that doesn’t mean police were unorganized. On the contrary, officers were encouraged to join the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) which preceded the AFL’s attempts to organize cops. The FOP is not a union. It lobbied for increases in police budgets, promoted departmental loyalty and morale, and “reinforced racist and anti-working class law enforcement practices.”63Ray, “Police Militancy,” 42. Groups such as the New York Police Benevolent Association (NYPBA) and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which function as unions, are direct descendants of the FOP.

But by the late 1960s and early 1970s, the situation began to change. First, Black police officers organized their own protective leagues in response to the urban insurrections, racist police violence, workplace discrimination, and corruption. Black police groups such as the Guardians in New York, Connecticut, and Pittsburgh, Officers for Justice in San Francisco, the Black Police Officers Association in Oakland, and the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League in Chicago and Atlanta, understood “protective” to refer to Black communities rather than their own jobs.

The best known and perhaps most radical was the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League (AAPL), founded in 1968 by three young officers, Renault Robinson, Edward “Buzz” Palmer, and Frank Lee. They were no abolitionists; they first came together to complain about the excessive discipline meted out to Black officers for using the kind of violence on white youths usually reserved for Black people. But over time, they developed a transformative vision of policing as an antiracist model of public safety aimed at eliminating police violence and finding effective strategies of stopping street violence and crime.

AAPL President, Renault Robinson, wrote a weekly column for the Chicago Defender called “Black Watch.” He quoted Frantz Fanon and Malcolm X. He supported the Black Panther Party and called for “the redistribution of the nation’s wealth.”64Beryl Satter, “Cops, Gangs, and Revolutionaries: What Black Police Can Tell Us about Power,” Journal of Urban History 42, no. 6 (2016): 1117-20. He compared the Chicago Police Department’s presence in Black communities to that of overseers or colonizers. He did not subscribe to the “bad apple” theory or consider police violence to be an aberration.

“All of these abuses,” he wrote,

are not accidents or errors or simply acts of individual malice. They flow from the policemen’s role as agents of an absentee white citizenry, which owns all the property in the Black community and/or have a stake in the political and economic status quo and who are, therefore, continually demanding of the police that they prove their responsibility to and representation of the white power structure by the number of insults, assaults, arrests and kills, perpetrated against the Black community.65Satter, “Cops, Gangs, and Revolutionaries in 1960s Chicago,” 1110-34; Simon Balto, Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), 241-2; Tera Agyepong, “In the Belly of the Beast: Black Policemen Combat Police Brutality in Chicago, 1968–1983,” Journal of African American History 98, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 253-76.

The AAPL received wide support from Black Chicagoans. The CPD and the Mayor Daley machine invested almost as much energy waging war on the League as they did on the Black Panther Party. Members faced repression and reprisals, including suspensions, docked pay, threats of termination, and a vicious misinformation campaign. The AAPL filed suits against the CPD and persuaded the federal government to investigate the department’s record of discrimination and police misconduct. By the early 1980s, the AAPL began to decline, along with other progressive Black police organizations.

While a handful of Black officers attempted to do the impossible—reform the police—most departments and police organizations responded with unsparing racism, reaction, and defensiveness. Their resentment of Black officers—as critics and fellow employees—was further exacerbated by a major crisis in policing. First, the global slump and fiscal crisis in the early 1970s resulted in wage freezes, layoffs, and budget cuts affecting most urban police departments. Suddenly, police who had been trained to break strikes found themselves on a picket line.

Second, many police unions and patrolmen’s leagues appealed to racism and blamed African Americans for stealing their jobs, not the global economy or the Nixon administration. In Detroit, white officers protested what they considered “reverse discrimination.”66Dennis A. Deslippe, “’Do Whites Have Rights?’: White Detroit Policemen and ‘Reverse Discrimination’ Protests in the 1970s,” Journal of American History 91, no. 3 (December 2004): 932-60. Third, “violence work” actually increased in this period—perhaps we might call it a speed-up. Crime rates did rise but the cause of the speed-up was the ideological and legislative push to lock up more people.

The violence work of mass incarceration is not simply a matter of the introduction of more draconian legislation or sentencing mandates but requires the extractive work of producing prisoners. The strike wave of the 1970s, the escalation of protests, a general distrust of cops, urban decline caused by capital flight, white flight, a growing illicit drug trade, reductions in city services, not to mention municipal budget cuts which began the process of turning police into generators of revenue—all contributed to a general speed-up and growing malaise surrounding police work.

