There’s a New Sheriff in Town

Editor’s Note: Mohammad Alabous is a student in an urban university studying for his Masters degree in Criminal Justice. He was enjoined by his professor to address the following scenario in a research paper: “A mid-sized U.S. city is in an uproar over the police murder of an unarmed Black man. The Police Chief resigned in the face of the turmoil, and you, Mohammed Alabous, have been elected to replace him. What will you do?” This is Mohammed’s response.

Introduction Upon accepting the position of Chief of Police of Ferguson, Virginia [sic], I do so acknowledging for myself, and identifying for the Department and for the communities which the Department serves, two parallel sets of characteristics: (1) What I am bringing to the job which the community feels was not present in the leadership of my predecessor; and (2) a commitment to the most progressive and innovative strategies, policies and initiatives to establish the partnership between this Department and the community it serves as the number one priority. All other aspects of our work will be seen through and developed through the prism of this partnership.

This paper is being written for the purpose of making plain what I plan to do. Under the two headings spoken of above I will detail where my practice with the Department up to now has coincided with the perspectives which community spokespeople have identified as their major concerns, including:

· Unjustified police violence against African Americans and other minority nationalities[1] in Ferguson;

· Racial prejudice as a significant presence inside our department;

· The failure of the Department and the city to consistently punish police perpetrators of unjustified violence and racial discrimination;

· The link between the drug policies which do not put a dent in the proliferation of drugs and the harm they cause, on one hand, and the mass incarceration system (Alexander, 2012), on the other, such which is present in our city, as it has concomitantly been shown to be a country-wide presence.

I’ve included a reference section to this report because many of the changes I intend to implement are drawn from a reservoir of successful efforts at addressing the issues which plague policing in our city.

Finally, by way of introduction, the specific offending event which launched this new stage in my career was the murder of an unarmed Black suspect. This event is part of an epidemic of police murders of unarmed Black men across the country, an epidemic from which the FPD cannot claim to be immune. The suspect was in custody. The bystanders, community residents who were witness to this murder, were unanimous that the suspect who was handcuffed was not reaching into his waistband, thereby precluding the officer’s demand that he take his hand out of his waistband. All video imaging of the event confirms this rendition. That three officers backed up their fellow officer’s version is an element of institutionalized racism — they are culpable in this crime. They will be prosecuted for perjury.

What has been missing? First, let me establish from the outset that the problems which the policing institution of this city has had and the problems which I intend to address — of police violence, racism, discrimination in application of drug interdictment policy, etc. — are germane to urban policing in the United States. Ferguson is not an egregious example of an urban setting where policing has all the hallmarks of the white supremacist system[2] which gave birth to policing in the United States. I have not been asked to take this position because Ferguson is an egregious, aberrant example. It is not — it is typical. I have been asked to “clean up this mess” because police murders of unarmed Black men are egregious crimes, because racism in any police department is a violation of the human rights of all citizens in this city, because a drug policy which jails the victims of the drug proliferation is a failed policy, and one that egregiously effects the living conditions of the people of this city.

What has been missing is leadership which is committed to taking apart this unjust system. What has been missing is leadership in this city which is willing to hear and take seriously the demands of its people, and is willing to act on these demands. That leadership has now arrived.

The Steps to be taken First, police who murder unarmed Black men are going to be fired, and charged with murder — they are not going on paid leave (vacation) to recover from the “trauma” they have experienced.

Second, all police who want to go above the rank of foot patrol must be enrolled in school to gain a BA in Human Services. Boston’s Community Policing Program implemented this requirement under Mayor Tom Menino in 2004 (Ukani, 2017). These police now are taking courses which direct them to understand service alongside nurses, social workers, and community activists. These courses are in local community colleges. The classmates of these White police officers are from the neighborhoods they are policing; they are Black, Latino, from the Caribbean, from Africa, the Middle East and other parts of Asia. The program in Boston has succeeded in merging police work with the other human services in the city, and merging police with the people of the community.

