police militarization

Jan 102015

The BearCat that the SLPD is trying to acquire.

This was my speech at the “community meeting” on the SLPD‘s planned acquisition of a Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck (Bearcat).  I addressed my comments to the SLPD, as the City Council has made it clear that their role is simply to rubber stamp any proposal brought by the Police. In other words, we officially have a police state in San Leandro. You can find Tim Holmes remarks here.

While it may seem hard to believe, I appreciate our police officers.    Every single SLPD officer I have met, has treated me with politeness, courtesy and professionalism.  I think most of you are honorable people, trying to do a difficult job to the best of your abilities. And I think you have one of the worst jobs in the world, not because of physical danger, but because of the soul-killing experiences you go through.  I would not want to risk my own humanity by doing that job, and I appreciate those who do.

The problem is not police officers.  The problem is the system under which we all operate. The prison industrial complex requires an ever-increasing supply of people to fill out our private jails and utilize the services of the industries that profit from crime fighting, prisons and prisoners – including, increasingly, the military weapon industry.

As our crime rates go down, the system requires that we both manufacture and inflate the perception of crime.  You play your part by buying into the rhetoric that every citizen you encounter is likely to be dangerous and must be treated accordingly, and by passing those same unjustified fears into the community as a whole.  Because it’s easier for people to fear “the other,” you feed and feed on the racism that is so entrenched in San Leandro to justify both your fear and your brutality.

You want a BearCat.  You want it because it’s cool and it makes you feel macho to drive one and because you think it will make you feel safe.  Ironically, it will do exactly the opposite.

The BearCat is not just a shiny toy, but a symbol that you are no longer just a community police force looking to catch muggers and burglars, but an occupying para-military force whose purpose is to terrorize the population and suppress dissent.  It’s a symbol that you are the Ferguson police, ready to tear gas us and water hose us and shoot us if need be.  It’s a symbol that you are declaring war on us: people of color, activists, students, dissenters.

But when you decide to become a paramilitary force, you also become a target.  You can’t do your job bunkering into that truck and never coming out and you can’t just kill every person you think will be dangerous – though make no mistake, that’s the path you are heading on by militarizing your force.   You will not be safer.

You can only be safer by making others respect you, rather than fear you. By inviting dialogue rather than confrontation. By seeking peace rather than war.

It’s not too late to seek peace together.


Jan 062015


The San Leandro Police Department  wants to acquire a “Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck” like the one above – pretending that it’s some sort of glorified ambulance. The City Council is set to let them do it.

In reality, BearCat vehicles are used for regular law-enforcement purposes, such as serving warrants for minor crimes and collecting fines, and as intimidation tools against peaceful protesters. They are part of a broader project to militarize the police and use it as a potent repression tool against all sorts of political dissent. This particular model is outfitted with medical equipment inside, so they can sell it as a “Medevac tactical armored vehicle” – despite the fact that it’ll be used by the SLPD and not by medical personnel.

California cities like Davis have said NO to the militarization of police and are giving their tanks back – let’s stop San Leandro from becoming a police state!

The show-n-tell on the BearCat vehicle and the Rally will take place on January 8th at 5 PM at the Senior Center (13909 E. 14th Street, SL). There will be an opportunity to ask questions while looking at the vehicle.  You can expect your interactions with police, to follow this model.

At 6 PM there will be a City Council meeting with a sales pitch by the SLPD, followed by a comment period by the general public. As it’s a City Council meeting rather than a community meeting, there will not be an opportunity for questions to be answered.

Please share this invitation!