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The State

In Defense of Our Future

Recorded session from 4/25/2021
Statement from Maureen Taylor – Michigan Welfare Rights Organization


This is all a hot mess.  Let me share my thoughts...   


To me, there is a single thread of truth that is woven into all these horrific police killings.  Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Adam Toledo, Rayshard Brooks, Daunte Wright, and on and on and on... all these events happened in different cities.  To explain the origin of these incidents using the old standby of 'one bad apple' misses the point.  The virus is in the system that orchestrates how police units nationwide are trained.   


The origins of policing in America can be traced back to those efforts to organize 'armed posses' to find and return escaped slaves and indentured servants for a fee.  Finding volunteers to conduct these searches became a business that required a stable force that could be depended on, so the volunteer posse concept was replaced by forming 'legal paid units' that were authorized to conduct searches, keep the people in line and afraid, and protect the rights and belongings of the property class. By now, we should recognize the same scenario played out over and over again as unarmed victim after victim of state-sponsored police terrorism is murdered.  Words like 'center-mass' which describes the most effective area to discharge a firearm into the chest cavity, phrases like 'feared for my life' which describes the rationale used most often to explain why another unarmed person was shot, and the myriad of other excuses that are tied to the death of yet another America worker are common place now.


'Defunding the Police' is a slogan offered by anti-police brutality protestors which has raised the hairs on the back of many necks as attempts are on-going to ignore the essence of what is being demanded. A deeper look reveals that police units have to be restructured with new priorities but is that possible with capitalism in the room?   Traffic violations bring in millions to cash-strapped communities that have to maintain court systems, judges, court-recorders, police personnel, cars, weapons, prisons, jails, parole al.  A review about having street officers no longer engage driver stops that involve traffic violations when these cases represent a significant part of modern-day policing reveals the tremendous loss of revenues.  Still, these murders have galvanized the country and have forced the question that demands change while the fraternal order of police unions raise shocking amounts to help defend those who kill members of our community.


The nation is embroiled with that unmistakable truth ...working class people are the forever targets of police units that include communities of color. Officers that patrol our neighborhoods have preconceived notions about how dangerous these communities are.  They are on edge; we are on edge.  All of the economic stresses are in play as the cost of living is going up while the chances of living are going down.   Affluent communities of all colors don't have the equivalent fears of being shot by the police where they live. Class is a key factor in these shootings along with race being highlighted as a determining feature that has fueled the nation's rage because it exposes what we don't want to see.  We are not all equal. We are not all treated as equals.  Some lives are more important. The changes being demanded have to take us to a society where all lives are valued.  The process will take time, so the first steps have to move us in the right direction.  DEFUNDING THE POLICE is a first great step that has to be better defined.  If larger numbers of police were hired, if more modern weapons were available, if more and greater numbers are not keeping communities safe, then will more recreation centers, more libraries, more social work interventions, more focus on standard of living improvements take us in the right direction?   


This is a political question.  The 'quantitative' approach that involves degrees of change can take us just so far. More of this, more of that will move the struggle ahead but it won't get us to the essential change we are demanding.  We have to explore what the 'qualitative' change is that will affect and offer the changes we want to see.  Systemic alterations are called for.  


Pruning the tree because of a 'bad apple' here or there won't get the problems solved.  Police brutality, fraternal order of police unions, poverty, racism, hunger, homelessness, limited vaccine access, public water access, disappearing affordable housing, all these circumstances are evidence of rotten roots...we have to dig deeper.   MDT


The police killing of 16 year old Makia Bryant,13 year old Adam Toledo, and 20 year old Daunte Wright, each in a matter of seconds and all occurring during the trial of George Floyd’s killer attests to the barbarism that we as a people are sinking into. It is difficult to draw any other conclusion in a nation that by far leads the world in the incarceration (2 million) and police killings (over one thousand in 2020) of its citizens. No amount of parsing the details of each incident can explain away the disturbing trends disclosed by these statistics.


As a social worker with 40 years of experience in child welfare and mental health, I have been involved in numerous situations similar in threat level to that resulting in Bryant’s death. I vividly recall one incident in which I and a colleague spent two hours deescalating a situation where a 15-year-old threatened to kill herself after we had persuaded her to not harm another girl she had threatened to stab in a dispute over a boy.


