socialist movement

Reform the police? A serious discussion needed

Friends and comrades,

“Police reform” is one of the major issues of the day. For liberals and social democrats, the question stops there. Marxists have to have clarity on the question.

We all agree that the police are not part of the working class and cannot be made to serve our interests. The “community” – meaning the working class – can never control the police. Nor will the proposed reforms solve the problem. We, as working class people, need to take care of ourselves. In the end, we have to seek to resolve the issues of violence within the working class through our own organizations. But does that mean that we simply reject or ignore all the proposals for reform? Or do we make our own proposals while also explaining that this won’t resolve the problem?

For example, should we demand that in any case where a cop is accused of brutality or murder that the victim, or the victim’s family in the case of a murder, be entitled to appoint her or his own attorney to participate in the official investigation and if it comes to that the prosecution of the cop(s)? How about demanding that it be easier to fire cops? Or to sue them personally?

In short, how do we orient to police reform? Do we reject it wholesale because the police can never serve the working class? Do we just jump in without any explanation of the role of the police? Or do we, in effect do a bit of both? If we don’t clarify this issue, we run the risk of either being irrelevant to a major issue of the day or, on the other hand, of being sucked into the “reform the police” movement and become disoriented.

We are proposing an open discussion among Marxists on this issue. At the very least, it will help clarify our thinking. At best, maybe we can come up with some sort of agreed approach and statement that can serve to help orient a broader layer of both the left and some workers in general. We hope you would be interested.

John Reimann, former recording secretary, Carpenters Local 713,
Sarah Morken, health care worker, Tenino WA
Cheryl Zuur, past president, AFSMCE Local 444
Luke Pickrell, social worker
Irene Kellogg, member UFT and community organizer

If you would like to participate in such a discussion, please contact us at:

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