Rather than build unity with Black and Brown officers and fight for better pay, better working conditions, job security, and safer communities, the police unions exploited white fear—community fears of crime (Blackness) and cops’ fear of replacement. The NYPBA refused to support other municipal workers fighting against reductions in their pensions. It spent two years and lots of money fighting a legal and electoral struggle to abolish the civilian review board.

Police unions devoted more time supporting conservative mayors, monitoring and opposing liberal judges, lobbying for increases in state-of-the-art weaponry, and backing state-wide campaigns to restore the death penalty.67Ray, “Police Militancy,” 44. Meanwhile, antidiscrimination laws were gutted, reported hate crimes increased, and a wave of police and vigilante killings struck Black communities with the force of a cluster bomb. The decade opened with police brutality emerging as a central political issue, resulting in a massive urban insurrection in Liberty City, Florida, in May of 1980.68Manning Marable, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2015 reprint ed. [1983]); Gerald Gill, Meanness Mania: The Changed Mood (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1980).

Racial capitalism will not dismantle itself. It requires a labor movement, a people’s movement dedicated to ending “the war on Black people.”

State-sanctioned racist violence went hand in hand with an ideological assault on the legitimacy of the critique of racism itself. During the Reagan years, new right-wing think tanks such as the Institute of Justice and the Campaign for a Color-Blind America invoked the rhetoric of color-blindness and opportunity to justify dismantling antiracist programs. Colorblind discourse also prepared the way for “broken windows” policing, which has contributed to mass incarceration and set the stage for the war on drugs.

Today, the role of police unions is to protect cops from liability in doing “violence work” on behalf of racial capitalism. Union contracts often include provisions that would disqualify misconduct complaints; grant officers a waiting period before being interrogated after an incident; place limits on officer interrogations or provide information ahead of time that would allow the officer to “match their sworn statements with available evidence;” require cities to cover costs related to police misconduct (not just settlement costs but legal fees and paid leave while under investigation); and removing past misconduct investigations from an officer’s file.

These are just a few examples of how police unions reproduce injustice, shield the police from accountability, and undergird structural racism.69Shamus Cooke, “Police Unions vs. Black Lives,” Counterpunch, October 6, 2017. Writer and Portland-based activist, Shamus Cooke, put it best:

The police are independent agents, much more likely to smash a picket line than join it. As the labor movement becomes increasingly militant—using civil disobedience and other tactics—it’s the police who will be called by employers and local governments. The police will “protect and serve” employers against their workers and especially, growing social movements. If the labor movement believes that Black Lives matter they cannot simultaneously believe that the police are members of their labor family. And if the labor movement continues its trajectory of adopting more militant tactics—and it must to survive— it will increasingly fall into direct combat with the riot police.70Ibid.

Racial capitalism will not dismantle itself. It requires a labor movement, a people’s movement dedicated to ending “the war on Black people.”71The Movement for Black Lives. This is how the Movement for Black Lives formulated its abolitionist vision. Ending “the war on Black people”—here and abroad—would not only reduce our vulnerability to poverty, prison, and premature death but also generate a peace dividend of billions of dollars to invest in education, universal healthcare, housing, living wage jobs, restorative justice, food justice, and green energy.72Amanda Teuscher, “The Inclusive Strength of #BlackLivesMatter,” American Prospect, August 2, 2015.

Ending the war on Black people means ending the police as we know it. There is no justification for defending police unions since they are company unions. Their job has not changed, and it will not change: to provide security for the reproduction of racial capitalism, leaving the rest of us profoundly insecure.

