Cat Brooks: (Armed) People Who Patrol Our Communities  Should Be Held to a Higher Standard

By Cat Brooks

Last week, I was in Sacramento with a statewide coalition lobbying for SB1421 and AB931.

AB931 would dramatically change the legal standard law enforcement uses to justify deploying lethal force.

SB1421 would open up investigation files into confirmed instances of excessive uses of force or sexual misconduct by law enforcement.  Communities would know if rapists and killers are patrolling our streets, and families would know who killed their loved one and what excuses were used to justify it.

It was there I learned from a reporter that San Francisco DA George Gascon was not charging any involved officers with the murders of Mario Woods or Luis Gongora Pat.

Mario was 26 years old. He had a butter knife and was not threatening anyone.  Over 40 shots were fired at his body and 15 made contact.

Luis Gongora Pat was an unhoused immigrant, beloved by the community, who also simply had a knife, was not threatening anyone, and was killed within seconds of police arrival.

These two men represent hundreds who are gunned down by law enforcement across California every year.  Sahleem Tindle. Richard Perkins. Eric Rivera. Cesar Cruz. Yuvette Henderson.  The list is endless.

Compare that to the Parkland Shooter, the Santa Fe Shooter, the Waffle House Shooter, the Charleston Church Shooter. Those white shooters had guns.

They killed people and made it to jail alive.

Law enforcement says bills like AB931 put their lives in danger because it expands the legal standard police must use to justify killing us.  They say it is safer to kill people with cell phones they mistake for guns than to figure out if it’s actually a gun.

Overwhelmingly, this standard only applies to Black, Brown and Indigenous life.

If they can preserve the lives of people who have killed children in schools –  why can’t they preserve the lives of community members who have done little but be Black, Brown or Indigenous while … fill in the blank.

We know without pressure from the streets, change doesn’t happen. We also know that radical reform – reform that does not reinforce the status quo – but dramatically alters the ways in which our bodies are policed and imprisoned – is also necessary. AB931 and SB1421 are radical reforms that will bring transparency and accountability to policing. I stand with impacted families in demanding their passage.

Because we must do more than enact legislation, I will continue working with families and comrades to build this movement and develop alternative methods of community security that do not result in our blood flowing through the streets.
People say dreaming of something different is too radical.  I submit to you that the radical is rational.

It is rational to expect police not rape children or shoot unarmed people.

It is rational to think people who patrol our communities with weapons should be held to a higher standard.

It is rational to think that civil servants should be accountable to the communities that pay their salaries.

Policing in America cannot be “fixed. It is not broken. It is born of the slave patrols and cavalries which intended to enslave, control and kill Black and Indigenous bodies in the name of capitalist gain. It continues to do its job.

That means, we must radically reform the system we have while simultaneously building new models of community safety that move from the fringes to the norm.

San Francisco DA Gascon said that while he was troubled by the current climate of police and community relations – he had no choice but to abide by “the law” and that meant no charges could be filed. Just once, I wish an elected official would say: “Forget the law. I am standing for justice and the law can catch up to our humanity.”

Those are the kinds of legislators we need. These are the kinds of policies we need.  This is the mandate of the people.

Cat Brooks is a candidate for mayor of Oakland. She is an actor, radio journalist and co-founder of Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP). 


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