Third, over the next five years People of Color will be 60% of the police force, reflecting their numbers in the city population. This will be achieved through replacing retired police, replacing recalcitrant racists in the department, and adding to our numbers. No longer will People of Color sit in their neighborhoods and see a segregated police force: this city is 60% of-Color, and FPD is 7% of-Color (Peak, 2014). The time when the police department looks like a foreign occupation army to the people it’s supposed to be serving is over. No longer will People of Color be mere tokens, spicing up the ambiance of the buildings in which we reside. This department will look like the people we are serving.

Fourth, in matters of police misconduct I will cede executive power to the Ferguson Community Review of Police Board (CRPB), which up to now has had only the power of protest. The CRPB is a volunteer community agency, originated by, and organized for the people of communities which feel they have been marginalized by police violence against them, and by racial discrimination perpetrated by this Department. They have provided programs to protect the people of the community from the police. That is a shame, but it has been necessary up to now. Now, this Board has a police chief who is on their side, who is going to empower their review with the stamp of the executive. This Board has produced studies with statistical documentation, incontrovertibly proving racial discrimination and the effect it has on alienating the minority nationality communities from the police department. No more. Indeed, one of the principal reasons which community leaders give for their endorsement of my elevation to Chief is the respect I have shown for the work of this Board, and specifically for the use I have made of the studies the CRPB has provided for us. Now, when this Board does an investigation, finds for racial discrimination, and identifies those responsible, those responsible will be fired. Studies around the country have shown that when community review boards have power, police departments change their ways for the better (National Association for Oversight of Law Enforcement, 2016).

Community oversight of police has a rich history, which includes dedicated organizing on the part of subject communities, and also, regrettably, fierce resistance by police departments. However, the record shows that police departments who buy into the notion that community oversight is a great support to police work have seen a decrease in crime, and increased community satisfaction with the job performed by police departments (Nacole, 2016). According to the National Association for Oversight of Law Enforcement the benefits are tangible:

· Complainants are given a venue to air grievances outside of the official police department organizational structure;

· Oversight enjoins police departments to clean up their investigation of themselves and can improve the department’s own investigative techniques;

· When officers are exonerated by this oversight agency, the people of the community have more faith in the decision than they do when the police exonerate themselves;

· The oversight agency mediates conflicts between the community and the police.

Fifth Step: This Department is going to seek out the most authoritative scholars, political activists and researchers to create an in-house course for our police on the subject of the “war on drugs.” This war has been a war against minority nationalities and poor people across the country, and in Ferguson at a commensurate pace. This college-level course will prepare our Department for a clean switch from the US policy (the war on drugs) to one which targets the real criminals. We will actually be implementing the law against money laundering in this city (Ball, 2011). Any bank which is harboring the accounts of drug dealers dressed up as legitimate businessmen will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. All evidence proves that those who are making the largest volume of profits from the drug industry as a whole are the monopoly capitalist banks which siphon hundreds of billions of dollars in drug money illegally each year.[3] The level of the proliferation of drugs in this country, and, indeed, in this city, could not be maintained without the key mechanism of laundering the money to hide the criminal activity — that is, make it look legitimate (Harvey, 2008). By what perspective, I am must ask you, is this a crime of less importance than the kid on the corner? No longer will real drug dealers like bankers get off with “community service” while a lowly, unemployed drug addict gets 20 years for possession (Alexander, 2012). Those days are over. These drug dealer/bankers are going to serve time in prison.

This department will focus its attention on catching those drugs dealers who are bringing the drugs into the community. No longer will the focus of our anti-drug efforts be on the hapless kid on the corner selling dimes of heroin or $20 jums of crack. We will be engaged in community partnerships to find jobs for these kids. Does anybody here really think that the peoples of the communities are so stupid that they do not know who is really responsible for the drug trade?

