By Donald Earl Collins
The history of policing in the US has been one of protecting private property, money and lives of the affluent and politically powerful, at least since the NYPD’s founding in 1845. Any new efforts at police reform – calls for which are growing stronger with each new death of an unarmed person of color at the hands of the police – will be unsuccessful if they exclude revisions to this most basic of reasons for the existence of modern law enforcement.
Freddie Gray is just the latest in a long list of men and women of color who have died during a police encounter in the last year, a list that already includes Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Miriam Carey, Tamir Rice, Antonio Zambrano-Montes and Michael Brown. Some have suggested that one possible solution is the introduction of police body cameras, which are far from being the panacea they are made out to be – the purchase and maintenance of which just happen to benefit corporations. That is why it is vital that any efforts to fix our broken police departments are not one-off trends promoted by and for the benefit of elites.
One can already imagine the White House bringing together a group of billionaire philanthropists, former politicians and Ivy League graduates trained in data mining to form a commission that would allow them to impose their own ideas of police reform across the country. New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, now-former US attorney general Eric Holder, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and philanthropists such as Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and George Soros are exactly the kind of figures who would populate this kind of body.
These self-chosen stewards would likely proceed to seek recommendations from a few handpicked law professors, ex-police officers and law enforcement agencies on how to raise policing standards. This group of leaders, technocrats and do-gooder billionaires may even come up with a workable value-added metrics system for evaluating police effectiveness annually – but their efforts would ultimately fail us.