We were fighting against not having more police presence in neighborhoods while promoting ideas and a vision of what safety looks like in our communities beyond policing. "
April 28, 2015
NYPD to add over 1,000 cops in budget deal
June 22, 2015
So many of you may be asking from these two New York Post headlines – How did New York City’s local government go from its mayor saying that we don’t need 1000 new cops to adding 1,297 new cops to its force?
Political persuasion, bandwagoning, manipulation, coercion, convincing could be it…maybe? After all how could a mayor and a city council make such a decision? Was it the police union, the benevolent association, the police commissioner, chief advisers that applied pressure on the mayor and its city council to make this decision or all of the above? The mayor said it himself that we didn’t need the 1000 new cops with crime declining. Oh, by the way, the only city council member to oppose the bill was Inez Barron. So what the in the world happened?!
Some argued that hiring more police would save the city money…sure. The reality is the mayor was going to reject a line item in the city budget that would have amounted to 97 million dollars for the next fiscal year. The budget line item is well over 100 million dollars now. There will be increased police activity in Washington Heights, East New York, and Far Rockaway for the first phase of the roll out. These are overwhelmingly black and brown neighborhoods with long histories of state sanctioned violence.
This is a part of the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) new plan to promote community policing in the city especially in black and brown communities. Some may say what is wrong with that? Increased police presence equals safer neighborhoods, so what’s wrong with that?
Spending that went to the NYPD for the increase of more police presence in neighborhoods for the fiscal year could have gone towards funding:
- 62,500 low-income New Yorkers with free bus and train access
- 310,000 youth for a summer youth jobs program similar to the one in Chicago that resulted in a 51% drop in violent crime
- $281,437 increase in resident associations’ budgets in all 334 NYC Housing Authority buildings
- 2000 social workers or over 2000 special education teachers
This collective started the Safety Beyond Policing campaign. Although, we had a great narrative with a great case for why the city government should spend its funds directly into communities, our input as citizen went unheard and we lost this battle of our campaign.
As we approach the one year anniversary today of the death of Eric Garner , and the deaths within the past two days ofSandra Bland, Kindra Chapman, and Jonathan Sanders (all four died through asphyxiation) all under custody of the state, I want to share the role propaganda played in this campaign. The question I am holding is- What are the subversive tactics that can undermine the use of propaganda we saw through NYC government to benefit those most impacted by their decisions?
Dr. Brittney Cooper is someone who I admire as a scholar/educator within and outside the walls of academia, and most importantly a friend. When I started writing this blog she suggested I read this book by Jason Stanley, How Propaganda Works. This quote from the book establishes a foundation for the lessons and questions I want to share and ask from my experience.
“Democracy is a system of self-rule that is supposed to maximize liberty. Freedom of speech, especially public political speech, cannot be restricted in a democracy. But the unrestricted use of propaganda is a serious threat to democracy.”
In this quote, Stanley identifies the dilemma in how the state and government uses propaganda to reinforce power over people as opposed to power among people that create space for us to self-rule.
The state (an institution/firm of individuals) holds sole control over how law and order is organized in a certain territory. Our government is the actual service that provides law and order to its people. Therefore, not only is the state the judge of us- the people inhabiting the territory, it is also the judge of itself through the use of its government.
We know our government promotes and advertises that the United States is a true democracy in the land of the free and the home of the brave. However, the way state and our government is set up creates this dilemma where the larger public holds some beliefs around what it means to be a citizen in this country versus how the state and our government truly operates. As a result, many of us keep limiting beliefs about our roles and leadership in relationship to the state and its government. Many of us choose to believe the stories about what our government represents without really getting involved in it to find out for ourselves to see if it really creates space for us as a people to self-rule, govern, and organize in our own communities.
Throughout the Safety Beyond Policing campaign we definitely moved within and through our limiting beliefs. We sat down deliberated strategies about who in city council we were going to target to align with our campaign declarations. We held conference calls, people held community meetings, and we held actions disrupting city hall meetings. We were even named “the reckless few” by the NYPD Commissioner. We were in a game where we were playing not to lose in our strategy. We were fighting against not having more police presence in neighborhoods while promoting an idea and a vision of what safety looks like in our communities beyond policing.
However, what we saw happening was that city council members who were for 1,000 new cops would take our talking points about the alternatives to policing and then say that our law enforcement could partner with community groups to provide better service if we put our money towards increasing the number of cops. If we increase the number cops it will reduce the money we spend on overtime for cops. This would then allow for them to spend time building trust in communities that have experienced unlawful stop and frisk practices and police brutality.
After the announcement was made that New York City would see 1,297 cops in the city, they also communicated that about a couple hundred cops would be taken off administrative duty and trained up in skills like conflict mediation to support in community policing efforts. This is the story that the local government held and put out to media outlets.
According the NY Daily News, three days before the decision was made DeBlasio had no considerations about including 1,000 new cops in the city’s budget. However, NYPD leadership and the police union was armed to dominate the narrative that the government only had one of two choices, to either: a) not supporting 1,000 new cops as if there were no other alternatives to handle the spike in crime, or b) support the funding of more cops with the promise that crime would decrease and therefore quell the fears of New Yorkers about the city’s capacity to handle any potential upsurge in crime. If that is how the decision is framed, then it is no decision at all.
The NYPD is fully aware that the general public holds a belief that if we don’t have cops in our neighborhood then there will be no public safety. They can use whatever data they want to maintain that story. What does this belief then say about the communities that the police patrol and control? The NYPD commissioner and union used this belief to sway the opinion of the mayor to put more new cops into the budget and onto our streets with tax payer dollars. They used fear with non-negotiables with an institution of elected officials chosen by the public to provide the service of law and order to its people. The question becomes - Is the public fully aware that we could create the public safety that we need without funding more police? Without fear? Without non-negotiables?
The reality is that NYPD operates of the broken windows theory that uses fear as a driving force in exacerbating social disorder and trauma. This is in ways that leave people in our communities with the belief that many of them and our government are hopeless, disconnected, and untrustworthy. Our government continues to uproot our communities from well-being because our practices are not grounded in healing and growth.
If our government says it’s promoting community safety and yet engaging in practices based on a theory that believes our communities are in social disorder- we limit the possibilities of what our communities have the ability and capacity to do in order to maintain our safety and well-being. Our government continues to facilitate propaganda in which its citizens are gaslighted about their role and participation to self-rule and govern amongst ourselves in our collective power.
The realities of our neighborhoods’ capacity to operate in the vision of a true democracy are erased when the government prioritizes funding to hire more cops training police up in conflict mediation. What would it look like instead, to work directly with residents to learn and witness what conflict mediation may look like in Washington Heights, East New York, or Far Rockaway through restorative justice practices?
In true Power & Privilege 2.0 fashion I leave y’all with more questions that I am left with that opens the flood gates. We are looking to explore what it mean to disrupt the oppressive power dynamics that we see in the state and our government that gets funneled through propaganda.
- What assumptions are we making about our government and its role as a facilitator of law and order in our communities?
- What are we seeing and understanding about people in our own communities when they trust our government to make the right decisions for us? How are they being informed and engaged about how our government operates? What matters to them?
- When we feel wronged by our government, we want to acknowledge that we matter and are worthy of safety and protection. We do not want be judged and told that something is wrong with us. What support may we need from each other in discerning our relationship with our government?
- What if we acted from the belief that “we the people” = “the state” rather than “we the people” vs. “the state”?