Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Seize This Time: Rahm Emmanuel, Bobby Seale and Community Control of the Police

In 1966, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton formed the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Point 7 of their 10 Point Platform and Program demanded “an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people.”

Fifty years later, it hasn’t ended. Just ask the odious and embattled Mayor of Chicago. The question, to quote one Comrade Vladimir Illyich, is What Is To Be Done? Certainly, Rahm deserves to be hounded out of his office, for his complicity in police abuses and among many other reasons. (Google his name in conjunction with “privatizations” or “Chicago Teachers Union” or any number of other items.) But not even his fiercest detractors think putting a new face on top of Chicago’s power structure will be enough to save future Laquan McDonalds. It isn’t as if police brutality and murder are unknown in the numerous cities lucky enough not to be run by Rahm Emmanuel. It’s a national problem, and its roots run deep. So, again, what’s to be done?

The solution propounded by Hillary Clinton, numerous liberal do-gooders, and even much of the Black Lives Matter movement is that all police departments should use body cameras. Common sense should tell us that deeply rooted institutional problems don’t have simple technological solutions, and at any rate existing empirical evidence tends to suggest that “bodycams” help the police more than they help their victims. The idea that cameras pointed not at the cops but at the civilians they interact with, cameras with cops in control of the on/off switch, would be any kind of deterrent to police brutality is absurd on its face. Liberals cling to it for the simple reason that they have no better ideas.

Can the radical left do better? Socialists, anarchists, and other radicals often responded to the 2015’s many cases of high-profile police violence by talking about the ways in which that the traditions of American policing grew out of antebellum slave patrols. They’ve reminded us that cops are not on our side, that the police are the thin blue line protecting the power of the bosses from the discontent of the working class. All of this may be analytically useful, but none of it quite answers the question of what should be done about the problem of police brutality and murder, not in some distant post-revolutionary future where workers’ militias patrol the streets, but in the here and now.

The Panthers had an extremely specific proposed solution, one that it would behoove the contemporary left to dust off and consider. Bobby Seale explained it in his 1970 book Seize the Time.

We will have neighborhood divisions with neighborhood councils, who are duly elected in their particular neighborhoods. We’ll have two, three, four, and five police departments that work in conjunction together through the commissioners of particular neighborhood divisions, so there will not be a single police chief. The commissioners can be removed by the duly elected neighborhood councils. […] Now when this begins to move, the pig power structure is gonna say, “OK, you can have civilian review boards.” But all that does is allow the same old fascist power structure to keep control of the police while you have a front civilian review board, and that’s not what we’re talking about at all. What we’re talking about is righteous community control, where the people who control the police are elected by the community. They can be removed by circulating petitions for re-elections if they go wrong. We know that such a program is very positive and necessary in order for the people to have power in this country and to stop the avaricious businessmen from ruling us with guns and violating our constitutional rights.

Conservatives feeling defensive about accusations of police misconduct and liberals eager to prove their reasonableness often rush to insist that, “not all cops are bad.” Radicals’ response should be simple. “Perhaps not. But are they all good? Why not let the people who actually live in the neighborhoods being policed decide which are which?”

More articles by:

Ben Burgis is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Underwood International College, Yonsei University.

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail