Column: A researched response to the comments section for no cop academy

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Column: A researched response to the comments section for no cop academy

Sam Beard, Southern Illinois University Carbondale student trustee poses for a portrait Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, outside of the communications building in Carbondale, Illinois. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Sam Beard, Southern Illinois University Carbondale student trustee poses for a portrait Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, outside of the communications building in Carbondale, Illinois. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Munoz

Sam Beard, Southern Illinois University Carbondale student trustee poses for a portrait Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, outside of the communications building in Carbondale, Illinois. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Munoz

Brian Munoz

Sam Beard, Southern Illinois University Carbondale student trustee poses for a portrait Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, outside of the communications building in Carbondale, Illinois. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Sam Beard, Student Trustee

There will be no cop academy at SIU.

To some, opposition to the proposed cop academy at SIU makes little sense, as evidenced by comments sections attached to the various articles surrounding the new, local movement against it.

They think that the cops exist to fight crime and promote safety.

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This view of the cops, however, ignores their actual role in society, historically and today.

Police scholar David Bayley writes, “The police do not prevent crime. This is one of the best kept secrets of modern life. Experts know it, the police know it, but the public does not know it. Yet the police pretend that they are society’s best defense against crime and continually argue that if they are given more resources, especially personnel, they will be able to protect communities against crime. This is a myth.”

The actual social role of the police is articulated by sociologist Alex Vitale in The End of Policing: “The reality is that the police exist primarily as a system for managing and even producing inequality by suppressing social movements and tightly managing the behaviors of poor and nonwhite people: those on the losing end of economic and political arrangements.”

The police are always the violent defenders of the rules made by the powerful. There is no honest look at their history that can deny these facts.

Many police don’t think of their jobs in this way. Some enter the job with noble intentions of protecting people, keeping them safe.

Of course, some of them are overt white supremacists, who find the job is consistent with their genocidal worldview. But regardless of what they believe as individuals, their social function remains the same.

They are trained to see the world through a lens of paranoia, they accept the laws they are given as legitimate, and accept their own use of violence as justified.

To criticize the police is certainly not to say that they all have evil intentions. It is to say that, in many cases, they know not what they do.

Cops pledge to violently enforce the conditions that create the crime and violence that they think they are fighting.

Michelle Alexander notes in her indispensable book, The New Jim Crow, that in 1970 the U.S. Congress commissioned a study by the American Sociological Association on how to reduce crime.

The answer was clear: reduce poverty.

Most violent crimes, from domestic abuse to robbery and gang violence, are rooted in an economic caste system that keeps some people in a constant state of battling for scraps of money and dignity against others.

Prisons and police do not reduce violent crime, just as a 40 year long war on drugs has not reduced drug use or sales. Rather than reducing poverty, however, the last 40 years have seen an explosion of inequality, and consequently, an explosion of police to manage the effects of it.

The U.S. now locks up more of its population than any other country in the history of the world, including the Soviet Union at the height of the Gulag system.

This is not an accident.

The war on drugs, which has been the major justification for growing police departments around the country, was a cynical attempt to destroy the movements for liberation and equality of the 1960s and 1970s.

This was clearly stated by Nixon’s domestic policy advisor, John Erlichman, in a 1994 interview:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Today, there are growing social movements against police murder, inequality, and ecological catastrophe.

Universities are one of the few places where people can have the time to reflect on and study the conditions of our society that the police use violence to defend. They are not a place for a training ground for the agents of that violence.

The embattled Chancellor, like so many people in positions of power, does not see it this way.

He is taking the cowardly side of a social struggle, one that seeks to align SIU with the Blue Lives Matter reaction to the protests of police murders, with Trump and the neofascists who worship police power.

It is our job, as students and members of this community, to make it clear that we see the police for what they are, and that we respect our learning about history and society enough to insist that a cop academy not be built at SIU.

At the No Cop Academy demonstration in the student center last week, we said: “There will be no cop academy at SIU.”

Say out loud, believe it, and let’s do what it takes to make it true.

#NoCopAcademy Student Trustee Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (618) 453-8418. His office is located in the Registered Student Organization Suite on the third floor of the Student Center and his office hours are Mondays and Thursdays: 12:30 pm – 2 pm or by appointment.

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