  1. Mark Neocleous, The Fabrication of Social Order: A Critical Theory of Police Power (London: Pluto Press, 2000), 44.
  2. Micol Seigel, Violence Work: State Power and the Limits of Police (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018), 21.
  3. Sam Levin and Will Parish, “Keystone XL: Police Discussed Stopping Anti-pipeline Activists ‘By Any Means,’” Guardian, November 26, 2019; Sam Levin and Nicky Woolf, “Dakota Access Pipeline: Police Fire Rubber Bullets and Mace at Activists During Water Protest,” Guardian, November 3, 2016.
  4. For some excellent examples of historical accounts of police as an instrument of capitalism and property, see Peter Linebaugh, “Police and the Wealth of Nations: Déjà Vu or Unfinished Business?” Counterpunch, July 3, 2020; Brian Bean, “The Socialist Case Against the Police: Part 1- Origins and Function,” Rampant, March 11, 2020; Brian Bean, “Abolish the Police: Part 2 of The Socialist Case Against the Police,” Rampant, March 31, 2020; Sidney L. Harring, Policing a Class Society: The Experience of American Cities, 1865–1915, rev. ed. (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017); Kristian Williams, Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America (Boston: South End Press, 2007); David Whitehouse, “Origins of the Police,” Libcom, December 24, 2014; Shamus Cooke, “The Capitalist Limits of Police Reform,” Counterpunch, June 12, 2020.
  5. Garrett Felber, “The Struggle to Abolish the Police is Not New,” The Boston Review, June 9, 2020.
  6. During the Ferguson uprising, I met with several members of Hands Up United, Lost Voices, Organization for Black Struggle, Millennial Activists United, and other local organizers affiliated with the Don’t Shoot Coalition, who were proposing a police abolition agenda long before it was popular. Two years later, the booklet A World Without Police, with an accompanying website, http://aworldwithoutpolice.org/the-problem/ was published. See also Peter Gelderloos, “A World Without Police,” Counterpunch, December 29, 2014; Peter Gelderloos, “The Nature of the Police, the Role of the Left,” Counterpunch, December 9, 2014.
  7. “Critical Resistance on Policing,” Critical Resistance (2009), http://criticalresistance.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CR-statement-abolition-of-policing-2009.pdf. For examples of movement work toward creating police-free zones, see also Rachel Herzing, “Big Dreams and Bold Steps Toward a Police-Free Future,” Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States. Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré and Alana Yu-lan Price, eds. (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016), 111-18.
  8. Richard Rorty, Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998), 80. Mark Lilla, the most recent proponent of this view, wrote: “Black Lives Matter is a textbook example of how not to build solidarity… . The movement’s decision to use this mistreatment to build a general indictment of American society, and its law enforcement institutions, and to use Mau-Mau tactics to put down dissent and demand a confession of sins and public penitence…played into the hands of the Republican right. Mark Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal, 129.
  9. William L. Patterson, ed., We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government Against the Negro People (New York: Civil Rights Congress, 1951). For an excellent examination of the marginalization of Black Marxists and the consequences of American antiradicalism, see Charisse Burden-Stelly’s forthcoming, The Radical Horizon of Black Betrayal: Anticommunism and Racial Capitalism in the United States, 1917–1954.
  10. Dianne Feeley, “Kwame M. A. Somburu (1934- 2016),” Solidarity, July 21, 2016; Sam Roberts, “Kwame Somburu, Perennial Socialist Candidate, Dies at 81,” New York Times, May 11, 2016; M. Millard “Vote to retain JROTC split along racial lines.” Sun Reporter, June 29, 1995; “Socialists Tap Paul Boutelle,” New York Amsterdam News, September 24, 1966; E. James West, “Paul Boutelle’s 1968 Vice-Presidential Campaign,” Black Perspectives, November 18, 2019. Boutelle spent the rest of his life as a socialist and anti-imperialist fighting for Black liberation. He eventually changed his name to Kwame Montsho Ajamu Somburu and in 1983 he broke from the SWP and helped found Socialist Action and, later, the Socialist Workers Organization. In 1973, he moved to California, became a school teacher and continued to organize and run for elective office. He chaired the US defense committee for jailed South African activist Dr. Neville Alexander, chaired the Committee of Black Americans for Truth About the Middle East in 1970, and remained active in support of Palestine liberation until his death in 2016. Before he died, he had begun work on a book entitled Slavery, Oppression, and Rebellion: from 10,000 BCE to the Present.
