People of Milwaukee defeat the COPS grant
Milwaukee, WI – On December 15, the Milwaukee Common Council, after a backlash from the people, voted no on approving a grant that would give the Milwaukee Police Department $10 million. The grant would be given through the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program with the expectation that Milwaukee Police Department would carry out tasks through a federal program called Operation Legend. Operation Legend’s stated purpose is to cut down on violence in cities. The reality is that Operation Legend is terrorizing oppressed nationality neighborhoods.
The defeat of the COPS grant was only possible through a consistent grassroots movement in Milwaukee. Defunding the police is a slogan that’s been widely accepted by organizers in Milwaukee and it is rare that elected officials vote in favor of the people. Unfortunately, Common Council member Nikiya Dodd made a motion to reconsider the grant in January. Various members of the Common Council voted in favor of Dodd's motion.
It is clear that we cannot trust elected officials in Milwaukee to do the right thing. With a clear understanding of the system we are fighting against, we can confidently state that the interests of politicians will never fully align with ours. It is necessary that the oppressed people of Milwaukee have institutions that work on their terms.
The demand for community control of the police is crucial to maintaining the immense gains created by the movement locally. The demand for an all elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) will enable Milwaukee to defund the police on the community’s terms.
It is absurd that organizers have had to march for 200 consecutive days to see the common council vote in a manner that is consistent with the demands of the community. We should not have to beg for our right to dignity, equity and full equality. Unfortunately, this is the hand we are dealt here in Milwaukee and all over the U.S.
To quote Frank Chapman, a veteran organizer of the Black Liberation movement and the Executive Director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, “Getting CPAC passed is creating a situation for the self-empowerment of our people. We’ve got to be careful about that word empowerment. If you’re asking the system to empower you, to do something that will undermine the system, then you’re playing games with yourself. It has to be self-empowerment. So we are not asking the system for anything, we are demanding our inalienable democratic right to say who polices our communities and how our communities are policed.”
While it is not incorrect to challenge elected officials to do the right thing, we are wasting our time if we do not have a greater vision for the future. “Defund the police” is a slogan, as well as a worthy desired future state. CPAC is a decisive program that can enable and maintain the defunding of the police. The rejection of the COPS grant and the immediate motion to reconsider the grant is exactly why we need a program like CPAC in place.
The movements on the ground should not be subject to the whim of the Milwaukee Common Council or the Fire and Police Commission. All decisions made by the community should be maintained on the community’s terms and that is not what we are seeing right now. We shouldn’t have to beg a mayor that’s been in power for 16 years to appoint the ‘right’ people to the Fire and Police Commission (FPC). In what world is this democratic? We are pressing a district attorney who has been in power for 13 years to indict killer cops. How is this democratic? We can talk about how the FPC is ‘supposed’ to work. The more sensible conversation to have is how the FPC has thrown oppressed nationality people under the bus for a century.
What we need here in Milwaukee is a genuine democratic control of the police through an all-elected council that is created by the demands of the people. Not on the terms of the Milwaukee Police Department, not on the terms of elected officials that want to waste our time with another oversight committee; it must be from the working-class oppressed nationality people of Milwaukee. All power to the people, let's continue taking the fight to the streets.