Recent research, led by Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking study The New Jim Crow (2012), has proven that the incarceration for minor non-violent drug-related offenses has almost nothing at all to do with crime prevention. Your new Chief of Police says “almost” because, the way this criminal “justice” system allows bankers and military administrators to maintain the drug trade (Kerry, 1988), while placing nonviolent drug offenders in prison for terms of up to multiple decades, is itself a crime against humanity, according to International Law (United Nations, 2017). Indeed, according to former U.S. Senator John Kerry (MA), the large majority of drugs get into the U.S. from regions where the U.S. is at war (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos during the war perpetrated by this country against the people of Vietnam, and the current wars perpetrated by this country in Afghanistan and Colombia), and they get into the country through U.S. military transport planes (Kerry). This administration will do everything in its power to trace back the drugs we find on the street to their source in U.S. military personnel — they are as knee deep and culpable as are the bankers. Indeed, a youth organization in Boston, MA (Free My People, 2004) researched the proliferation of heroin in the Black[4] and Latino communities (2001–2004) by interviewing their cousins and brothers who switched from dealing cocaine to heroin over the previous two years, in other words, since the U.S. military began its occupation of Afghanistan. From these kids on the street, the youthful researchers followed the line of exchange back to Afghanistan and found that 75% of the world’s heroin originated in that one country under U.S. military rule (2003). Today, 2017, 90% of the world’s heroin comes from there, and 80% is consumed here (Google-it-up — it will do you no harm…). If youth “from the ‘hood” can do such research, should not we as a police department be at least as proficient in our search for the source of crime in our neighborhoods? We must be held to the standard set by these children.

Sixth: Meanwhile, petty drug offenders, addicts and small time dealers alike, will be sent to addiction treatment centers and job training programs rather than to for-profit prisons. Yes, that prison down the street from Police Headquarters in Ferguson, which houses a population of 92% of-Color inmates, 80% of whom have been incarcerated for petty drug offenses — this administration is going to prepare these petty offenders for legal employment. This is the definition of community policing: serving the justice needs of the community. These petty offenders are victims of the war on drugs which itself is a criminal enterprise, in the estimation of your new Chief of Police. The for-profit prison system, named by Michelle Alexander “the mass incarceration system” (a name which has stuck and is used in replacement of the curious and inaccurate “criminal justice system,” by human rights advocates all across the country today), will be fought against by this administration. One of our goals will be to close this human warehouse designed to make profits from the slave labor of our sons and daughters. As we said earlier, the for-profit prison system has its roots in chattel slavery, and is a product of the white supremacist system.

A Seventh policy initiative from this administration will be to align ourselves with all those community agencies and organizations who are trying to deliver on a model of Restorative Justice (Lynn, 2016), and to move away from the punishment model for deterring crime. If for no other reason, the restorative justice model, when embraced by police departments, has had a great influence in bringing local police forces into closer working/collaborative relationships with the communities they serve (Bailes, 2016). According to Captain Joe Bailes of the Madison, Wisconsin police Department (a city with similar size and demographics to Ferguson, VA), he jumped feet first into the restorative justice system there because his training and subsequent practice in this method turned him from a warrior into a community peace-maker - a totally different persona from that of the paramilitary persona he had previous to the implementation of restorative justice in his town (2016).

Eighth Step: Community policing will not be an adjunct program of this department — it will be the department, its identity as a public agency of Ferguson. This Police Department, from this day forward, will be seeking ways to become the Community Police Department.

Conclusion I am proposing to implement a new system. Each of the eight steps I have listed above is hand-in-glove- an element of a systematic effort; each is coincident with the other seven initiatives. The elements complement each other. It is a system of community policing; indeed, a community policing which is more than the sum of its parts; a community policing which is the system of the police department, not an adjunct of it.

1. Prosecute offenders equally. Police who commit murder will be prosecuted in the same manner as any other citizen who commits a similar crime;

2. The position of police officer is a human services avocation;

3. Minority nationality citizens, not just White citizens, will be allowed to be police officers also — commensurate with their numbers in the Ferguson population;

4. Community oversight of this department; community oversight of me;

5. The hypocritical “war on drugs” will end in Ferguson, to be replaced by treatment and job training for petty offenders, and long retraining sentences for billionaires who are caught making money from human misery in our city;

6. Close down the mass incarceration system as a criminal endeavor perpetrated by corporate slavers;

7. Implement Restorative Justice;

8. We are the Community Policing Department henceforth.

Each of the first seven of these eight steps is an element of the last one. They are each coincident, intertwined and mutually supporting elements of our new Community Policing Department. The war on drugs has been a war against the people of the community. Give them jobs not jails. The mass incarceration system is in service of the drug industry — they work hand-in-hand. White police who have been ensconced in white supremacist values will be retrained or be gone. It’s either join with other community members to make a better world or be gone. Restorative Justice is a serve-the-people program. The system of Community Policing in Ferguson, VA will be a system of serve-the-people programs.