  11. Lawrence H. Geller, “Socialist V-P Candidate Would Abolish the Police,” Philadelphia Tribune, January 30, 1968.
  12. Peter Ikeler, “To End Police Violence, End Racial Capitalism,” Spectre, July 20, 2020. Guastella’s piece appeared as, “To End Police Violence Fund Public Goods and Raise Wages,” Nonsite.org, July 9, 2020. Obviously, Guastella does not represent the official DSA position. Haley Pessin, a member of the Afrosocialist and Socialists of Color Caucus within the DSA published a brilliant essay in support of abolition and recognizing the revolutionary potential of the “Black Spring” rebellions in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Haley Pessin, “The Movement for Black Lives is Different this Time.”
  13. See for example, Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003); Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (Oakland: University of California Press, 2007), Mariame Kaba, “Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police,” New York Times, June 12, 2020.
  14. Ruth Wilson Gilmore, “Abolition Geography and the Problem of Innocence,” Futures of Black Radicalism, Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin, eds. (New York: Verso Books, 2017), 225.
  15. On racial capitalism, see for example Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000); Gargi Bhattacharyya, Rethinking Racial Capitalism: Questions of Reproduction and Survival (London and New York: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2018); Charisse Burden-Stelly, “Modern US Racial Capitalism: Some Theoretical Insights,” Monthly Review, July 1, 2020; Jodi Melamed, “Racial Capitalism,” Critical Ethnic Studies 1, no. 1 (Spring 2015): 76-85; Laura Pulido, “Flint, Environmental Racism, and Racial Capitalism,” Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 27, no. 3 (2016): 1–16; Nancy Leong, “Racial Capitalism,” Harvard Law Review 126, no. 8 (June 2013): 2151-226 ; Robert Nichols, Theft Is Property! Dispossession and Critical Theory (Durham: Duke University Press, 2020); Peter James Hudson, Bankers and Empire: How Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017); Michael Dawson, “Hidden in Plain Sight: A Note on Legitimation Crises and the Racial Order,” Critical Historical Studies 3, no. 1 (2016): 143–61; Nancy Fraser, “Expropriation and Exploitation in Racialized Capitalism,” Critical Historical Studies 3, no. 1 (2016): 163–78. And for a critique of the concept of racial capitalism, see Michael Ralph and Maya Singhal, “Racial Capitalism,” Theory and Society 48, no. 6 (2019): 851.
  16. Police in Europe date back at least to the fifteenth century. Mark Neocleous, The Fabrication of Social Order, 1-5.
  17. From V. I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution.” Lenin is quoting Engels from the sixth edition of his The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/origin-family/index.htm.
  18. David Roediger, How Race Survived US History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Eclipse of Postracialism (New York: Verso Books, 2019), chapters 1, 2.
  19. Nikhil Pal Singh, Race and America’s Long War (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017), 35-47.
  20. Peter Linebaugh, “Police and Plunder,” Counterpunch, February 13, 2015.
  21. H. R. 35, “Emmett Till Antilynching Act.” (1884), https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/origin-family/index.htm.
  22. Daniel G. Brinton, Races and Peoples: Lectures on the Science of Ethnography (New York: Hodges, 1890), 287, quoted in Lee D. Baker, From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954 (Los Angeles and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 36. In an ironic twist, in the final years of his life (he died in 1899) Brinton declared himself an anarchist, although it appears his attraction to workers revolution did not affect his views on race.
  23. Stewart E. Tolnay and E. M. Beck, A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 47-48.
  24. Harper, quoted in Bert James Loewenberg and Ruth Bogin, eds., Black Women in Nineteenth Century American Life: Their Words, Their Thoughts, Their Feelings (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010), 247.
  25. Alfred M. Duster, ed., Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013, [1970]), 47-52.
  26. Mamadou Chinyelu, Harlem Ain’t Nothing But a Third World Country (New York: Mustard Seed Press, 1999) 75-78; Bryant Rollins, “Where I’m Coming From: Police vs. the 125th Street Merchants,” New York Amsterdam News, March 3, 1972; Yusef Salaam, “125th Street Merchants Protests Giuliani’s Slow Vendor Removal,” New York Amsterdam News, October 1, 1994.
  27. In the late 1990s, I served on a special grand jury for narcotics and witnessed as, case after case, involved low level drug arrests in the same Harlem neighborhoods. I taught at New York University at the time, where Washington Square Park, across the street from my office, was a hub of drug sales. And yet, of the hundreds of cases that came before the grand jury that period, only one arrest occurred downtown.
