BALTIMORE, MD — Last spring Freddie Gray died in Baltimore Police custody. Freddie Gray came from a part of Baltimore called Sandtown. Here one-third of the housing units are empty. Sandtown leads the city in foreclosures. There are no bank branches. Only one in 20 adults has any college education. One in ten is on parole or probation. Unemployment is 23%. Sandtown has more residents in jail than any part of Maryland. One in four juveniles has been arrested. Life expectancy is 65, compared to 83 in Roland Park, a wealthy community just a few miles away.
As economic conditions worsen, more and more money is spent on police. The city budget of Baltimore increased 11% but the police budget has grown 25%. The city spends more on police than on health, housing, community development, library, arts and culture and employment, combined. Choices are made—four police helicopters instead of 5,000 summer jobs for unemployed youth.
Police violence is increasing as the jobs are decreasing. Instead of directing traffic, protecting women and assisting the elderly, police are more involved in violence against people, The police are used to make things right for the wealthy business owners. They are used to make downtown safe for the outlying visitors to watch professional sports, drink, dance, or visit downtown entertainment.
Last year, the Washington Post and Guardian newspapers published articles on police killings in the U.S. They showed that 8% of firearm deaths are by police officers, three people every day. Minorities represented two thirds of all people killed by police. When police kill people they always say the person was attacking them, but one-third of the Black people killed by police were unarmed, and 20 percent were running away.
Police violence might appear to be just racism. There is no doubt that it is racist, but it is becoming apparent that it is directed against all types of working people. As more people are losing their stake in the “American Dream” to robots, they are served violence. The billionaire media pretend that police violence is needed against criminals, but they then criminalize unemployment, homelessness, disability and poverty and turn the police loose to beat the people off the streets.
Jail and police violence are not solving the problems of widespread poverty and unemployment. The only way police are going to stand down from brutal violence is if those who are being thrown into joblessness and poverty join together in a battle for a new society where society’s wealth is distributed to all based on need. As long as private individuals can horde billions through exploitation and inheritance, they will direct the police to do whatever it takes to protect their wealth.