Given the increasing public awareness and outrage at the murderous institutional racism in the justice system that starts with metropolitan police forces, we must seize the opportunity to do something about our own. The forced resignation of Chief Greg Suhr, while positive, was only a cosmetic change to this department. We need to go deeper.
We should begin by asking ourselves what it is that the police actually do for us. Mostly, they function as appendages of the federal government, carrying out “joint operations” against undocumented immigrants and drug dealers, often both at the same time (please see A True Sanctuary District). They receive lots of money from the federal government for the purpose of buying leftover ordnance from the U.S. military that they turn against protestors for social justice, notably against protestors in Ferguson, Missouri last year. They kill our neighbors in broad daylight at the slightest provocation; frequently justifying such murders by saying they feared for their safety or that of their partners. When they are criticized for things like the murder of Mario Woods or Jessica Williams, they respond by saying that no one appreciates them for the good job they do protecting us most of the time, and the San Francisco Police Officers’ Association (SFPOA) obliquely threatens to “withdraw protection” from anyone who criticizes the deadly use of violence by the police.
Protecting us from what? The fact is that San Francisco is a city with a very low crime rate. Many of the crimes that take place in the City are crimes that attempt to address the economic disparity brought about by the massive siphoning of social wealth into the upper classes of society. This disparity should be addressed with resources and services paid for by progressive taxation, not by jailing people. We think most of the crime will go away. In solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives, we call for:
- Demilitarizing SFPD and the Sheriff’s Department. All military surplus weaponry, vehicles, and armor that have been acquired by SFPD must be taken from them and destroyed. The City’s policy of SFPD non-cooperation with ICE must be enforced. We should also implement a policy of non-cooperation with the DEA and other federal authorities with respect to drug trafficking.
- Defunding the SFPD and the Sheriff’s Department. As part of the policy of non-cooperation with the ICE, the DEA, and other federal agencies, the SFPD and the Sheriff’s Department must refuse all future funding for such activities. What funds they have collected so far as well as their entire budget should be redirected to implementing a massive program to address the impoverishment and suffering of San Francisco’s workers, African-American, and immigrant communities that are the motivation of most of the City’s petty crime, often held to be the justification for the maintenance of the police force, paid for with funds appropriated from the police department at the earliest opportunity.
- Disarming the SFPD and the Sheriff’s Department. This will be partially accomplished through the demilitarization of the police, but here is where we will finish the job. It wouldn’t surprise us at all to learn, taking sum of the experience of the law enforcement community at a national scale in the U.S., that nearly every item officially issued to the police had been applied to deadly purpose at some point in the history of the cops. Nevertheless, we are willing to leave them with their uniforms as souvenirs, if nothing else. Everything else: guns, ammunition, tasers, clubs, restraints, and so on down the line to their whistles should be stripped from them.
- Disbanding the police. All cops who have committed murder, all those who have covered for them, and all those who have stood by while these murders were committed should be fired, stripped of their pensions and their honors, and prosecuted. The SFPOA should be recognized as a management structure as opposed to a labor union and be expelled from the labor council and subjected to a reorganization that will involve the dismissal of its officials. Given that the firings will effectively leave us without police, and the social programs will eliminate any pretense of a need for them, dismantle and abolish the San Francisco Police Department and the Sheriff’s Department. What little mediation of justice remains to be accomplished should be accomplished by democratically elected neighborhood councils (please see A Community-Powered District).
- Impeaching and firing Mayor Ed Lee for his support of this department that has, with the publication of the texting scandal among many other things been proven to be a racist institution by its own very low standards.