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Senator Peters gets endorsement from police groups for proposed legislation that provides federal dollars to recruit more cops

June 29, 2021

Last Tuesday, Senator Gary Peters re-introduced legislation called the Strong Communities Act. According to his office’s Press Release:

“It’s critical to build trust between local law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Senator Peters said. “By encouraging community policing, this bipartisan bill would help build stronger relationships between local law enforcement and the neighborhoods they serve. It would also incentivize people to serve in law enforcement in the communities they call home. Community policing can lead to better outcomes and more accountability, which is important as our nation works to reform policing.”

Senator Peters had introduced this legislation last year just days after the country erupted with protests over the police murder of George Floyd. Peters introduced the legislation with U.S. Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, who used to be the State Attorney General in Texas, where he pushed a pro-police agenda.

This legislation that Senator Peters has re-introduced does two main things. First, it further legitimizes the notion of community policing as a positive way of doing policing. However, as Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing notes:

The research shows that community policing does not empower communities in meaningful ways. It expands police power, but does nothing to reduce the burden of overpricing on people of color and the poor. 

In addition, the co-authors of the book, Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency, make the argument that Community Policing is primarily about the ability of local police departments to build relationships with residents for the specific purpose of gathering information and engaging in surveillance…..thus community policing is a form of counterinsurgency, especially in response to an organized populace that is making demands of the state.

The second thing that this legislation from Senator Peters and Senator Cornyn does is offer financial incentives to recruit news cops and then have them live in the neighborhood they serve for at least 4 years. Police reform groups have long advocated that police officers should live in the communities that they serve. The group Communities United Against Police Brutality, has this response to that belief:

“Throughout our research, we have never encountered a shred of evidence that requiring or incentivizing police officers to live in the communities in which they work has any positive effect on the quality of policing,”

It is worth noting that just days before Senator Peters first introduced this legislation in June of 2020, he came out strong against the protests taking place across the US, stating:

“The death of George Floyd was a horrific tragedy and justice must be served. While I understand and respect anyone who wants to demonstrate peacefully to bring attention to this injustice, it is discouraging that what was clearly intended to be a peaceful protest quickly devolved into a riot instigated by extremists with an anarchist ideology.”

This statement from Senator Peters is rather hypocritical, especially considering that Peters sits on the Armed Forces Committee, consistently votes for massive levels of US military spending and praises US militarism abroad, such as airstrikes, drone strikes and other forces of violent tactics that often kill innocent civilians.

The last argument for seeing Senator Peters’ reintroduction of the Strong Communities Act as deeply troubling, is the fact that it has received the endorsement of the largest and oldest police organization in the US, the National Fraternal Order of Police. 

The National Fraternal Order of Police has a long history of supporting police departments across the US that have a particularly brutal history, has a leadership that is all white, spends millions on lobbying Congress and endorsed Donald Trump in 2016.

In the end, for those who want to see systemic change around policing, they cannot be seduced by language of community policing and the notion that cops who live in the communities where they work will make a difference. It just doesn’t matter to people who are harassed, arrested, tasered or beaten by cops, that they live in the same neighborhood as the people they are oppressing.

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