[1] Note #1 on nomenclature: The term “minority nationality” comes from International Law which respects peoples equally. This paper does not use the term “minority” to refer to peoples who come from the 84% of the world’s people who are not of White/European ancestry. A nationality (“of nation”) is a human quality while “minority” is a quantity. Further, in most cases to refer to People of Color as “minorities” is numerically inaccurate. In the case of the city for whom I now serve as Chief of Police, the “majority is minorities” — this “concept” does violence to the English language. Therefore, since People of Color are not numerically in the minority, calling them “minorities” is a statement about their human quality — less than, minor — in comparison to White people.

[2] There is no police chief in the United States today who could keep his job, nay avoid being lynched, if she/he were to use the term “white supremacist system” to describe the foundation of the ills of his/her police department. This is a paper for a criminal justice class, and I am being asked what I would do. In this connection, chattel slavery was a white supremacist system (Baptist, 2014) and so was Jim Crow (Blackmon, 2009). Today’s mass incarceration system (Alexander, 2012) is equally a white supremacist system. This system generates the ubiquitous nature of unjustified police violence against African American men. It is this system which generates the sense in People of Color that the police department is an occupying army in their neighborhoods, not there to protect them, but to protect White society from them. It is this same system which is complicit in dumping tons of heroin and cocaine into of-Color urban communities (Scott, 1998; McCoy, 2003), and then blaming the latter for its effects. With this wording, this paper could not be written by any police chief in the country. Indeed, that is another consequence of the white supremacist system.

[3] According to U.S. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, “Money laundering occurs when criminals attempt to disguise proceeds from criminal activities as legitimate funds. One way to launder money is to deposit the funds into U.S. banks or other financial institutions. Current estimates [this was 1999] are that $500 billion to $1 trillion in illegal funds are laundered through banks worldwide each year, with about half going through U.S. banks” (U.S. Senate Hearings on Money Laundering, 1999). Indeed, who are the real criminals?

[4] In accordance with the respectful naming utilized in International Law, all human groups are given proper names with capital letters: Black, White, People-of-Color, Latinos, Lesbians, etc. This differs from a system of naming which affords some human groups proper names and refers to others in names which connote objects and quantities rather than as subjects with human qualities.

References

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Bailes, Joe. (2016). “Strengthening ties between police and the community: A conversation about Restorative Justice in Madison, Wisconsin.” Center for Court Innovation. https://www.courtinnovation.org/publications/strengthening-ties-between-police-and-community-conversation-about-restorative-justice

Ball, Deborah. (2011). “U.S. banks oppose tighter money rules”. Wall Street Journal.

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Blackmon, Douglas. (2009). Slavery by another name: The re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. Anchor.

Free My People. (2004). “Human rights and heroin wrongs.” Love in Action newspaper. Social Justice Education.

Harvey, Jackie. (2008). “Money laundering.” Money Laundering Bulletin, Issue 154. Newcastle Business School.

Kerry, John. (1988). “The Kerry Report: Drugs, law enforcement and foreign policy.Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations. Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate.

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Levin, Carl. (1999). “U.S. Senate hearings on money laundering.” www.lib.msu.edu/harris23/crimjust/money/lau.htm.

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McCoy, Alfred W. (2003). The Politics of heroin: CIA complicity in the global drug trade. Lawrence Hill Books.

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Peak, Chris. (2014). “How to increase the number of minority police officers.” NationSwel http://nationswell.com/strategies-to-increase-number-of-minority-police-officers/.

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Ukani, Alisha. (2017).Does Boston have the best police? A case study in police-community relations?” Harvard Political Review. http://harvardpolitics.com/united-states/does-boston-have-the-best-police-a-case-study-in-police-community-relations/

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