The Function of Police Is to “Protect and Serve” Capital

Dale Heckerman

Summary:  The death of a friend during a forced eviction is the indirect result of the militarization brought about by the racist “War on Drugs” — Editors

I recently read the autopsy report of my friend and former roommate Martin Wirth who was killed in a gun battle with Park County, Colorado Sheriff’s deputies on February 24, 2016 in an enforced eviction from his repossessed house that I once shared with Martin. Without going into all the grisly details, Martin was shot in the back 11 times with large caliber hollow point bullets.  Martin has been accused with killing one of the deputies, but not everyone is convinced that the evidence presented up to now, definitively proves Martin in fact killed the deputy. The coroner’s report and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) notes don’t entirely match. The District Attorney in charge of the investigation into Martin’s death refuses to meet with members of the Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition.

Martin had told friends that he was planning on going home to New Jersey where his parents live after being served with the final eviction which would seem to contradict the accusation that Martin was planning what law enforcement has categorized as “suicide by cops”[1]. The important question is why are foreclosure laws and property so important that two men must die in an “eviction”. As a former colleague, Mikel Whitney with the Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition said; “If the incident was handled in a different manner, in a more peaceful manner, no lives would have been lost. There would have been no injuries. … It’s an inexcusable eviction where deaths occurred,” Several of Martin’s friends, including myself, could have been called upon to coax Martin out of the house.

While going through his own foreclosure battle, Martin Wirth became an activist against what he believed to be “illegal foreclosures”. Before that, Martin was involved as an activist fighting for the commuter bus line to put a bus stop in the populated area where he lived and was very active with Occupy Denver.

Park County Sheriff’s deputies anticipated resistance. They sent eight deputies to take Martin’s house. One neighbor described the Park County eviction team as: “They showed up like the Marines invading Iwo Jima. I think they attacked the house like the Marines landing on the beach.” In Colorado, we’ve seen law officers show up in combat gear armed with Colt AR15 assault rifles to enforce an eviction. The following quote is from an interview by CBI of the deputy in charge, Captain Mark Hancock, of his recollection of Martin’s comments to another deputy upon their arrival and his thoughts about it; “you’re not even going to give me time to move my stuff out and, you know, I wanted to say at the time of course we’ll give you time to move your stuff out, you know, that’s why we’re here and he went back in the house”. Captain Hancock never told Martin that they would wait for him to move his stuff out, therefore missing the opportunity of avoiding the ensuing gun battle and the deaths of two men. Captain Hancock called paramedics before launching the attack. He wanted an ambulance on the scene in advance. So entrenched were the Park County Sheriff’s Department in enforcing the law against Martin Wirth that a peaceful resolution wasn’t an option. The local media outlets played their part and vilified Martin and labeled him a domestic terrorist. The parents of the sheriff’s deputy who was killed filed an intent to sue the Park County Sheriff’s Department.

Clearly, Martin Wirth’s death at the hands of cops isn’t directly related to the police killings of innocent Blacks and Native Americans. As a white member of Occupy Denver and supporter of “Black Lives Matter”, Martin understood that he benefited from “white privilege”. However, I do believe there is an indirect connection of Martin Wirth’s death to institutional racism. Specifically, I’m thinking of Bill Clinton’s 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill (originally written by Senator Joe Biden); This crime bill is an extension of Richard Nixon’s and Ronald Reagan’s “War on Drugs” which is code for the “racist” war on Blacks. Some have come to refer to these developments as “The New Jim Crow”. One of the provisions of Bill Clinton’s 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill began the financing of the militarization of law enforcement all the way down to rural police departments. (I’ve seen military style armoured personnel carriers belonging to the local sheriff’s department being driven by sheriff deputies in the rural area where I live.)

Authoritarian Character Structure at the Heart of Law Enforcement

Racist authoritarianism is at the heart of law enforcement and has spread its tentacles beyond the “mere” murder of Black folks and Native Americans to include the harassment and arrests of the homeless and working poor of both Blacks and whites. Racism is integral to the class structure of capitalist society and explains why Black politicians and Black cops can get caught up in the culture and institutional enforcement of racism. Therefore, the culture of racism goes much deeper than the celebrated “loophole” in the 13th Amendment. The supposed loophole I’m referring to is that while the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery, there was an exception. The amendment states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (Emphasis mine). I have no doubt that this “loophole” would have been used to justify the mass arrests for any number of petty crimes of Black folk and the enactment of convict leasing, etc. I also have no doubt that had this “loophole” not existed, the racist rulers would have found, or fabricated another “law” to enslave Blacks.

