Defunding the police should lead to community control of resources


The wave of people’s protests across the nation, backed by solidarity actions in cities around the world, has caused the corporate oligarchy and its servants to make promises they can’t keep and give lip service to programs they have always resisted.

The Congressional Black Caucus, whose vast bulk of members backed militarization of local police and elevation of cops to the status of  a “protected” class, now claims to favor limits on police arsenals, less legal immunities for cops and a grab-bag of other reforms they previously dismissed out of hand.

Mayors that know damn well they will have to cut spending across the board due to a catastrophic loss of tax revenues during the current COVID-induced Great Depression, now profess that they plan to withhold funds from cops in deference to the “defund the police” movement. They’re a bunch of Kente-clothed liars, of course.

But movements are about amassing power to the people, not collecting promises from corporate flunkies. That means demanding community control of the police, and of those funds that local governments are supposedly diverting from the police to social programs.

If anything has been learned from the past half century of Black reliance on Democratic Party politicians, it is that no lasting victories can be achieved without the transfer of control of public resources directly to the people. That was the meaning of “All Power to the People” when the phrase was coined, and must remain the goal of the movement today.

Although there is no intrinsic contradiction between the three most-voiced demands of the current movement—community control of police, defunding the police, and abolition of policing as we know it—only proposals for community control of the police directly confront the issue of power in the here and now, and also address demands for direct democracy and Black self-determination.

Community control of the police was essential to the formation of the Black Panther Party, and has been an active demand of Chicago organizers since 2012.

Although community control of the police is within reach of becoming law in Chicago, a majority Black and Brown city with the second largest concentration of Blacks in the nation, the demand has gotten less traction in nationwide demonstrations than the call for defunding the cops, or eventual abolition.

That’s undoubtedly because Black Lives Matter (BLM) demands have been pervasive in the current demonstrations, and BLM supports defunding of police. However, Black Lives Matter is more a quilt than a monolith, and many BLM chapters and individuals also support community control of the police, while CPAC activists also back defunding and abolition of the cops as a logical outcome of community control.

The elements of Black Lives Matter that are resistant to community control of police are those under the influence of hashtag founder Alicia Garza, who is now a Democratic Party political player and go-to person for corporate philanthropy.

A serious, methodical program of defunding the police requires a community control approach. Ninety percent of actual police duties do not involve making felony arrests, and there is a consensus that cops should not deal with domestic disputes, mentally disturbed people, or a host of social contradictions—and maybe not even traffic control, which long ago devolved into pretexts for criminal charges.

Therefore, defunding the police leads directly to the funding of specific public services, some of them currently badly performed by cops and all of which should be overseen by those most directly impacted. Absent community control, the defunding of police will only result in the shrinkage of the domestic army of occupation, not a change in the lethally oppressive relationship, and any social services that receive new funding will be answerable only to the legislators that had previously starved the community of services.

Abolition of the police begins with community control in which community representatives not only hire, fire and oversee the cops, but decide the nature of the policing that is necessary and acceptable. Community control is a prerequisite to communities policing themselves to the greatest degree possible.

Indeed, communities should control, not just the police, but much of the rest of their neighborhoods’ vital services and resources. The right to self-determination is not confined to the criminal justice system. Therefore, community control of police advocates would be in principled agreement with the Los Angeles Movement 4 Black Lives position: “The most impacted in our communities need to control the laws, institutions, and policies that are meant to serve us—from our schools to our local budgets, economies, and police department.”

Community control is how we build socialism within the framework of people’s right to self-determination—the principles by which, along with solidarity, we de-colonize and dis-imperialize our world.

 ”Power to the People” means disempowering the capitalists and White supremacists. Everything else is a diversion, conjured up by the Kente cloth-soiling Black mis-leadership class in service to their bosses, the oligarchs. They have betrayed us repeatedly and laughed at our willingness to trust them yet again. In George Floyd’s name, let this be the end of it.

Glen Ford is the executive editor of

One Comment on “Defunding the police should lead to community control of resources”

  1. Many organizations I respect are taking different positions on the charter amendment. These are the questions I’m asking myself (No need to engage/respond):

    Will the charter amendment make community control, defunding, and abolishing more feasible as it removes exclusive MPD oversight from the Mayor, removes required ratio of sworn officers, removes requirement to have a police department, and creates a new city department designed to fulfill public safety needs in better ways? Would dividing the MPD budget/responsibilities amongst the 70 Mpls neighborhood associations, who would decide how to serve the public safety needs of the community they live in, be an acceptable form of community control? How do we ensure the make up of a CPAC, neighborhood association, or “community control decision-making body” is reflective of the community it serves? How would community control be elected or what process would choose community control decision makers? How do we ensure this process is fair, trusted, and has broad participation from folks most impacted by its decisions?

    I’m hearing that passing the charter amendment would make it easier for the City Council to implement community control; first by pushing power from Mayor to City Council. If the City Council does not then continue pushing more power to community control after the charter is amended, then the community can pursue a future charter amendment to establish a CPAC (with electoral districts the same as the police precinct boundaries or park board/school district boundaries). As I write this, I realize “the most effective/efficient order of progress” is debatable. Why not start with a charter amendment that creates CPAC or community control? I would support that, too. From my experience with Minneapolis neighborhood associations & elected bodies, I have concerns about decision making bodies not reflecting the community (demographically and in its decisions) and ensuring folks most impacted are participating in the decision making process/election. North Minneapolis has precincts with the lowest voter turn out and neighborhood associations with a strong history of being predominantly white home owners despite the diverse demographics of the neighborhoods they serve. I fear community control bodies being taken over by white Karens if only affluent white folks are voting or have the capacity to participate (Remember the “We Watch, We Call” campaign on the Northside?) I hope everyone in Minneapolis would be really excited about participating in an accessible & transparent process that determines how their neighborhood will be served to be safe.

    Please excuse me for filibustering. Thanks for sharing and putting the spotlight on the need for community control.

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