Criminalization and Police Accountability

There have been two main themes that really define Black people’s history here in the United States: exploitation of our labor and criminalization. Obviously the institution of slavery defined our first two hundred years in this country. Almost immediately after our emancipation and continuing until this day, Black people have been subjected to a systematic process of criminalization. From the establishment of the Black Codes and Convict Leasing System in the late 1800s, to the War on Black People, also known as the War on Drugs from the 19080s on, the criminal justice system has been the primary vehicle for social control and state-sanctioned violence against the Black community. The criminalization of Blackness has had devastating impacts on the lives of Black people, and has served as a major barrier for us in reaching our full human potential. Criminalization has limited our opportunities to education, housing, employment, and even the very right to live.

The Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ) strives to be a revolutionary organization focused on transforming the political, economic and social structures in society in order for Black people to achieve our fullest human potential. It is with this analysis that WCRJ has developed the following set of initiatives that will dictate our work from now on. Our collective experience of being harassed by police on a daily basis and being denied economic opportunities because of a criminal background or the perception of criminality, has informed the development of these initiatives.

The Workers Center For Racial Justice Demands the Following:

  1. United Nations Security Forces be allowed into areas of the United States with large populations of Black people in order to protect us from profiling, harassment and violence at the hands of local police – The UN has a history of sending security forces into countries to protect the citizens of that country from state-sanctioned violence and repression. When a Black person is killed on almost a daily basis in this country by police and there is no repercussions for the individual officers or the police departments, it can be seen as nothing less than the state-sanctioned execution of Black people. When we dare stand up for our constitutional and human rights to protest and petition our government for a redress of grievances, we are met with even more violence by the police and in some cases the military. Therefore we demand that the United States allow the UN to send in security forces, trained in international standards in policing and dealing with protests, to be deployed in the areas in this country to protect the rights of Black people.

  1. The United Nations creates a special Human Rights Commission to investigate the killings of Black people at the hands of police in the United States – Just like the UN established a commission to investigate the use of weapons of mass destruction against the Syrian people by the Syrian government, a similar commission should be established to investigate the violence against Black people. The investigation should also not be limited to the recent deaths of Black people like Eric Garner, Michael Brown or Tamir Rice, but stretch back to look into the deaths of Black leaders like Fred Hampton at the hands of police.

  1. Legislation be passed in Illinois to create an independent authority to oversee, monitor and discipline local and state police departments – Here in Chicago and the State of Illinois, the police have entirely too much unchecked power both in the streets and in the political arena. Elected leaders have refused to put in place mechanisms that would hold police departments accountable. WCRJ wants to create an authority that is made up of and controlled by average citizens, a majority of whom MUST come from communities of color, that can investigate, subpoena, prosecute police officers for misconduct. This authority should also have the power to grant of deny funds to police departments based on their track record.

  1. Legislation be passed in Illinois that would require all police departments to document and keep records for all interactions they have with citizens – The best way to monitor police and hold them accountable is to have accurate data on the frequency and types of interactions they have with the public. New York City’s infamous Stop and Frisk was overturned largely because the data collected by the NYPD showed the overwhelming racial bias in the policy. The Chicago Police Department and all police departments in Illinois should be required to do the same type of rigorous documentation.

  1. Pass legislation that would decriminalize marijuana possession in the State of Illinois – The War on Drugs in this country is actually a war on Black people. There is no greater example of this than the senseless arrest, prosecution and incarceration of people for marijuana possession. Despite Blacks using marijuana at basically the same rate as Whites, we make up the majority of people locked up for marijuana. Legislation to decriminalize marijuana should also be retroactive and require the immediate release of everyone serving time in jail for marijuana possession, along with the automatic expungement of his or her record.

  1. Either through legislation or Executive Action, allow all first-time nonviolent offenders to do community service instead being incarcerated – This country locks up more people than any other country in the world. In Illinois alone we have around 50,000 people locked behind bars, the majority of whom are people of color. WCRJ believes that it is time to reverse this trend, from a moral, economic and racial equity aspect. Releasing people who pose no danger to himself or herself or anyone else is good policy. This policy should also be retroactive, thereby further reducing the number of people incarcerated in this state.

  2. Issue an Executive Order that would appoint a special prosecutor in all cases involving the murder of unarmed civilians by police – State’s Attorneys and the police have a very close relationship, and depend on each other to carry out their jobs. This presents an obvious conflict of interests when it comes to States Attorneys investigating the police for any type of misconduct. We believe the only way to have a fair an unbiased investigation into police-involved murders is by appointing a special prosecutor.

 

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