It would be a gross understatement to say our political system is simply broken. To its core, our political system is morally, fiscally and socially corrupted and diseased. Both political parties in our two-party system have chosen to reinforce colonialist white supremacy at each level of every branch of government. And while there have been some redeeming actions and people on either side, where we are today is due in large part to the power our political system wields over our communities and our nations. More often than not, it’s to the detriment of the nation.
On Saturday, May 30, 2020, a young Black father was murdered by a known white supremacist. And I believe that the fault of that tragedy lies firmly at the feet of the mayor, the police chief, the city council, the electorate and every single “community leader.” And here’s why.
I understand that many people feel that the political system can’t be changed.
It can. It has to.
And most importantly, it will not take generations to achieve it. Throughout American history we’ve seen what happens when communities of people mobilize around collective demands. Right now, our demand is to defund and disband the police as it exists today. That means a lot of things.
It means removing officers from our schools, which only leads to the over-criminalization of non-white children who could otherwise thrive. It means a fiscal divestment from a police department who gets hundreds of millions of dollars to police our neighborhoods and our streets (the mayor’s proposed 2021 budget for OPD is $159.5 million). This leads to massive numbers from marginalized communities being sucked into a penal system that comes with lifelong subjugation and second-class citizenship.
It means the permanent removal of police officers whose misconduct in any other profession would end their career and possibly lead to jail time. Police have historically received temporary leave and a well-funded union demanding their reinstatement. It means an end to a system that targets non-white people for social, political and economic demise because of the power of a badge and the color of your skin.
The beauty is these are all things we can demand, today.
Divert $100,000 from the OPD budget for a citizen’s review board for all instances of police misconduct since May 29. Hire an independent police auditor who has demonstrated impartiality to assist the review board, and host an open application process. Require at least two representatives from each city council district, and at least one individual per district who is a person from a marginalized group historically impacted by police violence.
Divert $10 million from the police budget to a program partnering with the United Way of the Midland’s 211 Resource Hotline, the Women’s Center for Advancement and others who work with impacted individuals to help citizens experiencing a non-violent crisis.
Lay off police officers who have had more than 10 complaints of misconduct in a two-year period. Create a public accountability system for every officer who works in the community who has had a formal complaint filed against them for misconduct, during the entirety of their tenure with the police force. The public has a right to know who we are letting into our cars, our homes, our businesses, our neighborhoods and our communities. If professionals in other fields—where lives and livelihoods may or may not be on the line—are held publicly accountable for their adherence to ethical standards that reflect the gravity of their ability to change a life, then police officers certainly should. Thus far, there is no evidence to support that an officer’s life is in danger when they are held publicly accountable for their actions. And in the rare instances that there has been an officer who has become a household name—usually involving the murder of an unarmed person of color—they deserve the same level of protection that other citizens get when they are being investigated for murder.
City Council—pass an ordinance that makes it illegal for officers fired for misconduct to rejoin any local law enforcement agencies. In any other job, repeated and/or gross misconduct would result in not only the loss of your job, but also the loss of your ability to practice your profession. When someone is given a duty to protect our community and is armed excessively with deadly force, the absolute minimum our publicly funded systems can do is ensure that if they abuse that privilege, they be removed.
Drop the charges for everyone arrested since the unrest that began with explosive police violence on May 29. The county is reaping tens of thousands of dollars in the cash bail system that disproportionately targets people of color. And the only reason that the protests exploded was because the police escalated them, tear-gassing and shooting peaceful protesters with pepper bullets. Now Omahans who were arrested face costly court battles to defend the exercise of their constitutional rights. It’s a battle many can’t afford, leading to plea deals and the acceptance of an unnecessary criminal conviction. It will continue to affect their ability to work, find livable housing, feed themselves and their families, etc.
We need to dismantle our policing system, but that only happens when we topple the whole empire. We have politicians more concerned with elections and party politics than with actually doing their jobs. We have parties more concerned with maintaining power than with serving the people. We have a government that requires subjugation and compliance to rule. And we have a community suffering under the weight of a corrupt system that has its proverbial knee on our necks.
When we work together to make these demands, it’s up to these elected officials and government agencies – all funded with our tax dollars—to do their jobs. But the beauty of it is—we don’t have to accept their platitudes. We can, and will, replace them with a new public servants, a new political party, a system overall that does the actual work they are being paid to do.
The clock is ticking. Their time is up.