  28. George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, “Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety,” The Atlantic, March 1982.
  29. Kirk Johnson, “Uneasy Renaissance on Harlem’s Street of Dreams,” New York Times, March 1, 1998; Gary Younge, “Harlem—The New Theme Park,” The Guardian, Oct 14, 2000; Antonio Olivo, “As Clinton Moves in, Harlem Rents Go UP,” Chicago Sun-Times, July 22, 2001.
  30. It should be noted that the section of Elliot Avenue targeted by PBI stands about ten blocks outside of the space identified in the Vision Russell Development Plan. This is not to say that the Vision Russell project, which has received over $30 million dollars in grants from the Department of Urban and Housing Development to revitalize (and gentrify), does not benefit from the clearing of Elliot Avenue.
  31. Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker, “Substituted First Amended Complaint: Tamika Palmer, as Administratrix of the Estate of Breonna Taylor v. Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly (Plaintiff),” Case No. 20-Ci-002694 Jefferson Circuit Court Division, July 5, 2020; Phillip M. Bailey and Tessa Duvall, “Breonna Taylor Warrant Connected to Louisville Gentrification Plan, Lawyers Say,” Louisville Courier Journal, July 5, 2020; Igor Derysh, “Breonna Taylor Lawsuit Claims No-knock Warrant was Part of Louisville Gentrification Plan,” Salon, July 6, 2020; Natalia Martinez, “New Documents Confirm City was Working with LMPD on Elliott Project Avenue,” Wave3News, July 14, 2020.
  32. See David McNally, Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2011).
  33. United States Department of Justice. The Ferguson Report: The Department of Justice Investigation of the Ferguson, Police Department (March 4, 2015), https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/03/04/ferguson_police_department_report.pdf, 4.
  34. Thomas Harvey, John McAnnar, Michael-John Voss, Megan Conn, Sean Janda, and Sophia Keske, ArchCity Defenders: Municipal Courts White Paper (2014), https://www.archcitydefenders.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/ArchCity-Defenders-Municipal-Courts-Whitepaper.pdf.
  35. Erika Hellerstein, “’It’s Racist as Hell’: Inside St. Louis County’s Predatory Night Court,” Thinkprogress.org, April 10, 2015; “Better Together: Public Safety – Municipal Courts” (October, 2014), https://www.heartland.org/_template-assets/documents/publications/bt-municipal-courts-report-full-report1.pdf.
  36. United States Department of Justice. The Ferguson Report, 10.
  37. Tony Platt, Beyond these Walls: Rethinking Crime and Punishment in the United States (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2018), 282; Polly Mosendz and Jameelah D. Robinson, “While Crime Fell, the Cost of Cops Soared,” Bloomberg News, June 4, 2020; Kate Hamaji, Kumar Rao, Marbre Stahly-Butts, Janaé Bonsu, Charlene Carruthers, Roselyn Berry, and Denzel McCampbell, Freedom to Thrive: Reimagining Safety and Security in Our Communities (Center for Popular Democracy, 2017).
  38. Graham Rayman and Clayton Guse, “NYC Spent $230M on NYPD Settlements Last Year: Report,” New York Daily News, April 15, 2019.
  39. Vaidya Gullapalli, “Spending Billions on Policing, Then Millions on Police Misconduct,” The Appeal, August 2, 2019; Emily Alpert Reyes and Ben Welsh, “L.A. is Slammed With Record Costs for Legal Payouts,” Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2018; see also Eleanor Lumsden, “How Much is Police Brutality Costing America?” University of Hawai’i Law Review 40, no. 1 (2017): 142-202.
  40. Alyxandra Goodwin, Whitney Shepard, and Carrie Sloan, Police Brutality Bonds: How Wall Street Profits from Police Violence (Chicago: Action Center on Race & the Economy, 2018), 4.
  41. John McCrank, “NYSE Holds Nearly Nine-Minute Silence in Honor of George Floyd,” Reuters, June 9, 2020.
  42. Micol Seigel, Violence Work.
  43. Quoted from their website, https://www.policefoundation.org/about-the-police-foundation/history/.
  44. Ali Winston and Darwin Bond Graham, “Private Donors Supply Spy Gear to Cops,” Pro Publica, October 13, 2014; Kari Paul, “How Target, Google, Bank of America and Microsoft Quietly Fund Police through Private Donations,” Guardian, June 18, 2020.
  45. Philadelphia Police Foundation corporate backers included Donald Shaw, cofounder of government transparency website, Sludge Media. “Police Foundations Scrub Corporate Partners and Board Members From Their Websites,” Sludge, June 30, 2020.
  46. Greg Norman, “Former Atlanta Officer Facing Rayshard Brooks Murder Charge Gets $250,000 Legal-fee Boost,” Fox News, June 18, 2020.