No, racism is an organic component of capitalism. Capitalism cannot exist without racism! Capitalism is a social economic class based system run by a capitalist class and demands an obedient, compliant class of workers at the point of production. The working class is required to surrender its own “human” needs to the augmentation or self-expansion of capital. As Marx informs us, all labor under capitalism is forced labor. The best method of social control or the disciplining of the working class is to pit the workers against each other through racism and in this way, the workers are complicit in their own oppression. If workers weren’t involved with racial hatred against each other, they may get together with different so-called races, immigrants, etc. and wonder why they organize their lives in the service of things and not organize their lives around their true “human” needs?

Given the need of capitalism for social control through racism, do we really think that reforming law enforcement under capitalism is a realistic goal? In the first place, the typical law enforcement recruit exhibits an authoritarian character structure and isn’t looking to humanize or “be” humanized. Cops aren’t looking to reform or challenge the state power structure and in fact are looking to share that power by a closer proximity “to” a state power. Most cops would prefer to serve in a symbiotic relationship to a president like Donald Trump or to what may be becoming the model of the authoritarian police state, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte than try to develop into any kind of benevolent organization in the service of humanity. The mentality of cops is further exposed by the numerous situations where cops have been called in to assist in helping with the mentally ill only to shoot and kill them instead.

Cops are the true patriots and exhibit the alienated characteristics of patriotism. As the 18th century English writer Samuel Johnson noted, “patriotism has ever been the last refuge of scoundrels”. I believe the Humanist Psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm gave us a good definition of patriotism and its relationship to nationalism; “Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. Patriotism is its cult. It should hardly be necessary to say, that by patriotism I mean that attitude which puts one’s own nation above humanity, above the principles of truth and justice; not the loving interest in one’s own nation, which is the concern with the nation’s spiritual as much as with its material welfare –never with its power over other nations. Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one’s country which is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.” The Sane Society, by Erich Fromm

We must be ruthless in our criticism of nationalism and its cult of patriotism e.g. as exhibited at sporting events. The constant clamoring by “patriots” to “support our troops” “as heroes” is a diversion from focusing on the real problem, the need to end the state of destructive permanent war among the imperialist countries[2]. I’m a Vietnam era veteran and I sure as hell wasn’t a hero, I was just a hapless factory worker who wasn’t aware enough to avoid the draft. The current crop of soldiers aren’t heroes either and they aren’t making our lives any safer. If anything, they are making our lives more precarious by bringing the militarization practiced overseas back home. The “stop and frisk” being practiced by our militarized cops was originally in the form of “search and destroy missions” practiced by the military overseas. Our soldiers’ function is to preserve the “single world mastery” of the United States at the risk of bringing about World War III.

The best way to support our troops is to campaign against all imperialist wars and bring the troops back home. The only realistic way of bringing all our troops home is to create a new society based on Marx’s concept of the alternative to capitalism. Only in that way can we eliminate the standing army and abolish the current form of law enforcement in favour of citizen police.

In the meantime, we must ally ourselves with Black Lives Matter and affiliated groups in their struggle against racism and police murder. We can begin by combating the constant diversionary tactics practiced by the racists with their shibboleths, such as, “all lives matter”, “Black on Black crime”, etc. As the Black Lives Matter proponents have informed us, “‘all lives matter’ is offensive and disregards the Black struggle against murder and its significance and weakens the Black and white struggle against capital. A concession to the point of view of American chauvinism”. The Grammy award winning Rapper Kendrick Lamar informs us in his song “Alright”, which has become an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement, that “Black on Black Crime” is the result of racism! Racism is a blight on human existence, a disease that has a destructive effect on all of us.

[1] “Suicide by cops” refers to the suicidal behavior where individuals provoke cops to shoot and kill them. Cops train for this behavior and may explain why they are so trigger-happy.

[2] The heart-breaking reality of Syrians in Aleppo and the losing proposition to retake the extremely divided city of Mosul, Iraq are prime examples. If the attempt to retake Mosul is successful at all, it will probably take the form of a pyrrhic victory entailing the destruction of Mosul as was the case with the retaking of Fallujah.


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