As a mental health worker, I have had numerous life-threatening encounters with patients rendered dangerous due to paranoid thoughts, delusions of persecution, command hallucinations, and other forms of psychiatric distress.


In all the above encounters, which I estimate to 20 or so over 25 years in mental health work, only one resulted in loss of life and that was due to my failure to fully discharge my responsibility to a patient threatening suicide. She succeeded because I failed to arrange for follow up suicide prevention monitoring.


I emphasize that the success I experienced was not unusual. Thousands of social workers and other helping professionals achieve similar results in their crisis intervention work. It is a deep and unflagging commitment to help, to relieve suffering, to do no harm that accounts for our success. And we do what we do without guns.


I do not minimize the dangers inherent in such encounters. However, in most instances, this danger can be managed and mitigated by competent professional intervention. In any crisis there exists the possibility of a bad outcome, but the frequency of such outcomes in police involved encounters, especially with people of color cannot be justified.


What explains the difference in outcomes? I attribute it to diametrically opposed approaches in ideological orientation that informs training and shapes attitudes and perceptions in encounters with the public. As a social worker, I was taught to value and respect humanity and that my mission was the preservation of life and the enhancement of its quality. Such an outlook informed and guided my day-to-day practice and produced the results I allude to above. By contrast, the police are ideologically conditioned and trained to shoot to terminate what they perceive to be a threat to themselves and presumably to others. “Terminate” in essence means to kill as police are trained to shoot into the “center mass” of the body. “Threat” is treated as imminent danger requiring stress laden, split second “fight or flight” response, resulting in lethal outcomes.


What we have here is a militarized ideology to complement the military hardware provided to police departments by the Pentagon. Under the influence of such an ideology the marginalized and racialized civilian population becomes the enemy, their communities enemy territory to be occupied and controlled. Confrontation with the “enemy” is reduced to a deadly “us versus them” mentality in which the use of lethal force is dictated by the laws of war.


And it does not stop here. This militarized and overtly terroristic approach to social control is justified and rationalized in the media and codified in public policy and civil law. It must be recognized that laws empowering the police to respond lethally to perceived threats is, in fact, a license to kill with impunity.


What we are experiencing today are the horrible human costs of the dismantling of the social welfare safety net over the past several decades. The fact is that despite their unqualified success in the resolution of child welfare, domestic, and mental health crises, social and mental health services were gutted, and the skeletal remains of their functions handed over to the police leading to the disastrous consequences confronting us today.


Who are we? What are we If we collectively fail to rise to the defense of our children? What must be done to prevent the inevitable increase in the tragedies we have thus far witnessed?


Clearly, at the spiritual level we must commit to a moral revival, the resurrection of the core values of civility and mutual respect, and the re-assertion of belief in the sanctity of human life. At the practical level, there is the urgent need to simultaneously rebuild our social welfare infrastructure and demilitarize the police.


Wylie Rogers, Ph D, Chicago,


Derek Chauvin is not on trial because prosecutors and the Minneapolis Police Department have a deep commitment to justice. It is taking place because millions took to the streets to demand justice for George Floyd, and the people of Minneapolis themselves mobilized in a militant and forceful way. If justice is to be found in this system, it will only be found using the methods of mass, militant struggles that make the chant “No Justice, No Peace,” real.


Real justice can’t happen until trials like Derek Chauvin are the norm, and not the exception, since the police violence that killed George Floyd is the same violence that killed Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and countless others. Real justice means an end to the over-policing and hyper-surveillance of Black and Brown people. Real justice looks like an end to the funding of punitive institutions that don’t address the social issues that plague Black, Brown, and working class communities all across this country, and the world.


Again, the only way justice will be served is through collective, mass, militant action that uplifts the interests of the working-class and oppressed communities, not the interests of the Democratic and Republican Party, and the career politicians that run these political parties.The needs of the people can only be prioritized when the masses have direct control over the resources that our labor produces, ensuring that our collective needs are met instead of the “needs” of individual billionaires.

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