  47. Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the 18th Century (New York: Verso, 2003), 371-3.
  48. Simone Browne, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015), 10.
  49. During the early 1970s, the LAPD had already begun using computer programs and databases and related technologies in law enforcement. Max Felker-Kantor, Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018), 56-57.
  50. Ibid., 206; Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 2007), 107.
  51. Winston and Bond Graham, “Private Donors.”
  52. Caroline Haskins, “Revealed: This Is Palantir’s Top-Secret User Manual for Cops,” Vice, July 12, 2020; John T. Reinert, “In-Q-Tel: The Central Intelligence Agency as Venture Capitalist,” Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business 33, no. 3 (Spring 2013): 677-709.
  53. Edward Ongweso Jr., “Palantir’s CEO Finally Admits to Helping ICE Deport Undocumented Immigrants,” Vice January 24, 2020.
  54. The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, Before the Bullet Hits the Body: Dismantling Predictive Policing in L.A. (Report, May 8, 2018), 6-19; Maha Ahmed, “Aided by Palantir, The LAPD Uses Predictive Policing to Monitor Specific People and Neighborhoods,” The Intercept, May 11, 2018. Palantir pioneered its predictive policing technology in New Orleans, but secretly through a private philanthropic entity created by Mayor Mitch Landrieu called NOLA For Life program. City council members were unaware of that the NOLA police department were using Palantir. The intermediary who brought Palantir to Mayor Landrieu was none other than Democratic Party operative James Carville. Ali Winston, “Palantir Has Secretly Been Using New Orleans to Test Its Predictive Policing Technology,” The Verge, February 27, 2018.
  55. Kristian Lum, “Predictive Policing Reinforces Police Bias,” Human Rights Data Analysis Group, October 10, 2016; Kristian Lum and William Isaacs, “To Predict and Serve?” Significancemagazine.com, October 2016, 15-19.
  56. Brian Bean, “Abolish the Police: Part 2 of The Socialist Case Against the Police,” Rampant. Fred Mason, Jr., an African American veteran of the US labor movement and former president of the Maryland and District of Columbia federation of the AFL-CIO, said much the same thing in a recent opinion piece for the labor journal International Union Rights: “Police and police organizations are not the creations of workers, brought about by workers’ struggles. They were created by bosses to thwart the advance of workers’ struggles.” “Police Unions and Race,” International Union Rights 24, no. 2 (2017): 8.
  57. Seigel, Violence Work, p. 9.
  58. Alfred McCoy, Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009), 17; see also, Nikhil Pal Singh, Race and America’s Long War, 208. See also Stuart Schrader, Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing (Oakland: University of California Press, 2019); Michael G. Hanchard, The Spectre of Race: How Discrimination Haunts Western Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018), 116; Tracy Tullis, “A Vietnam at Home: Policing the Ghetto in the Era of Counterinsurgency” (PhD diss. New York University, 1998).
  59. Schrader, Badges without Borders, 30-34.
  60. Gerda Ray, “Police Militancy,” Crime and Social Justice 7 (Spring-Summer, 1977): 40.
  61. Joseph Slater, Public Workers: Government Employee Unions, the Law, and the State, 1900-1962 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004), 13-38; Richard L. Lyons, “The Boston Police Strike of 1919,” New England Quarterly 20, no. 2 (June 1947): 147-68.
  62. “Abolish the Police Union Now!” Los Angeles Times March 8, 1946, A4.
  63. Ray, “Police Militancy,” 42.
  64. Beryl Satter, “Cops, Gangs, and Revolutionaries: What Black Police Can Tell Us about Power,” Journal of Urban History 42, no. 6 (2016): 1117-20.
  65. Satter, “Cops, Gangs, and Revolutionaries in 1960s Chicago,” 1110-34; Simon Balto, Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), 241-2; Tera Agyepong, “In the Belly of the Beast: Black Policemen Combat Police Brutality in Chicago, 1968–1983,” Journal of African American History 98, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 253-76.
  66. Dennis A. Deslippe, “’Do Whites Have Rights?’: White Detroit Policemen and ‘Reverse Discrimination’ Protests in the 1970s,” Journal of American History 91, no. 3 (December 2004): 932-60.
  67. Ray, “Police Militancy,” 44.
  68. Manning Marable, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2015 reprint ed. [1983]); Gerald Gill, Meanness Mania: The Changed Mood (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1980).
  69. Shamus Cooke, “Police Unions vs. Black Lives,” Counterpunch, October 6, 2017.
  70. Ibid.
  71. The Movement for Black Lives.
  72. Amanda Teuscher, “The Inclusive Strength of #BlackLivesMatter,” American Prospect, August 2, 2015.
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