In July, the names of Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo were added to those of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., Ramarley Graham, Shantel Davis, Rasheed Simms, Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, Sergio Guereca, Carlos La Madrid, Derek Lopez, Raul Rosas and countless others who have been murdered by the police. In the immediate aftermath of the Manuel Diaz murder, residents of the Anaheim, CA, neighborhood where he was shot took to the streets to confront the police over the unjustified killing. Police dispersed the crowd with tear gas, rubber bullets and a rampaging police dog that tried to attack an infant (Democracy Now, 7/24/12).
The murders and the police response have led many to wonder whether the police have declared war on black and Latino communities. In fact, for forty years now the police have officially declared war on the entire working class. Following the urban uprisings of the late 1960s, the ruling class looked for better ways to control working-class anger. Because black, Latino and immigrant workers are the most exploited under capitalism, the bosses fear their anger and use racist ideas and outright racist attacks to keep populations passive. Since the sixties, the police have become increasingly militarized.
Marines Train SWAT Teams
The police began to train with Special Forces units back from Vietnam in techniques to put down insurgent movements. The LAPD, ever the “innovators,” responded to labor unrest by creating the first SWAT teams, trained at Camp Pendleton Marine base in military techniques of civilian repression. Indeed, their first deployment was in operations attacking striking farm workers in Delano, CA, in 1969.
Since then, a mix of increased federal funding and confiscation laws passed in the 1980s has led to the proliferation of paramilitary SWAT teams across the country, armed to the teeth with the latest military weaponry. Few understand the extent to which these units were armed directly by the military. Between 1995 and 1997 the Defense Department gave out, free of cost, 6,400 bayonets, 3,800 M-16s, 2,185 M-14s, 73 M-79 grenade launchers, and 112 Armored Personnel Carriers. The number of these paramilitary units has increased to over 1,200 today in diverse communities from New York City to the University of Central Florida.
This new strategy of counter-insurgency that developed in U.S. policing after the 1960s was called “weed and seed” amongst police forces but is known better by its military jargon “Clear-Hold-Build.” The idea was to single out “trouble spots” (working-class neighborhoods) and flood them with SWAT-team raids in an overwhelming show of force: “shock and awe,” which includes the stop-and-frisk of hundreds of thousands of mainly black and Latino youth.
Community Policing: The ‘Friendly’ Cops
Then while police terror was still high a program of community infiltration would begin. Known as “community policing,” officers walk neighborhood streets and infiltrate schools, churches and youth programs under the guise of police-community partnerships. Schools install metal detectors and allow police to roam their halls, making the student body conform to the fascist invasion of personal space. Churches bring police into community partnerships that provide a cover for police abuse. Various youth programs encourage kids to see the police as their allies in a struggle against their own community.
Under community policing, the police are able to gather intelligence on target communities that is stored in digital information warehouses. In LA, police carry a list of 65 “suspicious activities” that, when witnessed, are filed in a report that is catalogued at a Joint Fusion Center (a digital database that can be accessed by police, FBI, and Dept. of Homeland Security). It is important to note that in these intelligence operations no crime is being committed, yet surveillance is legalized. As participants in the “war on terror,” police and intelligence agencies openly spy on citizens in ways that would have been kept secret a generation ago.
Police use this intelligence gathering to then disrupt activities of those who might pose a threat to the capitalist order. Their strategy is classic counter-insurgency. Shock the system with a massive show of force, then infiltrate the community dissolving the social bonds that tie people together. Once the population is isolated by terrorism and induced paranoia, they can be dominated. They become more susceptible to the attacks on their wages, schools, health, and environment that allow the capitalists to live large on the backs of the working class.
New Strategy A Killing Machine
The result of the adoption of a counter-insurgency strategy by police has been a steady increase in the number of police murders, which average 373 people killed per year (though the lack of statistics makes this a low estimate). The use of deadly force by police increased 34% during the 1990s. During the year 2001 there were over 40,000 deployments of SWAT teams against communities, and since 2001 there has been a 25% rise in the number of police brutality cases filed (which again grossly underestimates the actual numbers). Since 9/11 and the creation of the Homeland Security department, police and military forces have only increased their collaboration. The police have been so successful in their war that Marines received training from the LA SWAT team in urban warfare before deploying to Afghanistan in 2010.
The police violence that has claimed the lives of so many people in the U.S. is endemic to the system of capitalism that sees workers as a commodity to be dominated and exploited. The violence on the streets of New York and LA is also visited on the people in Kabul, Baghdad, and elsewhere. Imperialism breeds fascism at home and in turn fascism at home spawns violence in the imperial periphery. When capitalism is in crisis, as it is today, the capitalists’ only solution is to squeeze the working class. This means that police violence is hardly the work of “a few bad apples.” Rather it is the natural response of a repressive system that demands total obedience from the working class.J
(For more information on police tactics see the work of Christian Parenti and Kristian Williams.)