Write Out of the Margins!

Police the Police

Balancing Ethics

I have campaigned against police brutality with some pretty radical friends from the October 22nd Coalition. My friends know that I do not agree with them on all things. I do not believe that we can have a society of equal justice for all without police, at the present level of human beings.

If human beings are inherently good, capable of ethical decisions and behavior -- as my anarchist friends believe -- then police officers are inherently good, and capable of ethical decisions and behavior. If people are not perfect, and we therefore must police each other, then police themselves are not going to be perfect, and must be policed in turn.

If flawed systems cannot be corrected, and must be abolished, let's just call the whole human experiment off right now. We're always going to be flawed, and so will our systems. We keep learning better -- if that weren't so, we wouldn't have any society now, we'd still be bashing each other over the head for the best bits of the kill.

We are all capable of good. We are all capable of evil. We need to have other people around who can see our behavior and who can hold us accountable, because we can't always correct ourselves. None of us likes to admit, even to ourselves, that we have done evil, or even made a mistake. The capability of the human mind to rationalize is beyond measure. Besides rationalizing what we know at some level to be wrong, we also take wrong action on the basis of wrong information: what we don't know doesn't get us in half as much trouble as what we know that ain't so.

I believe that able and ethical police officers deplore police misconduct as much, or more, than anyone else, and desire to purge racism, brutality and corruption from their departments. I also believe that the police system cannot monitor itself or correct itself. It must have outside oversight.

Balancing Power

Armed police officers literally hold the power of life and death over the citizenry. Even an unarmed police officer can totally disrupt your life with an arrest. In court you may be innocent until proven guilty, but in jail you are presumed guilty from the moment of arrest. Resisting arrest is a crime, even if you are later proved innocent of the crime you were arrested for, even if the arrest is later proven to have been totally and knowingly unfounded.

This power must be balanced. Citizens must also be able to monitor and control the police, including the power to levy punishment against police officers who break the law.

Real Life Ain't Pretty

Some people say that critics of "police brutality" are ignoring the brutal realities that police confront. The closer to street level you get, the lower on the social and economic ladder, the more you see of police realities. I have seen police racism and brutality in action. I have seen police officers ignore drug deals and pimps abusing their whores, while forcing a small old homeless man to pour his can of beer out on the sidewalk. I have lived in Tacoma, Wasdhington, which has one of the highest rates of death by police in the country. Two homeless and mentally ill black men have been shot to death by police in Seattle.

Amnesty International launched a one-year campaign in 1998 to address human rights abuses in the United States, including police brutality. The campaign has ended: police misconduct has not.

What to Do? What to Do?

These aren't realities that we just have to live with. We are society; we are responsible for correcting society when it goes wrong.

This issue unites groups from the most moderate to the most radical. I hope that you can find someone in this range to work with:

October 22nd Coalition

October 22, 1996, was the 1st National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation. In cities all across the country people of different nationalities marched, rallied, held poetry readings and other cultural events and many, many people wore wear black in solidarity with the protests and in memory of the victims of the police — including turning their websites black.

Photos of October 22, 1997

For six years this yearly day of protest has grown. Public awareness of police brutalities and abuses grows, and action has begun on many levels to put an end to this institutionalized violence.

Stop Police Brutality! Octtober 22
October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation
|| Refuse and Resist ||

Seattle Contacts:

October 22nd Coalition local Seattle number (206) 233-7940

Revolution Books
Center for all your October 22nd needs.
1833 Nagle Place Seattle 98122
(206) 325-7415


Write On!
Updated December 4, 2002