*I have to say for the record that the last thing we need to be doing in this time of golden opportunity is to do what we usually do.
There is this African martial art that I am in love with called Capoeira Angola. Like all things of traditional Africa, it requires creativity. If you move, flow, or play the same way every time you engage your fellow players, you are going to get got. If you’re fortunate, you will be on your back with a foot in your face. Less lucky, you may find yourself hurled out of the playing circle with a good head butt. And that is where we find ourselves as a Black community time and time again on this issue of our condition with those who police us — on the ground with a foot in our face or pushed out of the circle by a head butt.
Aren’t we tired, Black people? Aren’t we tired of feeling that feeling of falling, followed by the stench of the gunk on the bottom of a cop’s shoe? Aren’t we tired of thinking we’re in the game, only to find ourselves being pushed out of the circle altogether?
I guess not. We can’t be if we are still excited about the opportunity to have Massa come down from the Big House and tell us his version of what happened to ‘Nigga Chris’. We can’t be if we honestly think that LAPD is really going to be moved and shook by our angry questions and accusatory tones. We do realize we’ve tried that before, right, and that got us where? Instead of laying us in the street and choking us to death, they tase us with 50,000 volts of electricity and out-and-out shoot us to death.
The relationship between law enforcement and the Black community is not going to change in any fundamental way because police departments as an institution in this country were designed to do exactly what they are doing when it comes to policing Black people. Check your history. I’m talking facts here. So, we will not change that with dialogue or demands. Certainly, not with dialogue. We long ago learned, as Dorner learned, that dialogue leads to no real change with this particular institution. Our elder Frederick Douglas taught us that power concedes nothing without demand, so demands are the minimum that we can do if we want to stop smelling shoe leather. And, if we are going to make demands, they need to be new demands that suit our purposes whether granted or rejected.
Here, we need to take advantage of the opening that LAPD has given us to get them on the ground smelling our shoes. He says LAPD is transparent; we’ll see about that!
Let us commit to collectively refusing to speak with LAPD other than in reference to community demands. And then, let’s come up with some new ones. Something other than asking for a Department of Justice investigation. Other than an apology. Other than a kindler gentler police force.
Some demands to consider:
- Demand that LAPD give us the Dorner file to investigate in its entirety, from his initial complaint to his death by fire. The investigation would be done by our own independent review panel, made up of experts in the community who we know and trust. Experts include community advocates as well as retired officers, judges, and attorneys.
- Demand that LAPD release the names of the officers involved in the shooting of the two newspaper delivery people and turn that investigation over to an independent group of the victims’ choosing, which could be our panel;
- Demand that LAPD release to our independent panel complaints of officer misconduct against members of our community alleged or filed by anyone, including other officers, over the past 5 years.
Contrary to the assertions of law enforcement, there are no laws that prevent any of the above from happening. If Chief Beck and his administration have the will to be transparent (and he claims they do), there is definitely a way. If LAPD refuses to meet our demands, we’ve lost nothing and our people gain a better sense of how transparent the LAPD is. If LAPD grants our demands, we move one step closer to staying permanently upright in this game.
If we must play, let’s play this differently, Black people. Let’s control the space. Let’s use our creativity to win.
Based in Los Angeles, Calif., Nana Gyamfi is an attorney, professor, and human rights activist dedicated to the liberation and realignment of African people worldwide. She is the host of Inner Light Radio’s Conversations on the Way heard weekly Thursdays at 12 p.m. Pacific/3 p.m. Eastern. She can be reached at facebook.com/blakrino.