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disarm the police

Disarm the Police

What would happen if we disarmed the police in America? How would disarming the police affect police-community relations? These questions are absent from the conversations triggered by the daily examples of police brutality and murder of those the police are hired to serve and protect. I raise these questions now.

I attended a community forum last night in Harlem on "Know Your Rights" and "Police Brutality". My high expectations were soon shattered by a panel of "experts" - from the National Lawyers Association, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, and state legislators. As the panel of five took the microphone, one by one they cited the law and the constitutional rights that we as citizens of the United States have and told us how important it was for us to know "these rights."

They went on to give their point of view about what people in poor communities of color should do when confronted by the police. Every last one of these legal beagles said in effect, don't be Kunta Kinte, be Toby. They said getting home was the most important priority. While they were serving the audience their expert opinions I was seething.

I thought of all the black men that had surrendered and posed no threat to anyone yet were gunned down with their hands in the air, handcuffed, and begging for their lives. And I should not leave out the fact that of the 4,743 lynching’s that occurred between 1882 -- 1968, blacks accounted for 3,446 of them. It is almost certain that passivity played a role in so many of us being lynched.

I hollered and harangued them until they demanded the microphone back. I gave it up reluctantly and left.

When the Q&A began I couldn't contain my disappointment and rage at these "gatekeepers" lack of backbone and their reiteration of Jim Crow era passivity and compliance. "Let's resolve our differences in a court of law; let's assert our rights under the constitution." I hollered and harangued them until they demanded the microphone back. I gave it up reluctantly and left. All the filming I did will be deleted. When I awoke this morning the idea of disarming the police popped up in my head. I Googled it and, lo and behold, there was a plethora of articles and research on unarmed policing. Wow! Research! One needs to only step outside of the "experts" bubble and a whole world contradicting (or confirming) "American Exceptionalism" is there for the viewing.

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When you think about the recruits for the police force attending the police academy, remember that you are seeing children embarking on a career. They have no life experience and few, if any, tools to resolve conflicts or enforce rules and regulations. Upon completing their training/robotization at the police academy, they are given a gun and a badge and dumped into poor communities of color to "break them in." In those uniforms are people who have never been in charge of anyone in their lives and have no idea of how to handle people in everyday situations. If citizens resist in any way the "newbie’s" immediately resort to force and authority. I see this everyday as I traverse the streets of Harlem. In a routine traffic stop they will approach your car with their hands on their guns.

What If They Had No Guns?

What if new recruits had to work community patrol without guns? Unimaginable? They have been doing it in Great Britain since the 19th century.

"While some in London were issued revolvers prior to 1936, from that date on only trained officers at the rank of sergeant or above were issued guns, and even then only if they could demonstrate a good reason for requiring one."

Trained officers? Is that who we give guns to? Nope, we give guns to everyone on the force regardless of training, emotional stability, maturity, or need.

If we are going to end the daily slaughter of black youth in this country we are going to have to hold the police civilly and criminally personally liable for all of their actions. And, we are going to have to disarm them. To make these things happen we are going to have to organize all communities of poor people of color, nationwide, to take control of the politics of their neighborhoods and to turn them into communities that are under their own control. Lack of organized communities is at the root of all our problems. Let's come together.

jazz hayden

Joseph "Jazz" Hayden