The "police are at the cutting edge of racist and political repression," says the Chicago Alliance Against Racial and Political Repression (CAARPR). On May 16-17 at the University of Chicago International House, the group will hold a National Forum on Police Crimes.
The forum is devised to promote a "renewed effort to build a multi-racial, multi-national movement" against police crimes, government surveillance, mass incarceration, and the "systemic injustice institutionalizing present day penal slavery, now widely recognized as lying at the root of the "New Jim Crow."
"New Jim Crow" refers to what many in social justice movements see as a new form of slavery happening within our justice system. Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" speaks of a "new system of racialized social control" that "creates and maintains racial hierarchy much as earlier systems of control did. Mass incarceration operates as a tightly networked system of laws, policies, customs and institutions that operate collectively to ensure the subordinate status of a group defined largely by race."
The movement to Stop Police Crimes began in 2012 with the formation of the Organizing Committee To Stop Police Crimes. This committee was to organize a People's Hearing on Police Crimes and to provide an organizing vehicle for the community.
There have been two hearings organized by the Committee in close relation with affected communities and victims of police crimes. Both were well attended with testimony from victims and their families. A clear objective came from these hearings to pass legislation creating an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council for the historically corrupt Chicago police department. The National Forum will build on the momentum created from these hearings.
A University of Illinois Chicago study found that since 1960, a total of 295 Chicago police officers had been convicted of serious crimes, with 102 convictions since 2000, 47 of which were drug and gang related crimes. The study also found that both police authorities and public officials have up to now failed to provide adequate anti-corruption oversight and leadership.
It should be noted that the study only used the 295 convictions, not including non-criminal misconduct and unethical behavior. The study also acknowledges the issues of unreported crime and misconduct and the famed "blue wall of silence" cover-ups that make it difficult to find the true extent of police corruption.
Also tied in to this "blue wall of silence" are cases like the shooting death of Flint Farmer. Farmer, a 29-year-old African American man, was killed by police officer Gildardo Sierra, who fired 16 shots, one wounding Farmer in the thigh, and three in his back as he lay face down and injured. Farmer held only a cell phone, which Sierra says he mistook as a weapon.
Despite police squad car footage showing the incident and Sierra's own admission that he had consumed "multiple beers" before the killing, Cook County state's attorney Anita Alvarez declared the shooting justified. Alvarez has ruled that each of the 70 police killings of civilians since 2009 was justified.
The Forum will include panels on police accountability and breakout sessions focusing on police crimes against specific groups like the labor movement, the undocumented community, and the LGBTQ community. Saturday evening after closing comments, the Charlene Mitchell Human Rights Awards Dinner will be held at Trinity United Church of Christ, followed by a rally with keynote speaker Angela Davis.
Sign CAARPR's petition to form an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council at http://naarpr.org/petition-elected-civilian-police-accountability-council/. The agenda for the forum can be found here: http://naarpr.org/national-forum-police-crimes-tentative-agenda/ (en español http://naarpr.org/programacion-para-el-foro-nacional-de-delitos-policiales), and you can register here: http://naarpr.org/national-forum-police-crimes/