New York, NY (TFC)
— A former police officer from Oklahoma City was convicted on Thursday of 18 counts for sexually assaulting women in the neighborhood he was assigned in. Daniel Holtzclaw was originally charged on a total of 36 counts for sexual assault on women, including a minor. He was seen sobbing as the jury’s decision was read in the courtroom.
This is a rarity in the legal system: sexual assault victims getting justice as well as a police officer being properly dealt with after being found to abuse those they are supposed to “protect.”
However, this is only a single individual facing 263 years in prison whereas police officers across America have abused their authority. There has been an obvious pattern of corruption in the police department, increasingly brought to light with social media. Videos, pictures and recordings of police officers assaulting civilians have become popular with trending hashtags.
It is no longer a viable argument to state that the police department has a “few bad eggs” when it is the entire institution of the blue brotherhood that perpetuates the behavior and covers up corruption in order to continue existing.
There needs to be a criticism made of the institution and its role in society. Hardly here to “protect and serve” the community at large, there is a noticeable pattern of sexism, racism and classism in their behavior. Working class interests are not in their interests. The police are not workers; they are an extremity of the ruling class, of the state. It is clear that a large part of their duties lie in protecting private property and those connected interests.
The state exists as a result of the conflicting class interests within society. In Friedrich Engels’ piece The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, he says the following:
“The state is, therefore, by no means a power forced on society from without; […] Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ‘order’; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state.”
Vladimir Lenin mentions in The State and Revolution
, ” According to Marx, the state could neither have arisen nor maintained itself had it been possible to reconcile classes
. […] the state is an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another; it is the creation of “order”, which legalizes and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the conflict between classes.
The blue brotherhood is one of the moderating tools utilized to maintain order in a society of antagonistic class interests. Police are frequently assigned in low income neighborhoods to rein in “trouble” and in turn, not only are they arresting and killing people of color at alarming rates, but also sexually assaulting women and children. They ultimately take advantage and oppress those of the working class for themselves and the ruling class.
Louis Althusser, in Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, said: “The State is a ‘machine’ of repression, which enables the ruling classes […] to ensure their domination over the working class, thus enabling the former to subject the latter to the process of surplus-value extortion (i.e. to capitalist exploitation).”
It is rare that members of the ruling and privileged class are assaulted, killed, oppressed and/or dragged through the legal system in a similar fashion. They are dealt with kid gloves and afforded privileges that the remainder of society are not.
We’ve heard of one case this year, Daniel Holtzclaw, in which a modicum of justice was served. But we’re also aware of how many police officers were openly assaulting and killing young black men and women in the last year alone yet roam free. It can hardly be expected that a justice system built upon private interests will ever serve the working class. This must change, but reform is not enough; the institution itself must be abolished.
This is not to say that the police department can be disbanded tomorrow. The police still serve vital roles in diffusing real conflicts. However, we can still start to ask ourselves how we can fulfill these vital roles while not enforcing the class relations mentioned earlier. It is a daunting task, but one that is necessary if we’re serious about resolving the class contradictions forming the basis of these problems. Keeping in mind that, in the long term, it can be said that when and if the conflicting classes as they stand now are abolished, it can be hypothesized that society will continue to evolve without necessitating the oppressive existence of the police.